Introducing Music Therapy

Posted on January 28th, 2023 by shineuser

The study of music is well known to have multiple benefits for the individual, not only in the realm of learning an instrument. For individuals with physical or mental disabilities or those looking to deal with stress, anxiety or improve their motor skills, music therapy can offer considerable advantages.

Science has long proven the value of both playing and listening to music. Playing an instrument improves concentration, develops the brain and helps with a slew of other important social skills. Studying music can improve cognition and enhance learning and memory. The part of the brain that deals with language and reason also deals with music, activating this part of the brain by playing an instrument helps to develop these skills.

Humans have long had a relationship with music, and studies have shown the importance of introducing music to young children. It stands to reason then that music and music therapy sessions can aid a wide range of ailments.

“Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation, providing emotional support for individuals and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.”

(American Music Therapy Association, 2020.)

Music is a powerful tool. In Music Therapy, music can be used as a way to build connections, both socially and cognitively. Music Therapists are able to guide their clients in their musical exploration, encouraging them, as well as identifying techniques that can help them improve or work on specific areas. Through sound and play, they are exposed to a variety of challenges which equip them for the future. Music Therapy can give an individual important tools with which to navigate their normal life.

Treatments include creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words.

For example, singing can strengthen the immune system and research has shown that producing certain sounds can help specific aspects of your health. Singing improves your mood by releasing endorphins. Studies have demonstrated that singing can decrease cortisol levels, which are responsible for stress. Singers often experience increased relaxation. Singing, listening to music and playing musical instruments all combat anxiety & depression.

Singing also aids metabolism, boosts alertness and can be an excellent form of exercise, especially for those who are physically disabled or can no longer move as well, like the elderly. It helps to increase aerobic capacity and stamina and improves posture. Posture techniques used in both singing and playing an instrument help build strong muscles and a good posture relieves back and neck strain. Easing muscle tension is something that can significantly benefit people with physical handicaps, or motor skill issues.

Exposure to Music Therapy techniques not only develops imagination and intellectual curiosity but the rhythms of music also aid those with physical issues by helping them time their movements to the beat of the music. According to papers published on Neuroplasticity, “Playing a musical instrument demands the coordination of hand movements with integrated auditory, visual, and tactile feedback, in a process that recruits multiple brain regions. These multiple demands during instrument playing, together with the entertaining character of music, have led to the development and investigation of music-supported therapies, especially for rehabilitation with motor disorders.”

The same concept can be applied to speech and language development. Because verbal difficulties often tend to create communication barriers, leading to low self-esteem, any therapy that can help an individual with their vocal issues is important. Repetitive speech, such as the chorus of a song, can improve one’s ability to participate in a conversation. Singing together with the music, helps to develop control of the vocal muscles. Cognitively, music can be used as a tool to help recall conversation just as you would remember song lyrics. This can be vitally important for those suffering memory handicaps, like dementia or Alzheimers. Not only can listening to their favourite song greatly reduce stress and agitation, but also offers a way for them to connect emotionally with loved ones.

Music when used in therapeutic instances offers a vast array of benefits. Shine Music School in Barcelona is now offering Music Therapy sessions. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.

“Where words fail, music speaks”

Hans Christian Andersen

Posted in kids music, music therapy, musical interest | No Comments

Free Music Resources for Musicians

Posted on January 25th, 2023 by shineuser

Music is a fantastic hobby, and playing an instrument can be a great source of entertainment and joy. But times are tough and every budding musician can use a freebie every now and then! Even if you are taking lessons and have invested in a great instrument, having free extra musical resources in your pocket is recommended and useful!

We have put together a list of freebies for you to browse. From free software for editing music, to free tabs and backing tracks.

FREE GUITAR TABS

Ultimate Guitar has about a bazillion guitar tabs that you can browse by genre or difficulty. They have an easy search bar, so finding the tab you are looking for is not at all complicated.
Guitar Tabs has tabs listed alphabetically, and you can even submit your own.
Acoustic Guitar Tabs has a great archive of free tabs as well as free lessons, so you can learn how to read the tabs too!

