A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “learning

Practice & memory

So, last night, after watching that video from samuraiguitarist about efficient practice, YouTube suggested another video from a Danish guitarist named Claus Levin. It was about learning scales faster. I watched it, and a second video from the same author showed up in the related videos, also about learning. I found it fascinating. It proposed a different learning/practice method from what I’ve seen before – basically asking us to practice in short bursts and then try to forget what we’ve practiced.

The idea is that when we practice, we’re taking information into short-term memory. By forgetting it and relearning it, we’re telling our brains that this is information that we have to relearn repeatedly. In order to better support having this now frequently-accessed information at hand, the brain then moves it from short-term to long-term memory, where we have it forever. Claus goes into more detail, starting with a human brain/computer cpu & memory analogy that makes much more sense a few mins in.

The other video is about practicing scales by taking the notes and learning them in a random order or pattern, instead of the usual method of running up and down scales from lowest note to highest, or vice versa. In a way, its similar to improvisation. Its goal is to leave us with usable knowledge of the notes and their locations and functions – essentially enabling fretboard freedom. Claus labels the standard method as learning sequential information. What he suggests, instead, is more akin to learning a scale pattern and then using it to create licks (or for us, basslines). Its more functional and musical.


Resources for The Amazing Human Musical Mind

Here are videos of some of the songs that were included in Mr. A‘s series, The Amazing Human Musical Mind, in which he discusses the developmental impact of music on children’s brains. I’ve actually never heard any of these songs before, and here I thought I knew a lot of nursery rhymes…

The 2nd song, “No More Pie” is interesting in that its an echo song, so after something is sung, the child sings it back. The instructor, Hannah Lynn Mell, has some other videos, including a song called “My Aunt Came Back” which adds body movements to the song as well. It looks a little more complicated than walking and chewing bubble gum at the same time.

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2Over the last ten posts, I offered a series on early childhood music education. Today, I’d like to share with you some of the songs I mentioned and recommended in that series. Below you will find some videos of music educators performing these songs. The materials from John Feierabend are available from GIA Publications.

“The Crabfish” is a delightful song that children enjoy. It is one of those stories one can sing to children while they just listen and enjoy.

“No More Pie” is an echo song used to develop a good singing voice and accurate repetition. I also suggested using the song with your own words to help children memorize days of the week, the weather, or whatever you are teaching them.

Here is a video of an early childhood music class with parents participating. You will see children trying to time their movements to those of the adults…

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The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 10

I meant to reblog this a while ago, but got caught up in other things. Here’s the last segment of Mr. A‘s series, The Amazing Human Musical Mind, in which he discusses the developmental impact of music on children’s brains. In his concluding piece, he speaks about singing to children as part of conversation or when giving directions, as well as incorporating call-and-response so that they sing back when communicating with you.

Apparently, children often sing in two pitches, which he identifies as mi and so, or the 3rd and 5th of a given scale, which are chord tones. I never realized that, so now I need to look for it with our toddler.

Anyway, singing like this allows children to explore pitch and rhythm – which means they’re also learning about space and time, including following patterns and predicting the next note when answering (or even when listening along). Reading poetry aloud accomplishes the same thing – which is interesting, because I read a lot of nursery rhymes and other rhyming stories to our toddler, and she does seem to pick up on the rhythm when I get it right. She chants stuff back to me during the day a lot – in particular, nursery rhymes.

Here are the other parts of the series:

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2Today I conclude my series on early childhood music, and the amazing things even the youngest minds can do musically.

Another way you can work singing into your normal routine is to converse with children by singing. All it takes is two or three pitches, and you can easily say or ask children anything while you sing. For example, you could sing Boys and girls; it’s circle time going back and forth between two pitches.You could also sing directions, such as, Sit in a circle and then I’ll read you a poem. Or, you can use call and response. Ask your children what day of the week it is, and then they sing back the answer.  Boys and girls, what day is it?Mr. Adams, it is Friday. All this on just two pitches, like the two you hear children naturally chant when they are playing. Musicians recognize…

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The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 9

Part 9 of Mr. A‘s series about music’s impact on cognitive development in children & toddlers speaks about some of the differences in talking to children vs. singing to them. Those differences center on the range of pitches that we use for each. When speaking, we use a relatively limited pitch range, and when singing, we use more.

Children, apparently begin to learn how to sing by employing more of the talking range while speaking words from a song. I remember our toddler doing that. There were definitely high and low pitches, but they do seem to have been the same high and low pitches, repeated. Eventually, she learned to move on from that and add in a whole range – including raising her voice at the end of Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

To encourage singing, and thus utilization of the entire vocal range, Mr. A recommends playing with a slide whistle. I’ve actually never owned one of these, but Amazon has a bunch, from between $4 to $10. He recommends beginning by using descending sounds only and having children (and instructor) mimic them. This will cause them to start on high pitches and out of their speaking range. Speed can be varied for fun. Their imitation gives them confidence using their singing voices. Once they’re able to do this, then ascending sounds can be introduced as well.

