March 2016 Posts

Music Training Leads To Greater Gains In Auditory And Motor Function

Music training leads to greater gains in auditory and motor function when begun in young childhood; by adolescence, the plasticity that characterizes childhood has begun to decline. Nevertheless, our results establish that music training impacts the auditory system even when it is begun in adolescence, suggesting that a modest amount of training begun later in life can affect neural function.
~ Adam T. Tierney, Jennifer Krizman, Nina Kraus, “Music training alters the course of adolescent auditory development,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015.

The Importance of Breathing

One of the most common things looked over in brass and woodwind performance is breathing. If you aren’t breathing well, it is very difficult to achieve a great sound on a wind instrument. The best instruments in the world won’t sound great unless you have great breathing technique!

Start by finding your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the muscle that controls your breathing. To find it, place your hand at the bottom of ribcage and inhale for a deep, relaxed breath. You will feel an expansion as your lungs will with air. Notice how your lungs fill from the bottom, this works just like when you fill a cup with water: from the bottom working its way toward the top. Next, exhale and feel your diaphragm compress and push the air out (think about fogging up a mirror rather than blowing out birthday candles). Perform this exercise repeatedly and become aware of your body’s motion.

While performing this exercise, achieve an “O” shape with your mouth and create this open feeling all the way down to your diaphragm. This open shape allows the air to be almost tensionless! You never want to breathe like you’re breathing through a straw. In other words, avoid breathing in a way that restricts the free flow of air. In any wind instrument, tension and restriction never allow the sound to be as good as it could be.

Become aware of what your body is doing during the exercise. You should feel your body rise and fall. The motion should be as natural as possible. Don’t strain yourself or force it to move. For example, if your shoulders are being forced up, this is allowing tension to have a negative impact and on efficiency and relaxation.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of this exercise, perform it with counts: in for 4-out for 4, in for 6-out for 6, in for 8-out for 8, and etc. Mastering this exercise will strengthen your diaphragm and is a vital step in being in control of your air!

There are many other exercises you can develop from the exercise you just worked on. Experiment with different volumes, tempos, and different styles. For example, breathe in 4 quarter notes and out 4 quarter notes at fortissimo or breathe in for 2 counts and out for 4 counts. Always remember to remain tensionless, use warm air, and stay relaxed and open!

Music Is A Higher Revelation Than All Wisdom

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”
~ Ludwig van Beethoven quoted in “Music Is a Potent Source of Meaning,” Tom Jacobs, August 20, 2015.

Arts Education Aids Students In Skills Needed In The Workplace

“Arts education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence.”
~ Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Cooperate Communications, Xerox Corporation.

Music And All The Arts Are The Key To Learning

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”
~ Plato