FREE BACKING TRACKS

If you are struggling to play your music at home, perhaps a backing track will help. Not only does it help you with improvisation and timing but also fills in all the other instruments! Many websites provide free downloadable tracks so that you can practice anywhere, both online and off. Guitar backing tracks has loads of tracks created specifically for guitarists. Backing Tracks has almost 100 000 tracks that you can download! Karaoke Version has a number of free backing tracks that come with variations, for example instrumental versions, or ones that include backup vocals. You can browse and find the tracks you like, and download them. Each track includes useful info such as Tempo and Key. And if you cannot find what you are looking for here, Youtube has loads of free backing tracks available online too.

FREE MUSIC EDITING SOFTWARE

Audacity, while it might look a little complicated, can be mastered through some trial and error. It has been providing one of the best free music editing tools for over 20 years. If you can get past the intimidating look of the program, and figure out how to use the plugins, you can master the art of music editing for free! TIP: Watch some tutorials online! Ocenaudio is far simpler to use, and may be a better place to start if you are just beginning to set up your home studio! This software also lets you listen to the changes you make to your audio files as you make them. Wavepad has some very useful features, like editing audio tracks in a batch (ie more than one at a time!) which can save you a lot of time! It has plenty of handy features like noise removal, compression and reverb as well as audio scrubbing! And if you need more free editing tools, check out this list which also includes a free lesson on getting started on music editing!

FREE ONLINE MUSIC LESSONS & COURSES

You can find plenty of free lessons online for every instrument. Most of them are introductory, but a free tutorial can really help if you are a bit stuck! MakingMusicFun has some free lessons for kids in everything from Recorders to Guitar and Trumpet! Alison offers full courses in music and music theory, all it requires is a sign up, which you can do easily with your email address. Learn how to write your first song for free with this online course from Future Learn! Study how to play the Jazz piano with The Jazz Pianist’s free courses! Udemy is well known to provide great lessons! If you are a serious musician and want to make a business out of your music or band, why not try the free Band as Business, Musician as Entrepreneur course.

FREE DOWNLOADABLE MUSIC

Perhaps you need some music for your video or school project. If you don’t have time to make your own, there are plenty of places where you can legally download free music without any copyright issues. The Free Music Archive is a wonderful resource full of all kinds of different music that you can use free of charge! Jamendo also offers music for free. Soundcloud is not only a fantastic place to listen and discover music for free, but many artists allow you to use their music under the creative commons usage rights. Youtube now also offers free music to use in making a video, logging in grants you access to loads of royalty free soundbites and background music.

Posted in music school, musical interest, Online | No Comments

The curious history of Christmas Carols and Traditions

Posted on January 25th, 2023 by shineuser

As the festive season approaches, lights are lit across the world, and December revolves around many different celebrations that span various cultures. From Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa to New Year celebrations in Japan called Omisoka. Different cultures celebrate these holidays with various traditions, in America Santa Claus comes slipping down the chimney to deliver gifts, while in Iceland, there is not only one Father Christmas but thirteen, named the Yule Lads, each one is celebrated over thirteen nights. Here in Barcelona, Catalans celebrate the coming of the Tres Reis (three kings), and on the 24th of December, Christmas eve, a traditional meal known as escudella de galets is served as a starter. It is a soup containing big, snail-shaped pasta shells, and made from a special meat broth. The meat is removed from the broth and served separately as the main course. The family will take the opportunity to present one another with small gifts, usually giving the children instruments which they use to serenade their relatives with Christmas carols.

Music plays an important role during December and the winter season, and Christmas Carols can be heard in winter markets and shopping centers across the world. Much of the music played has pagan roots, or were originally songs sung in pubs or popular folksongs. This resulted in many odd or hilarious lyrics which have slowly changed over the years.

“Hark the herald angles sing”, used to to be “Hark how all the welkin rings” and was created to fit Mendelssohn’s “Gutenberg’s Cantata” which was actually written to celebrate the printing press and had nothing at all to do with Christmas.

Here is the original, can you catch the similarities?

Carols were first sung in Europe hundreds of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols we are familiar with today. They were originally sung to celebrate the Winter Solstice as people danced round stone circles. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, taking place around 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived. (source)

As we move through history, the practice of singing in praise or joy continued but evolved, songs became more associated with religious celebrations, and minstrels would take the songs from place to place, singing them for various people, retelling the nativity story in song. Singing Carols outside peoples doors around Christmas time slowly appeared and the idea of the Carol Service at church on Christmas eve was popularised when many would gather by candlelight to sing hymns together.

