Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Listening Brings JOY!

This flash mob at Heathrow Airport in London, UK is just awesome.  The a Capella group makes the sounds of all the instruments you think you are hearing.  Check it out and see if you can figure out just how they are doing it.
Wouldn't you love to be welcomed home in just this way?  See how important it is to LISTEN?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fun Friday - Choir Practice Sister Act

I so remember watching this movie and enjoying every minute.  It was a fun story and the music was just so upbeat.  This choir practice has happened to all of us.
When I was young our church choir had a "powerful instrument" too.  I never thought of it from the choir director's point of view.  Sister Alma is a fun accompanist.

These results are superb.  There are definitely some tips for all conductors here with the encouragement of a reticent singer and the helping of the over-enthusiastic singer.  Remember her key words here are "Listen to each other if you are going to be a group."  I sense a theme here.

Now, here is the performance.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Listen to Julian Treasure Tell Us How to Listen

In our last 2 posts, we have discussed listening.  Here Julian Treasure has given us some great specifics on why we don't listen and how we can improve.  Listen up.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fun Friday - Vivaldi for ALL

Vivaldi never sounded so good.  These musicians are truly very talented and have made this piece come to life and added a twist or two.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Listening Part 2 - The Skills

It is fun and challenging to truly listen.  When you allow the sound you hear to connect with the brain, some interesting synapses are formed.  Whether you are listening to a recording, live performance or a conversation, using the energy to truly listen creates an experience that is unique and enervating.

I can tell you the skills you need.  You must practise each and every time you listen until it becomes natural to you. Then and only then, will you experience the true joy listening can bring.

1. Concentrate - Many times when we speak to someone, instead of really focusing on what is being said, we are busy formulating an answer or refuting the points in our head.  Yup.  That was what you were doing wasn't it?
In order to concentrate you must:
     a) Have eye contact - you MUST look at the speaker, preferably in the eye.
     b) Shut your brain off - STOP THINKING.  Your job is to take in what sounds the person or group is making.  Do not decide you would conduct that differently or decide that her point is poorly presented.
     c) Shut out the background - Concentration means being able to block out the extraneous background sounds.

2. Review - When someone has spoken to you, it is best if you acknowledge that you heard them, by reviewing what you believe you heard.  This does two things.  It validates the speaker and allows you to take time to fully understand the topic.
     a) Acknowledge - That is a very interesting or complete or creative idea.  Or thanks for sharing that point of view.
     b) Rewind - Did I hear you say that, " -------"?   or  Am I correct in understanding that you feel ---?

3. Evaluate - Now, you can have an opinion.  You have taken in what has been said.  You have acknowledged and reviewed it.  Now, you can give you two cents worth if it is appropriate.

Here is a great method to review & respond.  Use FEEL, FELT, FOUND.  This is a simple but effective way to help you put things in perspective.  Let's say the person has said that the sopranos are not singing in tune and that you should change the way you rehearse in order to help them to be as good as the basses.  You have eye contact while this is being said.

1) Respond with, "I understand how you feel.  It can be difficult to sing well if you feel that another group isn't doing as well as they could."

2) "I have felt that same kind of frustration in the past myself."

3) "I have found that the problem works itself out as they tune into the other parts.  However, if it doesn't, we will do some more work on tuning during our warm ups.  Thanks for your input."

Notice that in the above, I have never defended my position.  I simply accepted the ideas presented and acknowledged them.  I also offered remediation.  If you start giving reasons for what you do, you can end up with an argument.  It is best to let people own their ideas and don't try to sway people to your way of thinking.   Remember Mr. Miyagi when he said, "Best defense.  Not be there."  Your opinion is just that, an opinion.  Present it and move on.  Don't expect the world to accept it as truth no matter how amazing you are.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fun Friday - Piano Guys & the Seven Wonders of the World

This beautiful piece of music is a treat to LISTEN to.  However, the gorgeous scenery really makes truly listening a bit more challenging.  I listened and watched the first time;  listened with my eyes closed the second time: muted for the third listen and then repeated the first action.

In light of our Listening topic on Tonal Tuesday, this is an interesting exercise don't you think?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Listening Part 1 - A Learned Skill

I remember when we had Professional Development Days when I was teaching, the teachers would complain that they were more tired that day than from a whole day of teaching.  I had had the opportunity to study and do workshops on Listening, a Learned Skill.  I told them that it took much more energy to listen than to speak.  Their students were experiencing every day what we only experienced a few days a year.  Why do we need to LEARN to listen?  Doesn't it just come with the equipment?  No.  Here are some of the reason why you must learn some skills.

1. Listening Our First Skill - Listening precedes speaking, reading & writing.  Those of us who are lucky enough to have regular hearing abilities learn much of what we learn through our lives by listening.  "Ma-Ma" is learned after mega repetition.  Our ability to listen is directly related to our language acquisition.  After all that intense one to one listening and rote learning, we find ourselves being told to stop being so nosy.  When the adults are talking, you are asked to get lost.  Suddenly, we aren't being encouraged to listen the same way.  In fact, we get can get told to stop listening on one hand while being told that we had better listen when being spoken to.  Now, we are being taught selective hearing.  Our listening ability has slipped.

2. Listening - An Active, Conscious Effort - Hearing is the ability to discern sound.  Listening means we are using our hearing and applying energy and effort to understand, evaluate and appreciate what the sounds are.  As babies we concentrate on the sounds as we are encouraged by the positive reinforcement in the "Good girl", "That's my boy!", "Aren't you smart?".  Gradually that reinforcement can disappear and we slip back in to hearing and those SKILLS slid away.  We get told to "listen up" but have forgotten how.

3. Listening - Techniques for Life Long Learning - If we learn the rules and techniques that constitute the art of listening, we will be able to interact and be aware on a whole new level.  Listening then becomes a powerful communication tool that allows us to be in charge of our lives.  We will make better decisions and feel much more independent as we evaluate the information with insight and understanding.  We become more independent and self-confident and our listening skills give us power over our own lives.

Stay tuned to next Tonal Tuesday when I share how to to learn these skills and put them into practice.  As musicians it is essential that we have great listening skills.  I mean REAL listening skills not just the ability to make others be silent while we expound.

This week, pay attention to how you listen and how others listen or not to you.  Bring that to our blog next week and let's compare notes.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tonal Tuesday - Is Music Really That Important? Oh You Bet.

Ha ha! True! Sometimes I find myself jiving through the grocery store.  I get surprised to see funny looks on the faces of those who just push buggies.  I realize that I am grooving to the music in the store.  Although sometimes when I stop, I realize that there is no other music than that which is in my own head.  Ever had that experience?

Apparently I don't have the problem with background music that others seems to have.

1. Music & Development - Many of us know that life goes along much better when we sing to our kids.  Never does someone say something that I don't hear a lyric and I am off and singing.  Most often that trigger just sets me up to create my own song about whatever it is that we are doing at the time.  "Here we go gathering cereal, carrots & onions and other good things.  Here we go gathering bread & buns so early in the morning!"
It has been proven scientifically that babies and young children who listen to music create synapses or pathways in the brain that help with spacial & reasoning abilities.
The complexity of the music is what helps with the growth.  Babies are also soothed by the rhythm & tone of songs when upset or tired.  Brilliant.

2. Music & Learning - Studies have shown that when someone is working with the right side of the brain with artistic endeavors, listening to music shuts off the left side or rational part that will tell you that the line isn't straight or that colour doesn't work.
Studies have also shown that music helps those with learning disorders to distinguish speech from noise by strengthening the neuro-pathways.
In essence, music primes the brain to better perform all tasks.  Cool!

3. Music & Enjoyment - Well now we are getting into a more subjective area.  There are numerous studies to show that the consistent beat will calm or excite a person, plant or animal.  There are studies to show that cows who listen to country music produce more and better milk.  No kidding.
Listening to music stimulates blood flow to the brain.  It can give us the same type of euphoric feeling as drugs or great food (with far fewer calories or side effects).
Too many times, people will dismiss a genre of music after hearing it but a few times.  Like food, music must be tried an average of 10 times to be appreciated.  When I taught in the classroom, we threw out the word, "like" and only used "appreciate".  We would only use the word "like" if we were about to purchase music. This left the students unable to dismiss a piece of music because of arbitrary rules.  Not only that, it made ME listen more appreciatively and I opened up to more styles of music.  To this day, there is no music I dislike but some that I appreciate more than others.

So open your ears and turn off your brain to LISTEN to the music.  Grow those synapses and become the creative amazing person on the outside you know has always been hiding on the inside.

Listen to the music!!