Archive for October, 2008


“Joy To The World” – Some ideas for arranging this great old Christmas Carol creatively (Watch video)

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008
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When Isaac Watts wrote “Joy To The World” based on a score by George Frederick Handel’s “The Messiah” he was writing about the 2nd coming of Christ — not the first advent as we almost all assume. Notice the words – particularly of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th verses:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Here are a few random ideas on how you might create a fresh new sound for an old Christmas Carol:

 

 

For ideas galore on arranging Christmas Carols go to “The Secret of Arranging Spectacularly Beautiful Christmas Carols”

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Using Chord Substitutions in Christmas Carols: “Silent Night” (watch video)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008
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You can make an old Christmas Carol (or any song, for that matter) really come to life through the use of chord substitutions. Watch this free short video as I demonstrate how you can create an entirely new “feel” to an old carol such as “Silent Night”:


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If you enjoy this process, come on over to “The Secret of Arranging Spectacularly Beautiful Christmas Carols!”

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How Piano Beginners Can Play “Jingle Bells” With Just 5 Notes (Video)

Monday, October 20th, 2008
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There are many songs which can be played with just a few different notes, and Jingle Bells is one of them.  A piano beginner can play it easily just with the 5 fingers of their right hand — 5 notes, 5 fingers. And since there are only 4 different chords in the song, it’s easy to put hands together for a two-handed arrangement.

Pianists who are more advanced can, of course, use many more chords and many more notes, plus many other styles and arrangments. Watch the 2-minute video for a couple simple ideas:

For more advanced concepts and ideas on arranging beautiful Christmas Carols, please go to

“How To Play Spectacularly Beautiful Christmas Carols On The Piano — This Christmas!”

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Music Triads on the piano: 3-note chords, 4 variations in all 12 keys = 48 chords

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
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A single note played is termed a unison. Two notes played together (or close together) is termed an interval. Three or more notes in combination is called a chord. Chords can have any number of notes in them, but the most basic type of chord is termed a triad.

There are four types of triads commonly used:

Major triad — made up of the root, 3rd and 5th of the major scale for that key.

Minor triads — made by lowering the 3rd 1/2 step.

Diminished triads — made by lowering both the 3rd and 5th 1/2 step.

Augmented triads — made by raising the 5th 1/2 step.

Watch the short video:


By learning the 4 basic triads in all 12 keys, you automatically know and can play 48 chords! Not bad for only learning 4 variations of a triad chord.

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Will learning to play the piano make you more intelligent?

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
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Will learning to play the piano make you more intelligent?  Could the brain grow larger than normal by learning to play a musical instrument such as a keyboard or piano?  Questions such as these have been arising everywhere over the past few years and not only in science journals either.  The interest of the general public in these studies involving music and the development of the brain has led to the publishing of many articles, to the delight of music-lovers everywhere.  But all the information gathered, the reliable and the questionable, has left many still confused about how much importance should be put on use of musical training for brain development.

If your feeling confused about what you have learned, certain valid points considered may help clear your thinking.  It seems that the most benefit is derived from early musical training when it comes to strengthening the connectors in the brain and creating new pathways. Research demonstrates the definite influence that music training has on the long-term development of specific parts of the brain.  The research findings of Gottfried Schlaug, Herman Steinmetz and their associates were published in Discover magazine in 1994. They did a comparison of 27 classically trained right handed musicians with 27 right handed non-musicians using a technique called MRI, abbreviated for magnetic resonance images.
 
Their findings revealed that the planum temporale (the brain’s auditory processor) was larger in the left hemisphere and smaller in the right in comparison with the group of non-musicians. Musicians who started training before the age of seven had even more outstanding differences.  The differences were especially notable among musicians who started early training, specifically before the age of seven.  Shlaug claims that the study of music also promotes enlargement of the corpus callosum, a bridge of sorts between the brain’s two hemispheres. He discovered that among musicians who began their musical education before seven years of age, their corpus callosum was thicker by 10-15% compared to non-musicians.  It was suspected that a larger corpus callosum improves motor control by making a faster connection between the hemispheres of the brain.

Later research published in a 2002 issue of Science magazine showed the results of a study conducted by Dartmouth music psychologist Peter Janata which confirmed that music is one of the best stimulants for improved connectivity between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and between areas responsible for emotion and memory.  A team of scientists led by Janata reports that with musicians, they have found certain areas of the brain to be 5% larger, and specifically the auditory cortex in expert musicians, up to 15% larger than people with little or no musical background. In addition, those who started studying music early in childhood have increased development of up to 15% in the brain area called the corpus callosum, which is a four-inch bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right side of the brain.
 
There is growing evidence that detailed and even skilled motor functions are enhanced, besides the growing evidence from research studies that some brain region connectivity, as well as some types of reasoning functionality is improved by music training. The corpus callosum in musicians is evidently essential to the performance of such tasks as the coordination of fingers. As any muscle must grow to accommodate the tasks at hand, this portion of the brain also grows to make one more proficient at these necessary musical skills.

In a study conducted by Dr. Timo Krings and reported on in Neuroscience Letters 2000, non-musicians and pianists of the same age and gender were asked to complete a series of intricate finger movements.  In this study, pianists and non-musicians of the same age and gender were asked to perform sequences of complex finger movements.  Correct movements were noted by both groups, but less activity was seen in the brains of the pianists. The conclusion drawn by the researchers was that the pianists’ brains make skilled moves with less effort.  There are a staggering number of ways that the human brain and its development are affected thanks to the study of music.  With all this research at your fingertips, how do you decide what type of musical studies will benefit yourself or your children?

An article by N.M. Weinberger published in Musica Research Notes in 2002 made an interesting point about how the Mozart Effect , although not living up to it’s musical hype, has raised the public eye to the research being conducted in the field of music. Listening to just a few minutes of Mozart invites a whole new world of musical possibilities to the listener. The academic evidence discovered for using music study as a tool to aid brain development is compelling, even with the hype regarding the Mozart Effect.  Dr. Frank Wilson from the University of California’s School of Medicine in San Francisco says his research reveals improvement in coordination, concentration, memory, eyesight and hearing when a person engages in practicing the art of music.

According to Frank Wilson’s research, learning to play an instrument brings about these benefits: better coordination, improved concentration, memory, eyesight and hearing. According to Wilson, all other activity pales in comparison to musical training which refines the entire neurological system by improving connections and motor skills in the brain. Dr. Wilson says that he believes musical instruction is vital for total brain development.

The conclusion we draw from what we’ve learned is that studying music can be an important tool to enhance various important functions of the brain. No guarantees, of course, but if you love music, why not do what you love?  Therefore, if you are a lover of music, dust off that old piano you have always wanted to play and get started today – you have much to gain in satisfaction and pleasure. And who knows? If it increases the capability of your brain, what a bonus!

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