A traditional Catalan song for the coming of the kings, light your lantern and sing along!
El Burrito Sabanero was written by  Hugo Blanco for the 1972 Christmas season in Venezuela.
The English song tells the story of the Three Kings.
Kelly Clarkson sings the classic Silent Night

It is interesting how music is so evocative of certain times of the year, and Christmas time is perhaps the one that stands out for most people. Everyone has their favourite christmas song, and many famous musicians have released Christmas Albums where they sing theirs. If you enjoy Christmas Carols, you can find a list of the 30 top Traditional Christmas Carols here.

Our favourite music for the winter Christmas season however, has got to be Oscar Peterson’s Jazz Album An Oscar Peterson Christmas. This is perfect for any winter evening, and will certainly get you in that festive spirit.

Posted in musical interest | No Comments

Weird and Wonderful musical instruments

Posted on January 24th, 2023 by shineuser

The way we interact and discover the world in which we live is through our 5 senses and one of the most important ones is our sense of hearing or sound. Even many people who are deaf are able to connect with the world through an interpretation of sounds through vibrations. Indeed the total lack of sound can even have an effect on us, causing hallucinations.

People have been creating instruments to make sounds and music since the beginning of time. So far we seem to be the only species to make music, but scientists have been researching animals musical tastes. Have a look at this list of really odd musical instruments, are you interested in trying to play any of them?

Octobass

Created in 1850 by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, the Octobass is a massive double bass that stands at 3.48m tall. It has elaborate foot-pedals to make it playable. It was created to give low “rumble” type sounds to orchestras. Only two playable Octobass exist today.

The Great Stalacpipe Organ

Invented in 1956 in the Luray Caverns in Virginia by Leland W. Sprinkle. The Great Stalacpipe Organ works by tapping on ancient stalactites with rubber mallets, all connected to a console that looks like a traditional organ. Apparently people had been tapping on the stalactites for years before the organ was actually constructed. It’s the largest “instrument” in the world.

 

Sea Organ

This fantastic project has turned the sea itself into a musician by using the man-made sea barrier in Zadar, Croatia as a ginormous organ. Pipes underneath the promenade react to the waves as they flow in, creating harmonious sounds that tourists all over the world flock to come and listen to.

Singing Ringing Tree

Part sculpture, part musical instrument, the singing tree on a hill overlooking Burnley in Lancashire, it was completed in 2006 and is made up of a series of pipes. When the wind blows through them, it produces a haunting sound. Give it a listen. Must be creepy on a dark windy night if you live close by!

 

Theremin

Perhaps the very first electronic instrument. Invented in 1919! The theremin is remarkable for its uncanny sound, the way it is played without touching it, and last but not least for its use in science fiction movies. Leon Theremin went down in musical history for this instrument. It was used in Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack for The Day the Earth Stood Still amongst others.

 

The Glass Harmonica

Invented by Benjamin Franklin, this instrument consists of a number of glass bowls nested or fitted inside of each other. They slowly spin on a rod and the musician plays them with wet fingers producing a sound that you will be familiar with if you ever ran your finger over the top of a crystal glass. Some of the great composers such as Mozart and Beethoven arranged pieces to include the glass harmonica but it is not a common instrument.

Want to buy one? “The glass harmonica is expensive and difficult to make,” explains William Zeitler, for many years one of a handful professional glass harmonica players. “And there’s no such thing as a cheap student model. You have to buy one at $40,000, which means you have to be really committed.” source


There are some fun outdoor instruments you can play if you head to Montjuic in Barcelona. The park Jardines de Joan Brossa has big wooden instruments that can be “played” by kids.

In fact many children’s parks across the world have large instruments available for kids to play with. Keep an eye out for them on your travels.

