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    Using sound waves to levitate objects

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    Think levitation is only a magician’s trick?

    Although you may not have learned this in your high school science class, the ability to make tiny particles float in the air is possible.

    The ability to rise in the air through the power of sound, also known as acoustic levitation, is not new. Scientists have been performing this act since the 1940s. However, a group of Japanese researchers have recently mastered three-dimensional levitation, making it possible to float an object up and down and side to side. You can see the levitation in action in the video above, which also provides a great tutorial on the science behind it.

    Scientists discovered that if they perfectly align ultrasonic sound speakers they can create sound waves that exert pressure. This pressure cancels out the effects of gravity. They can make the particles move in different directions by changing the strength of the sound waves. Fortunately for scientists, the sounds waves are slightly above the normal human hearing range, which is beneficial in applying this discovery to the real world. Unfortunately for musicians, we are unlikely to replicate levitation through our own music making.

    The advancement of 3D acoustic levitation provides many benefits beyond creating an intriguing YouTube video. Acoustic levitation could help scientists keep chemical mixtures pure in stem cell research and advance antigravity experiments in space.

     

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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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    Elias is Back! Watch this 7yo Piano Prodigy with a lot of Spunk!

    Piano prodigy Elias Phoenix, 7, completely wowed audiences when he made his first debut performance on the Ellen show last month.  Now he returns for another great performance and entertaining personality.  This boy has a lot of spunk!  I am surprised that a child with that much energy could “still” himself long enough to go through the dedicated hours and days and years it takes to build up his piano skills to the high performance level he’s achieved today.

    On a side note, the one thing that struck me as a little odd is Ellen’s present.  She gave him a sound system, which is a perfect gift – good job on that, Ellen! – but the funny thing was the 66-key keyboard that accompanied the set.  These keyboards rarely (or never?) have weighted keys, so it would be very difficult for a classical pianist to use.  It would feel like playing piano sequences on a laptop keyboard.  It’s very unsatisfying to play, but it’s also difficult to have control with the overly light feel.

    We always give parents the ok to purchase an inexpensive 66-key keyboard for their young student when they are first starting – if they are really on a tight budget and don’t want to make a large purchase upfront – but even then it is not ideal.  88-key weighted key keyboards, however, work great for long term study and even for professionals, because the feel and key range is practically identical to an acoustic piano.  Some Kawai-brand keyboards even sell keyboards with wooden keys, just like an acoustic piano key, and use the same hammer action inside the keyboard for a perfect replication.  The only difference is that the piano sounds coming out of a digital keyboard are pre-recorded sounds, where as an acoustic piano is creating it’s own sounds and has a big resonant chamber for the sound waves.  This is much more satisfying for a pianist, but has nothing to do with the actually execution of playing, so any piano can practice and perform on an acoustic or weighted-key keyboard with equal ease.

    One piano with weighted keys that is a great deal right now is the Casio CDP-120.  it has been replaced with a new version, so the old version has dropped in price.  It was once listed at $450, but is now hovering around $300.  It can often be difficult to find a weighted-key keyboard for under $400, so this is a great deal.

     

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    Voice & Piano Lessons Increase Kids’ IQ!

    As reported by PBS.org

    “A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

    Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.”

    “With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved–such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords–the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect,” said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg. – Forbes Magazine

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    Stevie Wonder performs “Songs in the Key of Life” album at Nokia Center

    Stevie Wonder has been performing wonderful holiday shows annually in Los Angeles for 18 years now to raise funds for the collection of toys for needy children in the Southland.  These holiday performances are a great musical event for families to attend, and always include special guest celebrities and well-known local talent to flesh out the fun program.

    For this year’s show at the Nokia Center in LA, however, Stevie decided to do something special and perform the entire song collection from his hit album, Songs in the Key of Life.  Cited by Elton John as the greatest album of all time, this album includes well-known Stevie Wonder songs like “Isn’t She Lovely,” “I Wish,” and “Sir Duke.”  I recommend listening frequently to this album – it’s addictive!  “Village Ghetto Land” is one of my favorites, for how musically beautiful the song is, and how poignant the lyrics are.

    The show began with Stevie Wonder coming onto the stage with his family to introduce the program, and his son and grandsons made a reappearance in some of his later performances.  Special guests this year included John Mayer, Chick Corea, & Herbie Hancock among others.  The show opened with five male singers performing the beautiful a cappella introduction of “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”  Other highlights included the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Gospel Choir directed by Jason White, who also kicked off the show, singing their hearts outs on traditional gospel repertoire.

    This was an overall wonderful performance and I highly recommend it as must-do family event every year!

