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    What Flying Pianos Teach Us About Listening to Music

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    Daria van den Bercken loves classical music and will do just about anything to make sure you like it too.

     She’s played the music of George Frideric Handel in the air, hoisted 25 feet above fans in Brazil.

    She’s played in parks and banks in Amsterdam.

    She has even invited strangers into her apartment to listen to Handel in an intimate setting.

    Why?

    Well, Bercken is inspired by Handel’s music. During a TED Talks presentation the musician said she felt “pure, unprejudiced amazement” when she listened to his work.  She was struck by the complicated emotions in Handel’s compositions — the melancholy mixed with tenderness and the sadness coupled with energy.

    “You can feel each small pain and wish,” she told Spotify about his music.

    Yet, as a professional performer she realized that younger children felt the “pure amazement” but older children, even adults, had a harder time hearing the music. Bercken decided to recreate that juvenile sense of wonder by playing Handel’s music outside of concert halls and in the most unusual places.  By doing so, she is introducing Handel to millions of people who wouldn’t normally listen to classical music.

    “I’ve given a lot of children’s concerts for children of seven and eight years old, and whatever I play, whether it’s Bach, Beethoven, even Stockhausen, or some jazzy music, they are open to hear it, really willing to listen, and they are comfortable doing so,” she said in her TED presentation. “And when classes come in with children who are just a few years older, 11, 12, I felt that I sometimes already had trouble in reaching them like that .. But the young ones, they don’t question their own opinion. They are in this constant state of wonder, and I do firmly believe that we can keep listening like these seven-year-old children, even when growing up. And that is why I have played not only in the concert hall but also on the street, online, in the air: to feel that state of wonder, to truly listen, and to listen without prejudice.”

    It is an interesting concept that we hear things more purely as young children. Do you think that these stunts help people understand the wonders and joys of classical music?

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    The Ultimate YouTube Mashup Video

    The artist who gained fame by composing original works of music using YouTube videos is back at it again and promising more tunes soon.

    The latest song from Israel-based artist Kutiman is called “Give It Up” and includes more than 20 different clips from amateur artists playing the bassoon, piano and cello as well as featuring an acapella singer.  In his official YouTube page, Kutiman cites his sources and it’s worth clicking on the original works just to see the how much effort goes into creating an original piece of music. The music is also a worthwhile listen!

    Kutiman first became famous of pioneering this type of YouTube mashup five years ago with “ThruYou” and another song in the “ThruYou Too” series is set to be released Oct. 1.

    Apparently, making this type of music is painfully time consuming.

    According to a Billboard article: “In the past year, Kutiman decided to start working on ThruYou Too, which he estimates took him about three or four months to put together. ‘I open 20 tabs of bass players and see if something sounds like it works,’ he says. ‘It’s just searching for improvisation or whatever. If I have free time I just sit and watch YouTube. if I’m looking for a guitar player, eventually I’ll find myself watching people playing guitars for the rest of the night.’”

    Check out the video and let us know what you think!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Piano Buying Guide

    Sometimes the hardest part about taking piano lessons is just beginning the process.  First, you have to find an instructor who is a perfect fit for you or your child, then you have to find an instrument to practice on. Given that a new, moderately priced acoustic piano can cost approximately $3,500, it can be quite an investment.

    Buying a new piano, however, is not your only choice. We’ve outlined some other good options for you.

     

    Used Acoustic Pianos: Search Craigslist and estate sales ads, and you’ll find lots of used pianos at decent prices. Given the thousands of parts that go into making a piano it’s difficult for novices to know if they’re getting a good deal or if they just bought a piano that’s beyond repair. If you see a used piano you’re interested in purchasing, have someone inspect it for you; either a friend who is a musician or piano technician.  To get a sense of all the different parts you need to examine to ensure a functioning piano, read this buyer’s guide.

    Another good option is to buy a used piano from a dealer. Often those pianos have been repaired, tuned and come with a dealer’s warranty.

     

    Rental: Renting acoustic pianos gives you access to some of the best piano manufacturers in the world without paying the total cost up front. Steinway Piano Gallery in nearby Pasadena and West Hollywood offers a rental program that charges approximately $45 a month for an upright piano, according to its website. Many other piano galleries also offer rentals.

     

    Digital Pianos: Playing on digital pianos isn’t the same experience as practicing on an acoustic piano but it can be a great alternative for those limited in space and budget. We recommend pianos with weighted keys so it feels similar the keys on the pianos you or your children will use at The Music Junction. We also recommend buying models with 88 keys.

    These are some basic guidelines. We would be happy to offer more in-depth advice to get you started on music lessons at The Music Junction.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons from our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Watch 6-year-old Piano Prodigy, Emily Bear on the Ellen Show

    This is six-year-old Emily Bear’s first performance on the Ellen show, where she shows off her range as a pianist from classical to ragtime – all pieces extremely advanced for even a 10-year-old, much less at age 6.  This child has studied for only a year and three months, learning pieces that are at least high school-level repertoire for most piano students.  Emily’s compositions are also very impressive.