If you want to see more interesting instruments, check out the lists below:

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/weirdest-musical-instruments/

https://www.catawiki.com/stories/4317-our-top-10-favourite-weird-musical-instruments

Posted in musical interest | No Comments

What is Sonification

Posted on January 18th, 2023 by shineuser

 

‘Sonification can make cosmic wonders more accessible to people with blindness or visual impairments, and complement images for sighted learners. SYSTEM Sounds teamed up with Kimberly Arcand, a visualization scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., to create the new pieces.’ – Science News

Sonification Explained.

Turning data into music or sound is not a new concept. Off hand I can think of various day to day sonification instances where sounds have been used to indicate certain visual cues. The beeping of the Pedestrian Stop/Walk light, the tictocking and chiming of a clock…

Interpreting data with the use of sound or music for the purpose of conveying certain information or perceptualizing a concept has been used by man since the early 20th century. The Geiger counter, invented in 1908, is one of the earliest and most successful applications of sonification. Indicating levels of radiation with increased warning clicking sounds.

Nowadays new applications and systems for turning data into sound are being developed, and although there is still no exact method on how to do it, various scientists, researchers and musicians have been collaborating to interpret data through sound or sonification in various interesting ways. SYSTEM Sounds have been working on more space music and ICAD (International Community for Auditory Display) holds annual conferences and forums for people to come together to explore research in auditory display, the use of sound to display information.

Changing data is often shown by increasing or decreasing the pitch, amplitude or tempo, as well as with different notes or even timbre. Not only is the data producing unusual compositions in sound, but perhaps it can also inspire musicians to think outside of the box when it comes to arranging tones, or compositions for new music. Several different techniques such as Acoustic Sonification , Audification and Model-Based Sonification have been used. These methods can create various interactive musical pieces or even instruments and there are some open-source software tools that have been developed alongside, to facilitate them.

Sonification is still in its infancy and it will be interesting to watch its growth and application. Perhaps it may even spawn a whole new array of careers within the science of sound and musicology. Check out SYSTEM Sounds for more sonification videos and perhaps try your hand at creating your own sonifcations with tools like combining Arduino and Mozzi, perhaps you will invent a new instrument! Or visualise active data with sound in your own installation!

Posted in musical interest | No Comments

The Musician’s Gift Guide

Posted on November 25th, 2022 by shineuser

The end of the year  is the perfect time to think of a thoughtful gift for the musicians in your life. As we move into the season of gifts and giving, start planning ahead. November also hosts the ever popular “Black Friday” on the 27th of the month, and it is a perfect opportunity to grab some great online offers for your family and friends. Or why not think of supporting some small local businesses with unusual gifts like a music class, hand made local guitar or artwork. Also remember there are plenty of places where you can buy sustainable gifts, like second hand instruments or equipment. Just make sure check the reviews or test the instrument. Without further ado, here are 20 ideas for fun festive season gifts…

Posted in kids music, music school, musical interest | No Comments

The Music of Cuba

Posted on October 14th, 2020 by shineuser

Cuba the largest island nestled in the Caribbean sea, guards a fascinating history. From Spanish Colonisation in the 15th Century, to American occupation and then independence. It got caught in the middle of the cold war under communist Fidel Castro, and is responsible for a string of humanitarian accomplishments. Geographically at a crossroads, many people have found their way to Cuba, and the island has certainly carved a name for itself in history. Its uniqueness is often expressed through music and dance.

With influences spanning from West Africa to Europe, notably, of course, Spain, Cuban music genres are often considered one of the richest and most influential regional musics of the world.

Music often tells a tale, and Cuba reflects it’s people’s histories and cultures. Home to people of different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds, Cubans generally do not equate their ethnicity with nationality but with citizenship and their allegiance to Cuba. This melting pot of a nation has resulted in a fantastic amalgamation of musical styles and composition.

“For instance, the son cubano merges an adapted Spanish guitar (tres), melody, harmony, and lyrical traditions with Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms.”

Since the 19th century Cuban music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world. Since the introduction of recording technology, Cuban music has contributed to the development of a wide variety of genres and musical styles around the globe, most notably in Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa and Europe. Examples include rhumba, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, soukous, many West African re-adaptations of Afro-Cuban music (Orchestra Baobab, Africando), Spanish fusion genres (notably with flamenco), and a wide variety of genres in Latin America.

