A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “Neuroscience

Practising Music Improves The Symmetry Of Your Brain

Here’s an interesting article that speaks about how the brains of practicing instrumentalists differs from those of people who don’t play an instrument (I’m not certain if vocalists are covered, since there’s no physical instrument in their hands). Essentially, brain symmetry, the communication between left and right hemispheres, is increased – particularly for keyboardists. This can lead to heightened hearing, dexterity, pitch and speech recognition and even picking up on emotional changes.

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Personality Studies Show the Difference Between People Who Play Music and Everyone Else

theory-of-personalityHere’s a fascinating article dealing with findings about musicians’ brains. It deals with personality traits, aptitudes, creativity and a lot more. There are comparisons with the general populace and with other types of artists and musicians – especially with visual artists. Links throughout the article provide a lot of additional supporting info.

Apparently, musicians – especially instrumental musicians – are more open, conscientious and agreeable than non-musicians. I mostly agree with that (is that being agreeable?!). Regarding music and expression in general, when reading various music forums and even listening to people when I’m outside or at shows, I notice that those who don’t play instruments tend to vocalize more critical opinions about what they’re hearing than those who do play one. Instrumentalists tend to observe more, and their criticisms are generally in comparison to their own experiences. I often wonder if they’re imagining themselves playing along with what they’re hearing, which is something I do all the time. I unconsciously tap out rhythms and keep time whenever I’m listening to something.

Anyway – give the article a look. The concept of “bold introvert” is new to me, much like the ambivert was, from something else I was reading.


Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale

This is great. 😉

I was reading a thread on Talkbass while eating in which the original poster asked for advice on constructing bass lines. He wants to be able to create something that infuses the sounds of Les Claypool and Geddy Lee. He’s gotten a lot of advice so far, but what caught my eye as I was munching is a video from Bobby McFerrin, who back in the 80s released that all-vocal song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy.

I never cared for the song – probably on account of me being in my early teens and not being happy – but I can’t discredit him for being talented and working with a wide range of accomplished musicians. I’m also curious now about how our toddler would take to it – she’s been making a lot of interesting noises and plays a game where we have to imitate her sounds, pretty much every day. Wifey laughed just last night about how much it sounds like Mandarin.

Anyway, here’s a video from McFerrin that illustrates audience participation using the pentatonic scale. Its a scale that’s always intrigued me. I remember reading about how its considered a sort of universal scale. Cultures all over the world make use of its 5 tones, from aboriginal people to Native Americans to various African and European people everywhere.

Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale

The video is a snippet from a longer presentation that I need to see called Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus from World Science Festival.


Science has our back, down below

steve_harris_fingerHere’s something interesting about bass, rhythmic perception and how important low frequencies are to our impression of music, in general:

It actually ties-in with research from earlier this year about feelings of power and the low end:


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.

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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:

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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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