Later on, after the children are used to this, we can tie in the sounds to concepts of “up” and “down” – when we raise or lower our hands or when we do other actions. From his suggestions, it looks like even things like zipping up or unzipping a jacket could work, as long as its accompanied by the sound.

He says that once their voices are warmed up and they’re using the correct part of their voices to sing, they can sing song fragments. He recommends that these be short and easily divisible, and within a small tonal range – particularly songs that stay within a range of 3-5 notes. When they imitate small sections, children learn musical patterns, which is akin to learning words. He also recommends singing and then having the children sing back what was just sang. He likes to use songs with patterns for this, like “No More Pie”. I’m not familiar with this, but the concept seems similar to “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”. He calls these echo songs and says that they’re useful for memorizing just about anything or causing children to respond to a question.

I’ve done something similar with our toddler. She’s 2 1/2 right now, not 3-4 like the children that he’s writing about. I notice that she gets angry when I change words (which can be fun at times) but sometimes, when she’s in a more playful mood, also mimics the new phrases. I have a bunch of altered nursery rhymes that are used for changing her pamper, for example. These also cause her to run, because she likes to make me work for it before I clean her, so be wary of what you’re conditioning as well.

He also says that an important thing to remember with echo songs is to not sing with the children. The goal is for you to sing to them and then for them to sing to you. This forces them to think and respond to the patterns, instead of using you for support and not thinking. He compares it to conversing – we don’t generally speak to children at the same time that they’re speaking to us. We take turns. Its the same process.

Here’s the rest of the series from Mr. A.:

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2When we talk—our young children and we–we do so with a limited range of pitches, and those pitches are relatively low in the range of our voices. This can easily be demonstrated with our stand-by, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. First speak the words.  Now, try to sing the song using the same sounds you used to speak it. You won’t get very far before anyone who hears begs you to stop.  Do you see what I mean? Many children will try to sing this way at this age, or will just speak the words on one or two pitches instead of actually singing. To really sing, we need more pitches, and we need higher pitches to sing. Our job here is to get the children to start using that upper part of their voice, the part they don’t need for talking, but they do need to voice musical ideas. So we use…

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The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 8

Part 8 of Mr. A‘s series about music’s impact on cognitive development in children & toddlers addresses four types of musical activities that parents/educators should engage children in: those that find their singing voice, those which advance audiation ability, those that develop movement to a musical beat and those that develop moving to music for expression.

The post goes on to talk about how most parents/teachers aren’t necessarily interested in generating singers, but explains that music is a language (I’ve seen so many musicians make this analogy – Victor Wooten speaks about it a lot, for example) and that its development is meant to foster thought birthed in language. That video from Anthony Wellington that I posted last week also demonstrates some examples of this, and I even remember a video with Victor Wooten and this insane drummer named Steve Smith, where they took turns playing something on their instrument and the other person would replicate it on theirs – bass replicating drum tones and drums replicating bass tones. It was incredible, and really spoke to me about the expressive nature of sound. But, anyway, he clearly equates singing to the musical equivalent of speaking a language.

Even past this though, he says something that’s interesting to me about other areas of mental development that are enhanced through music. Music instruction apparently increases mathematical ability significantly. In particular, he calls out spatial and temporal reasoning – which is interesting to me also because in our software (remember, I design clinical software for nursing homes) some of the attributes we track are cognitive functions such as orientation to person, place and time. As people become older and lose cognitive function, they first begin to experience a degradation in their sense of time, forgetting what time, day or date it is, for example, or how many days since a family member visited. Next, as cognitive capability further diminishes, their recall ability for place lessens. They might forget that they’re in a nursing home, or forget where they spent the morning, for example. Naturally, this progresses until they might not remember where they’re from or where they were married, etc. Finally, they lose their sense of person. This can be their name – which happens to women more than men, because often, through marriage, a woman’s last name will change, so those neural pathways are less deeply entrenched, since they essentially have 2 names, and in a way, 2 lives to keep track of. It often manifests as elderly residents forgetting the names of family members, staff persons, famous figures on television, and so on.

Anyway, let me try to keep work out of play. The important thing here to me is this: Anything that can strengthen our mental capability, especially memory and reasoning, is a godsend and should be embraced, if at all possible. The effects, later on in life, especially, are what can enable us to maintain autonomy and a better quality of life. And, with music, in particular, its enjoyable too.

Ok. So, Mr. A talks about cognitive studies conducted on young students who were given no musical instruction and those who received either singing, rhyrhm or piano lessons. After two years, those who received rhythm lessons (go bass!) scored higher than the piano or singing students on temporal tasks. All who received music lessons scored significantly higher on spatial and temporal skills than those without. The singing and piano students’ scores were the same.