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    Music and Your Brain

    The New York Times reports on a study showing that children who took music lessons at a young age had advanced development in their brain waves – even if they had discontinued lessons!  This is a neat finding because it shows us that even when a student wains in their commitment to lessons over the years, and maybe does not end up achieving a sophisticated understanding of their instrument, that just the act of taking lessons has forever improved them!

    After recording brain responses, Northwestern University found that “the group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested.  And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.”

    It might seem like increasing the brain’s understanding of sound would have little impact on overall development, but actually it directly affects how well a child can decipher language – improving their reading and listening skills.  And when you consider that reading and listening skills are a gateway to all learning, well, you could see how that would have a pretty large impact!

    One of the sound advancements for the brain is the ability to decipher sounds in the foreground versus sounds in the background – which can help everyone in focusing on the right sounds in their environment, but also be of help specifically for those with hearing loss.

    Brain waves of musicians are obvious to scientists who are looking at them. Ms. Parbery-Clark from Northwestern University remarks ““One of my lab mates can look at the computer and say, ‘Oh, you’re recording from a musician!’ ”

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    Introducing the classical comedy duo “Igudesman and Joo”

    This comedy duo from Great Britain combines their incredible concert musician skills with a sense of humor, creating an amazing and impressive routine that makes classical music more accessible to audiences while entertaining the heck out of them.  This video is just an exceptional, amazing performance that personally makes me (Charissa) so happy!  Please make sure to watch it to the end because each segment gets bigger and more ridiculous.  Just when you think they can’t top themselves, they do!

    Richard Hyung-ki Joo (pianist) and Alek­sey Igudes­man (violinist) worked together to create their show, “A Lit­tle Night­mare Music,” which had an American debut in 2009. “We always had a dream to make clas­si­cal music acces­si­ble to a wider and younger audi­ence, to take out the snob­bism and elit­ism, and to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple are not afraid to go to con­certs,” Joo says. “We were also fas­ci­nated by humor or the­ater within music, and we real­ized that (com­edy in the con­cert hall) was an art form that doesn’t exist in the dic­tio­nary but cer­tainly works.”

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    Health Benefits of Singing

    Barbershop.org published a great article outlining what the scientific and academic community have discovered about the benefits of singing.  Here’s a list of some of their findings:

    • Scientists say singing boosts immune system, helping to fight disease and prolonging life expectancy
    • Singing releases endorphins into your system and makes you feel energized and uplifted. People who sing are healthier than people who don’t.
    • Singing improves your mood. It releases the same feel-good brain chemicals as sex and chocolate!
    • Singing makes us breathe more deeply than many forms of strenuous exercise, so we take in more oxygen, improve aerobic capacity and experience a release of muscle tension as well.” — Professor Graham Welch, Director of Educational Research, University of Surrey, Roehampton, UK
    • Singing releases pain-relieving endorphins, helping you to forget that painful tooth/knee/whatever
    • Singing tones abdominal and intercostal muscles and the diaphragm, and stimulates circulation.
    • It is very effective as a stress reliever and improves sleep
    • Your posture improves, which affects how you are perceived by others at crucial times like job interviews, school reports, or first dates.
    • Singing gives the lungs a workout and increases your lung capacity
    • Singing clears sinuses and respiratory tubes
    • Your mental alertness improves
    • Singing increases your confidence

    Singing is the most organic form of music that the human body can create.  And yet, often we are afraid to sing, or consider ourselves non-singers altogether.  But singing is built in to our body.  It uses the same muscles that we speak with.  If you can speak, you can sing.  Voice lessons can help create a structured approach to accessing the voice so that, with a little guidance, we can feel more confident connecting with our natural musicality.

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    See original article here.

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    Piano Lessons Help Children’s Finger Dexterity

    Research shows that piano lessons are recommended for the development of fine motor skills.  So, how can that enhance our lives?  Most of us use very specific finger movements all day to control our phones, laptops, tablets, etc.  If we observed our speed in operating our devices with those around us, we would notice a difference in speed depending on each persons fine motor ability.  What if you could type 50% faster?  That could have a pretty big affect on the time you spend on your computer at work or at home – it could shave hours off your day.  For children, fine motor skills are even more important as they struggle to use their fingers just to tie their shoes.

    Eugenia Costa-Giomi (PhD Ohio State University) reports research comparing the motor skills of children who took piano instruction for a two year period, versus those who didn’t, in her article “Does Music Instruction Improve Fine Motor Abilities?” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.  She recorded “a significant improvement in fine motor skills was found only for the children who received the lessons, and a significant difference in the speed of response was found between the two groups at the end of the two years of instruction. The innumerable opportunities to assess, refine, and time their motor responses to specific stimuli during musical practice and the availability of constant evaluative feedback (i.e., sound) may allow musicians to improve the accuracy and speed of perceiving and responding to relevant stimuli.” (more…)

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