    Emily started at age four, which is the earliest age for piano lessons offered at the Music Junction.  Our lesson plan for 4-year-olds includes an introduction to all music concepts in a fun, activity-oriented way using an up-to-date lesson books series by Nancy Faber called “My First Piano Adventure.” Students are able to build a strong foundation, focusing on concepts like long/short/soft/loud/high/low and then moving on to understand note reading and developing finger technique.

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    How to Compliment a Child: “You’re a Hard Worker” versus “You’re Smart”

    Parents and Teachers all agree that they would like children to correlate their success at school to how much work they put in.  So that, for example, a child who fails a spelling test will think “I didn’t study hard enough, I’ll work harder next time.”

    But often when our children fail a test they think “I failed so I must be a bad speller.” or “I must be stupid.”

    You can see how important it can be to encourage children to value their effort, instead of feeling inherently smart (or not smart) regardless of their effort.  This was the basis of a study done by Carol S. Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    In the experiment Dweck has conducted, two groups of children were asked to put together a relatively easy jigsaw puzzle.  After completing the puzzle, the two groups received different compliments. Every child in the first group was told: “You’re very smart, well-done”. The children in the second group were told something like: “You’ve put a lot of effort and thought into this, well-done”.  And then, they could choose another puzzle that was either harder or easier than the first. In the group that was complimented for smartness, 70% of the children chose the easy puzzle. In the other group, which was complimented for investment, 70% of the children chose the difficult puzzle, which, they were told, was also more interesting.

    Teachers at the Music Junction utilize this important tool when working with our students.  Students are rewarded for effort by logging their practices between lessons and receiving sticker rewards based on how many practices the student achieved that week.  We encourage our piano and voice students to achieve their full potential, instead of general benchmark goals that are the same for everyone, so that the focus is on doing your best.  Private piano lessons are particularly helpful to illustrate how hard work correlates to success.  The more time a student puts into learning a piece of music, the better they sound – and vice versa.

    At the Music Junction recitals, we reiterate to the student how their effort in preparation directly relates to their performance.   If the student is able to play their recital piece perfectly almost every time in the days leading up to the performance, they have a good shot at playing it perfectly at the recital.  If the student is always playing or singing their song with some mistakes in the days leading to their performance, they are about 100% guaranteed to have a mistake at the recital.  Of course, we created a nurturing environment at our bi-annual Music Junction recitals, where making a mistake should not feel like a tragedy.  But emphasizing the student’s control over how well they play in their performance by how prepared they were in advance is an important lesson to the child that when you work hard, you can achieve more.

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    Watch Roland Lamb’s New, Squishy Piano – the Seaboard – in Action!

    American inventor Roland Lamb has taken the 17th century design of the piano into the future, with his new piano, the Seaboard.

    According to singer/songwriter Jamie Cullum, who’s been invited to demo the Seaboard, it feels like “somewhere between piano and food – in a good way!”

    Lamb was recently featured on NPR: “I remember reading about Thelonius Monk, of whom it was said he was searching for the space between the black and white keys,” Lamb says. “So he’d always play these little chromatic clusters.And it was like he was pushing the instrument to its limit. And I thought, you know, maybe this is a question for design? Maybe we could reinvent the piano and actually make it capable of playing those notes between the keys.”

    Lamb, 35, founded a tech startup in Britain called Roli (after his own nickname), based in a studio and workshop in East London, to create an instrument that could do just that.

    Lamb describes the Seaboard as “a futuristic version of the piano.” Actually, it kind of looks like a cross between a keyboard and Apple’s iPod: It’s clean, sleekly designed and just a few inches thick. But instead of individual keys, there are two rows of rounded bumps that look like hot dogs sliced in half and made of grey silicone. Lamb says musicians can literally dig their fingers into these molds to create different sounds.

    Music Junction Warning: Please do not model your piano fingering technique off of Jamie Cullum in this video.  Cullum’s fingers are so tense they’re bending the opposite direction of the knuckles – ouch!  When the hand is relaxed, the fingers gently curve in toward the palm.  This is the core hand position for playing piano – the fingers staying relaxed so they can move freely.   It doesn’t take much strength to push down a piano key, but the strength it does require is borrowed from the weight of the arm dropping down into the finger – not by tightening the finger.

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    We can see sound!

    Through the science of cymatics, we can not only hear sound, we can actually see it.  In this video, Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible.

    This is one image of what Beethoven’s 9th Symphony looks like through a cymatic device:

    Cymatic image of Beethovens 9th

    Useful for analyzing complex sounds (like dolphin calls), the science of cymatics can also make complex and beautiful designs.

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