With the next post, he promises to share methods to encourage children to find and grow comfortable with their singing voices. I’m sure our daughter is going to love this. 😉

Here are the other parts in the series:

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2There are four types of musical activities you should do with your students; those that help the child find and be comfortable with their singing voice, those that advance the child’s audiation ability, which is the ability to think in music and sing what has already been thought, those that develop moving to the beat of music to which they listen, and those that develop moving to music for expression.

For most if not all of you, developing singers is not what you are about. This being the case, you may wonder why I would have you help the child learn to use his or her singing voice. After all, isn’t that the job of a music or singing instructor? The answer to this is found by again comparing music to language. How many of you would teach your children language skills by never having them talk? After all, you’re…

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The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 7

I’ve got some catching up to do, but I’m trying to balance it with actual practice and bass-centric stuff. Anyway, here’s part 7 of Mr. A‘s series about cognitive development in children & toddlers and music’s impact on it.

In this one, he speaks about imparting rhythmic information to young children, and what they should be able to process and replicate, versus what toddlers are able to do. He introduces the concept of strong beats and weak beats, and utilizing them with neutral syllables, like “bah” or “buh” and also talks about their presence in nursery rhymes. I’ve come across the weak/strong beat concept before, but never really thought about its application until now. It makes a lot of sense to use it when communicating patterns to children. I’m sure the stretching or shrinking the duration of certain notes can add an extra inflection as well, like holding down a note on the bass to let it ring out. I already see our daughter doing that sometimes when she wants to play with words.

He also speaks about tonal hierarchy and precision a little, and I can also recognize their presence in our daughter. She’s able to not only sing a bunch of nursery rhymes and other songs, but she can hum them or use other nonsense syllables and follow the same tune. And, I’ve seen her sing songs, and when she’s excited or laughing a lot, she does put stronger emphasis on the final note, and also on what I now recognize as the strong beat, during parts of a song. Its interesting to see it after reading about it.

He also says something that I think it important to think on, regarding the development of the child’s musical brain:

Think of how catastrophic it would be if a child heard barely any language spoken, or none at all, until they were 3 years old. The setbacks would be impossible to overcome.

I remember reading an article in this British magazine called New Scientist. I actually posted about it when I added a science/neuroscience section to this blog a while ago. It was about the factors that lead to success – some of it, of course, had to do with education. But, what ties into Mr. A’s statement above is when the writer pointed out that one of the biggest factors towards success in school was exposure to language. Basically, the study found that children who came from poorer households tended to get spoken to less, and were in front of the television more or just didn’t get much interaction. Those from more affluent homes tended to be spoken to more, were read stories more and generally developed a stronger vocabulary than the poorer ones who were the same age.

Why is this important? These words also conveyed concepts. The children with stronger vocabularies were able to understand more – and were able to deduce more including figuring out what people were talking about when referring to words and objects that weren’t in their vocabularies through process of elimination because they were more versed in the other words in a sentence or command. So, essentially, they simply had a broader understanding of the world, even if it was still small, and the ability to puzzle out words that they didn’t know when placed in a sentence with words that they did. Context informed their understanding quite a bit.

Its the speaking/vocabulary equivalent of what Mr. A is talking about with music. And he’s right – the students who start off weaker tend to remain that way. They never really catch up with the ones who came in better-equipped. Its actually the reason why pre-k and kindergarten were invented – to somewhat level out the early playing field through socialization and exposure to words and ideas.

Anyway – read Mr. A’s post, especially if you’re a parent of a young child. Here are the other parts in the series:

mr a music place

2011Symposium_1_2Besides those things I mentioned yesterday, I could switch to rhythms. Now I will gently bounce the child to a beat. The child is not able to do anything to a steady beat yet, but I can again model that, teaching the child what that feels like, letting the child experience it. So I’ll bounce the child while I chant rhythms on a neutral syllable, like “bah” or “bum.” I’ll repeat the same pattern so that the child learns that pattern and so that I make it highly predictable. I’ll also use different meters. When we sang “Twinkle,” it was in what we call duple meter, or alternating strong and weak beats. After using a duple meter song, I would switch to triple meter, or patterns of strong, weak, weak. Remember I mentioned earlier, it is important to use a variety of tonalities and meters when singing to young…

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The Amazing Human Musical Mind (by Mr. A)

So, Mr. A finished his series of posts about the cognitive and neurological effects of music on brain development in babies, toddlers and young children. Its a 10-part series in all and includes suggestions for incorporating musical activities both in the classroom and at home.

I was reblogging the posts as I read them, and linking them to each other, for ease in connectivity, but as I’ve learned from blogging about the Coursera class I took, its easier to make a central index for posts of this type, so here it is. I’ve removed the duplicate links from the other ones and will add links to the remainder once I’ve read them.

The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 1
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 2
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 3
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 4
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 5
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 6
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 7
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 8
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 9
The Amazing Human Musical Mind, Part 10

Finally, here are some video examples of songs and techniques referenced in the series: