This education blog shares various horizons of music in order to promote sustainable development of music education. Being devoted to music education for 17 years, Carol Ng has established her private studio at Sandy Bay, Tasmania with an examination-standard Yamaha grand piano. In addition, Carol is keen on enlightening the next generation and advocating continuous advancement of music industry.

教育BLOG旨在推廣音樂教育發展,讓更多人認識不同的音樂領域;吳老師投身音樂教育十七年,於塔斯馬尼亞的沙地灣開設私人教室,並採用符合考試標準之Yamaha 三角琴教學,致力培育新一代音樂學好者及推動音樂行業的持續發展。

2014年10月21日 星期二

培養節奏感:BB篇

去年暑假,我教授了一連串的音樂課。一位高小學生在課後問道:「何謂重拍?」腦裏即時出現一個常用字典解釋,但我立刻知道,這個解釋是不會讓該學生明白「重拍」的意義,因為拍子節奏是要透過身體直接感受,而非筆墨所能形容。

0-6歲音樂發展黃金期
其實,兒童音樂發展的黃金時段,可算是由初生至6歲的階段。若能把握機會,提高兒童的聽覺和節奏感,將會對孩子未來的器樂或音樂學習有重要影響。音樂主要由旋律和節奏組成。

演奏者奏得出色,除了奏出優美的旋律外,還要把樂曲的節奏有效地和令人折服地表現出來。年齡愈小的孩童對節奏的感應與成人有異,幼兒必須透過身體動作和遊戲來學習節奏。所以,家長應透過活動,替子女製造多點學習節奏的機會。

就嬰兒階段來說,照顧者或父母可隨着富節奏感的音樂,有節奏地輕拍嬰兒的身體或來回搖擺,甚至可輕輕地把嬰兒放在平面上左右滾動,以增加嬰兒對節奏的感應。此外,把嬰兒放在父母的膝上,面向自己,隨着音樂左右或上下擺動,也是一種培養節奏感的有效活動;不過,父母記緊要托着嬰兒的頸部,以作支撑。

除了互動式的活動外,父母也可選擇較靜態的活動,如隨着音樂節拍,用手指或小型手搖鈴,輕輕地敲在嬰兒身體的不同部位;多用節奏性朗讀來頌讀故事、搖籃曲或兒歌,也可令嬰兒熟悉富節奏的聲音。

無論照顧者是父母、長輩或傭人,以上活動都能輕易地融合於日常生活中。縱然,嬰兒的反應可能有別,但家長不要放棄。因為孩子的反應和參與,會隨着年齡和身體的增長漸漸進步,就如一張白紙,我們只開始了繪圖的雛型,孩子對事物反應的增加,會慢慢地為圖畫添上更美的色彩。到底幼兒階段的節奏感又如何培養?下回將與大家分享。

文:彭雯蕙

自《開心爸媽》(22/2/2011)

2014年10月20日 星期一

心智轉變 高小升中易棄學琴

每當看到孩子慢慢成長,個子長高了、知識長進了,家長和老師當然高興。不過,孩子隨之而來的心智轉變,或多或少會影響他們的學習心態,成為家長和老師不得不面對的挑戰。孩子到了高小至初中的年齡,心智上會有明顯的變化,家長必須多方了解及體諒,孩子才能順利度過這個階段。否則,若家長不予理會,這個年紀的孩子最容易放棄學琴。那麼,這段年齡層的孩子,在學習音樂的過程中會有哪些心態上的轉變呢?

.學習時,必須要得到立即的成就感;
.急於達到目標,而不計後果;
.一些上進心強的孩子會抗拒學習具挑戰性的技巧,且完美主義意識漸强;
.面對失敗的反應更强烈;
.大多數男孩子會視不能達標(如彈錯音、忘記樂譜或不能達到老師要求)為一種意外現象,並不太在意;但一些女孩子會將此事視為一種嚴重失誤,心情為之低落;
.一些向來自信滿滿的孩子會突然畏懼上台演出,而有些平常害羞的孩子又突然變得信心十足,在台上出盡風頭;
.升上初中的孩子會處處表現出成人的樣子,但遇事卻非常膽小;
.這個階段的孩子非常渴望得到成人的指引,但卻不敢於承認,所以常用辯駁的方式與成人溝通;
.常常忘記自己答應過的事。

家長必須了解成長中的孩子不僅要面對心智上的轉變,亦要面對社會、生活和人際關係的改變。他們要面對的包括:
.開始意識到自己的音樂喜好,如古典文化vs流行文化;他們開始思索學音樂的目的和意義。
.父母的期望高了,他們變得非常在意父母怎樣看待他們的音樂學習過程,特別是成績和比賽結果,心理壓力亦增加。
.除了要練琴,如今還要面對學校功課、課外活動、其他興趣、同儕活動、家庭時間等;音樂變成生活中的一小部分而不是大部分。

家長和老師或不理解為什麼這個年紀的孩子常抗拒甚至放棄學習音樂。事實上,他們亦有自己的難處和壓力,正正需要成人的體諒和扶持。關於如何面對這個年紀孩子的心理需求,下回會有更詳細的分享。
文:蔡迪博士

自《開心爸媽》(7/6/2011)

比賽的威力(下)

新學年終於開始了,一浪浪的校際比賽將接踵而來。上回談到為學生在技術和思想上準備的重要性,今次我們看看其他考慮因素,讓我們為學生準備得更盡善盡美。

從學生角度看比賽
俗語有云:「一樣米養百樣人。」人人性格不同,學生也不例外。由於「比賽」帶來一定的壓力,能面對及承受壓力的學生,在臨場表現方面,較其他學生為佳;相反,性格內向的學生多在熟悉的環境中發揮自如,緊張的比賽氣氛,會使他們表現大打折扣。由此可見,「比賽」並不完全適合所有學生,家長和老師可從學生得益角度,來決定是否參與比賽。再者,學生的「個人選擇」,也應是考慮的因素。因為,要把「比賽」成為正面和學習成長的機會,學生積極參與是不可缺少的。唯有那些樂意參與的學生,才會認真看待準備過程中,務求在音樂追求上得到更大進步,最終能藉此機會,在個人學習上得到健康快樂的成長。

為學生選擇合適的比賽
既然我們以「比賽」作為正面和學習成長的機會,那麼,家長和老師就要小心地選擇合適的比賽。一般比賽均有指定參賽樂曲,家長和老師在選擇時,應考慮學生的程度,切勿挑選要求過高或過低的比賽。長時間練習或不當地彈奏過度困難的樂曲可導致學生受傷,造成永久損害,得不償失;反過來說,為求奪標而參加低於學生程度的比賽,亦不能提升其程度,也是自欺欺人的行為。家長和老師應多加審慎,避免在小小學生的心中種下這種扭曲的態度。

毋懼挫敗繼續向前
人生遇上挫敗,十常八九。若要被每個「挫敗」打倒,而站不起來,「人生」就變得十分可憐了。生命要活得下去,關鍵是我們如何看待「挫敗」,堅持屢敗屢戰的精神,才能積極地面對生命。對於年紀小小的學生,「比賽」是他們的小插曲。若然成功獲獎,必要學到勝而不驕的態度;但若失敗,就必要接納自己的不足之處,從中學習,尋求進步的空間,總不要垂頭喪氣,把責任推到別人身上。只有懂得在挫敗中成長,才可以在人生添上更多色彩。

家長為子女提供不同的進步機會,務求讓他們得到最好的成長,「比賽」實是可用的一個提升機會。盼望家長不要忽略比賽所帶來威力,為孩子來一針「心靈預防針」,以積極態度來迎接新一年的比賽,讓這「威力」成為孩子既正面而有價值的經歷。

文:彭雯蕙博士
自《開心爸媽》(9/10/2012)

練習四式

在教學日子裏,我經常被問到如何協助子女練習的問題,其中大部分都跟「練習時數」與「成效」不相稱有關,當中發現不少學生在彈奏時缺乏思考和聆聽,因此未能對自己的彈奏作出分析,及時矯正錯誤,最終導致練習失效。其實,只要緊守四大原則,恒常的練習都能變得高效率。

在開始練習前,家長必須提醒子女重溫教師的筆記,清楚了解樂曲的要求及需要改進的地方,特別是年幼的兒童,家長額外的指引更為需要,這可幫助子女在練習時明白老師的指引。當子女明白練習目標後,就可以把每個目標逐一練習。每次彈奏時可用四個步驟來評估自己的彈奏,這些步驟可用四條問題(4Ws--What ?Where?Why?How?)來表示。

1.彈奏了什麼(What)?:初步評核自己的彈奏是否達到老師的指引。

2.哪裏出錯呢(Where)?:如果未能達標,學生需找出錯誤的地方再練習。

3.為何出現錯誤(Why?):當學生鎖定錯誤範圍後,必須明白導致錯誤的原因,如用錯指法或音準失誤等……

4.如何矯正錯誤(How?):經過仔細思考後,學生應作適當調整,避免重複相同錯誤。

通過這樣的分析思維,能提升學生的聆聽和集中力,練習成效也相應增加。小朋友從小培養這種思維訓練,不但有利音樂學習,日後更可應用於其他生活和學科範疇。家長應鼓勵子女以細心聆聽、多加思考的態度來練習,這遠勝於以「次數」或「分鐘」為準則的練習。

文:彭雯蕙

自《開心爸媽》(20/11/2012)

This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain On Music


          

Amir Pinkney-Jengkens, 8, is learning trombone through Harmony Project, a nonprofit that provides musical instruments and instruction to children in low-income communities. Recent research suggests that such musical education may help improve kids' ability to process speech.    
Amir Pinkney-Jengkens, 8, is learning trombone through Harmony Project, a nonprofit that provides musical instruments and instruction to children in low-income communities. Recent research suggests that such musical education may help improve kids' ability to process speech. ( Annie Tritt for NPR hide caption)
 
                           
Musical training doesn't just improve your ear for music — it also helps your ear for speech. That's the takeaway from an unusual new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found that kids who took music lessons for two years didn't just get better at playing the trombone or violin; they found that playing music also helped kids' brains process language.

And here's something else unusual about the study: where it took place. It wasn't a laboratory, but in the offices of Harmony Project in Los Angeles. It's a nonprofit after-school program that teaches music to children in low-income communities.

Two nights a week, neuroscience and musical learning meet at Harmony's Hollywood headquarters, where some two-dozen children gather to learn how to play flutes, oboes, trombones and trumpets. The program also includes on-site instruction at many public schools across Los Angeles County.
Harmony Project is the brainchild of Margaret Martin, whose life path includes parenting two kids while homeless before earning a doctorate in public health. A few years ago, she noticed something remarkable about the kids who had gone through her program.

"Since 2008, 93 percent of our high school seniors have graduated in four years and have gone on to colleges like Dartmouth, Tulane, NYU," Martin says, "despite dropout rates of 50 percent or more in the neighborhoods where they live and where we intentionally site our programs."
   
There are plenty of possible explanations for that success. Some of the kids and parents the program attracts are clearly driven. Then there's access to instruments the kids couldn't otherwise afford, and the lessons, of course. Perhaps more importantly, Harmony Project gives kids a place to go after the bell rings, and access to adults who will challenge and nurture them. Keep in mind, many of these students come from families or neighborhoods that have been ravaged by substance abuse or violence — or both.

Still, Martin suspected there was something else, too — something about actually playing music — that was helping these kids.

Enter neurobiologist Nina Kraus, who runs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. When a mutual acquaintance at the National Institutes of Health introduced her to Martin, Kraus jumped at the chance to explore Martin's hunch and to study the Harmony Project kids and their brains.

Breaking Down Brainwaves
Before we get to what, exactly, Kraus' team did or how they did it, here's a quick primer on how the brain works:

The brain depends on neurons. Whenever we take in new information — through our ears, eyes or skin — those neurons talk to each other by firing off electrical pulses. We call these brainwaves. With scalp electrodes, Kraus and her team can both see and hear these brainwaves.


Using some relatively new, expensive and complicated technology, Kraus can also break these brainwaves down into their component parts — to better understand how kids process not only music but speech, too. That's because the two aren't that different. They have three common denominators — pitch, timing and timbre — and the brain uses the same circuitry to make sense of them all.

In other research, Kraus had noticed something about the brains of kids who come from poverty, like many in the Harmony Project. These children often hear fewer words by age 5 than other kids do.
And that's a problem, Kraus says, because "in the absence of stimulation, the nervous system ... hungry for stimulation ... will make things up. So, in the absence of sound, what we saw is that there was just more random background activity, which you might think of as static."

In addition to that "neural noise," as Kraus calls it, ability to process sound — like telling the difference between someone saying "ba" and "ga" — requires microsecond precision in the brain. And many kids raised in poverty, Kraus says, simply have a harder time doing it; individual sounds can seem "blurry" to the brain. (To hear an analogy of this, using an iconic Mister Rogers monologue — giving you some sense of what the brain of a child raised in poverty might hear — be sure to listen to the audio version of this story.)

Improving Your Ear For Music, And Speech

Learning to play an instrument appears to strengthen the brain's ability to capture the depth and richness of speech sounds. These heat maps of brainwaves show how much music lessons improved kids' neurophysiological distinction of consonants.

Responsiveness to Sounds


Working with Harmony Project, Kraus randomly assigned several dozen kids from the program's waitlist into two groups: those who would be studied after one year of music lessons and those who would be studied after two years.

And what she found was that in the two-year kids, the static didn't go away. But their brains got better — more precise — at processing sound. In short: less blur.

Why The Improvement?
It goes back to pitch, timing and timbre. Kraus argues that learning music improves the brain's ability to process all three, which helps kids pick up language, too. Consonants and vowels become clearer, and the brain can make sense of them more quickly.

That's also likely to make life easier at school, not just in music class but in math class, too — and everywhere else.

To be clear, the study has its limits. It was small — roughly 50 kids, ranging in age from 6 to 9. It wasn't conducted in a lab. And it's hard to know if kids doing some other activity could have experienced similar benefits.

But 10th-grader Monica Miranda doesn't need proof that playing violin has helped her. She's one of the first students in the door at a recent Harmony Project re-enrollment event in the auditorium of a nearby elementary school.

"I feel like music really connects with education," she says. "It helps you concentrate more."
Miranda is in her third year with Harmony Project.

"When I do my homework or I'm studying for something and I feel overwhelmed, I usually go to my violin, to start playing it," Miranda says. "I feel like it relaxes my mind. And coming here to play with an orchestra, it's just amazing. I love it."

And, the science says, her brain loves it, too.

by Cory Turner
from "NPR Ed"(September 10, 2014)

Why Does Music Education Matter?

A few days ago, someone asked me for a few quotes about music education for an article he’s writing.  His first question:

“why is music important to the development (both personal and academic) of our students?”

In our everyday lives as teachers, we’re not generally asked to explain why music matters.  We’re busy planning lessons and concerts, attending faculty meetings, and calmly explaining to a pair of arguing children why it doesn’t matter “who started it.”  We rarely stop to examine why we’re doing what we do.  We just love it.  We can’t imagine doing anything else.  Music is everything!   Music is necessary!  But based on how frequently music gets cut from the school curriculum, not everyone sees it that way.  I’m grateful to have an opportunity to sit down and really work out what I believe is the answer to this question.  Here’s what I think:

Because administrators and politicians generally view music as an  “add-on” or “special,” it can be the first program cut from a school facing budget constraints.  As a result, supporters of music education constantly struggle to justify music’s importance.  They might show how music improves math scores and increases school attendance, or they may demonstrate that the focus and discipline required to master an instrument improve students’ overall academic performance.   Proponents of music education may also discuss one of the most compelling effects of music—the fact that creating music requires individual competence (based on practice and discipline) combined with attentiveness to others in an ensemble, and that this balance prepares children for success in any work or personal environment.   They may also point out that learning to lead an ensemble, whether as a conductor, band leader, or first chair in an orchestra, is excellent preparation for leadership of any kind.

They’re right, of course, about all those things.  But the underlying reason that music helps improve nearly every area of a child’s life is that music is a critical and necessary part of the human experience. The more you remove people’s access to creating and listening to music, the more people suffer, both individually and as a part of a culture.

Each of us has a heartbeat that makes us the walking embodiment of music.  Our life force is a steady beat, the foundation for all music.  When we are excited or frightened, the beat accelerates. When we are relaxed or at rest, the beat is slower.  Music has its basis in our very core.   Also, in order to communicate, we vary the pitch of our voices to create language.  Varying pitches are the basis for melody.  In fact, that’s why we can remember language in the form of lyrics to a song more easily than language in the form of a poem or expository prose.  The song organizes the language into memorable pitch and rhythmic patterns, thus tapping into qualities which are inherent to our physical being.

Yet many in the U.S. and some other parts of the world increasingly view music as the exclusive domain of the extraordinarily talented.  Many people will say that they can’t sing, or that they have no musical ability.  The reality, however, is that they simply have had limited exposure to music, particularly at a very young age.   What we think of as being inborn talent or genius is more likely a combination of some natural ability, passion, early exposure, extensive practice, and laser-like dedication.

Those same people who say that they are “not musical” often love listening to music and are deeply affected by it.  That’s because music is a direct line to our emotions.  Everyone from retailers to advertising executives to the person organizing the high school graduation knows this.  Every spa plays slow music during treatments to help you relax, every professional sports event is peppered with music designed to heighten excitement.  Even fans often chant and sing in response to the action. (“Let’s go Yankees,” followed by a rhythmic clapping pattern, is sung to the tune of a minor third.)  Music is an intrinsic part of events where we feel complex or heightened emotions.  Anyone watching a horror movie with his eyes closed can tell you exactly when something bad is about to happen because the dissonant music evokes an immediate visceral response.  Music is power, and people who control the music are in control of people’s emotions.  And those who choose to participate in music gain something deeply satisfying when they tap into that power, often a sense of relief or expression. Consider these examples:


    45, 000 people, many of whom will tell you that they “can’t sing” will nevertheless sing the chorus to “Hey Jude” with joyful abandon at a Paul McCartney concert.

    On 9/11, U.S. politicians spontaneously sang “God Bless America” on the steps of the capital building to express their sense of grief, anger, and patriotism. They didn’t spontaneously speak the pledge of allegiance in a monotone chant.
    For adults, a song from childhood or high school will evoke extraordinarily immediate and tactile memories of that time.
    Parents softly sing to babies to calm them and get them to sleep.  Parents who “don’t sing” will purchase recordings and play them for the babies, knowing the effect they will have.
    Immediately after a disaster, what is done in order to raise money?  A concert!  Not products to purchase, not a performance of comedy sketches, not an art installation, but music.  The music helps people process the pain of the disaster, and also provides a foundation to inspire people to give money to help victims.

Music is unique in that it is both a discipline and an immediate gateway to human emotional life.   Children who participate regularly in music not only hone their abilities to focus, think, analyze, organize, and work with colleagues, but begin to master their own emotional lives.  Many of the people causing harm in the world through violence, wars, intimidation, and corruption could have avoided that path if they had had access to both a better awareness of their own emotional lives and a constructive passion in which to direct their desire for power.   Music provides both.

from "the Singing Classroom" (March 24, 2013)

 

Top 10 skills children learn from the arts



(by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
(by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

You don’t find school reformers talking much about how we need to train more teachers in the arts, given the current obsession with science, math, technology and engineering (STEM), but here’s a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote skills seen as important in academic and life success. (That’s why some people talk  about changing the current national emphasis on STEM to STEAM.) This was written by Lisa Phillips is an author, blog journalist, arts and leadership educator, speaker and business owner. To learn about Lisa’s book, “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World,” . This appeared on the ARTSblog, a program of Americans for the Arts.

By Lisa Phillips

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.

2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.

4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.

5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.

6. Non-Verbal Communication – Through experiences in theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.

7. Receiving Constructive Feedback
– Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.

8. Collaboration – Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.

9. Dedication – When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.

10. Accountability – When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.

from "The Washington Post"(January 22, 2013)