Let’s check some of them out

PEASANT MUSIC (MÚSICA CAMPESINA) perhaps some of the oldest popular musical styles from Cuba include punto guajiro, zapateo, criolla.

A variety of musical styles in Cuba can be grouped for their AFRICAN HERITAGEClave, Cuban carnival, Tumba Francesca all call on their African heritage, often combining religious rituals with songs and dance.

Tumba francesa combines musical traditions of West African, Bantu, French and Spanish origin. Cuban ethnomusicologists agree that the word “tumba” derives from the Bantu and Mandinka words for drum. In Cuba, the word tumba is used to denote the drums, the ensembles and the performance itself in tumba francesa.

Tumbas francesas are directed by a mistress of ceremonies called the mayora de plaza. Performances generally begin with improvised solo singing in a mixture of Spanish and French patois termed kreyol cubano or patuá cubano by the lead vocalist. Following this, the catá (a wooden cylindrical idiophone struck with two sticks) is played, and the lead singer alternates call and response singing with a group of female vocalists (tumberas).After the catá establishes the beat, the three tumbas are played. source

Originating in Europe, CONTRADANZA, where it was known as the “country dance” in the late 18th Century was adapted in Cuba. Mixing African musical styles with European, “this creolization is an early example of the influence of the African traditions in the Caribbean. Most of the musicians were black or mulatto (even early in the 19th century there were many freed slaves and mixed race persons living in Cuban towns)” source

The HABANERA developed out of contradanza in the early 19th century. Setting it apart is the fact that it was sung, as well as played and danced. Written in 2/4 meter, the Habanera is characterized by an expressive and languid melodious development and its characteristic rhythm called “Habanera Rhythm.” Versions of habanera-type compositions have appeared in the music of Ravel, Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Fauré, Albeniz. The rhythm is similar to that of the tango, and some believe the habanera is the musical father of the tango.

The GUARACHA uses rapid tempo and comic or picaresque lyrics, and was most often sung in brothels. The genre became an integral part of bufo comic theatre in the mid-19th century. The guaracha survives today in the repertoires of some trova musicians, conjuntos and Cuban-style big bands.

RUMBA is a secular genre of Cuban music involving dance, percussion, and song. It originated in the northern regions of Cuba, mainly in urban Havana and Matanzas, during the late 19th century. It is based on African music and dance traditions, namely Abakuá and yuka, as well as the Spanish-based coros de clavesource

The origin of the Cuban SON can be traced to the rural rumbas. It gained worldwide popularity during the 1930s. Son combines the structure and traits of the Spanish canción(song) with Afro-Cuban stylistic and percussion elements as does much of the music from Cuba. However, the Cuban Son is one of the most influential and widespread forms of Latin American music today: its derivatives and fusions, especially salsa, have spread across the world. source Its most characteristic instruments are the Cuban instrument known as the tres, and the well-known double-headed bongó. Also typical are the claves, the Spanish guitar, the double bass (replacing the early botija or marímbula), early on the cornet or trumpet and finally the piano. This fusion of instruments is typical of the musical genre.

After the Spanish-American war, a variety of musical genres emerged as musicians from Cuba traveled to America and back. AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ, MAMBO, CHA CHA CHÁ all became popular.

Cuban music hit the US after World War II,  Mario Bauza and the Machito orchestra on the Cuban side and Dizzy Gillespie on the American side were prime motivators. Chano Pozo, a Cuban jazz percussionist, was also important, for he introduced jazz musicians like Dizzy to basic Cuban rhythms. The mambo first entered the United States around 1950, taking it by storm, however it had been developing in Cuba and Mexico City for some time. Cuban jazz has continued to be a significant influence.

Cuban music has continued to diversify through the 1950s, the revolutionary 60s and 70s, and Cubans have been singing and dancing to a variety of genres such as FILIN and NUEVA TROVA. Cuban influenced Salsa music emerged in New York and recently the TIMBA, which differs from their salsa counterparts, in that timba emphasises the bass drum, which is not used in salsa bands. Lately CUBATÓN which evolved from dancehall and has been influenced by American hip hop, Latin American, and Caribbean music has taken precedence with the younger generation. Vocals include rapping and singing, typically in Spanish.

 

 

 

 

Posted in musical interest | No Comments