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Caring For Your Instrument in the Hot and Cold Months

Emily Bauerlein, BSS Violin & Viola Instructor

Caring For Your Instrument in the Hot and Cold Months

 

Taking care of our instruments is one of the most important things to do. When we are living in an area, such as Buffalo, we can never really know what the weather will be from one day to the next. So here are a few tips to keep our instruments in mint condition during the hot and cold months.

  • First, it’s always best to put your instrument back in its case once you are done practicing.
  • Another great rule is to never leave your instrument in the car where the temperature can be sweltering or frigid.
  • The best temperature for your instrument is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • When you’re bringing your instrument inside durning the cold months, be sure to let it warm up to room temperature before playing.
  • Never store your instrument near a radiator, fireplace, or an hot/cold air vent.
  • Humidifiers are a great way to maintain the balance of humidity in the room. (Ideal humidity is 40%-50%)
  • There are also small humidifiers to put in your instrument case as well.
  • In both hot and cold weather it’s smart to have your instrument acclimate to its surroundings.

These tips will help you have a happy instrument! Good luck!

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When should classical guitar strings be changed?

Peter Zalocha, BSS Guitar Instructor

When should classical guitar strings be changed?

Nylon guitar strings are constantly under approximately 90lbs of tension when in tune. That, and daily practice can seem to wear the strings out rather quickly! Generally, bass strings wear out more quickly than treble strings, and it makes sense to purchase extra sets of bass strings. When I buy strings for the guitar I play every day, I try to buy an extra set of basses along with a full set; so I change them twice as much.

You know your strings need to be replaced when they start to lose their tone. In other words, they don’t sound as warm/rich as they used to; instead they have a flat or weak sound. Sometimes this can evade you, and soon strings get visibly in need of replacement (i.e. They look dirty, wear marks over frets, or worse case, the bass strings begin to unravel).

Good strings aren’t cheap, but it could be worse (bassists).  I like to keep the strings fresh so I change them fairly frequently, which is tricky because there is a lot of stretching involved to get the strings to settle within reasonable proximity of standard tuning.  This becomes an endless struggle trying to maintain optimal tone and tuning together. My general rule is that once the strings have settled, it’s time to replace them!

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Is my child progressing at a normal rate?

Emily Greetham, BSS Violin Instructor

“Is my child progressing at a normal rate?” I heard this question many times during parent-teacher conferences at Buffalo Suzuki Strings. I found this question difficult to answer. After pondering this question a bit more, I have a few thoughts to share. I’m not sure there is a “normal” rate of progress in the Suzuki Method. Every child is unique and moves at his or her own developmental pace. With that being said, I do think that with excellent technique and diligent practice, students will move through the Suzuki books successfully. Just remember, proper technique, correct set-up, and consistent practice sessions are necessary in order to make progress!

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Suzuki Early Childhood Music: Zero through 3 is so young!

Kela Walton, Suzuki Early Childhood Music & Harp Instructor

Zero through age 3 seems so young, what can children possibly gain from the class?

 

These classes give children a big head start. Brain research tells us that much learning happens before age three. Science continues to prove that in these first years visual, spatial, musical, and social awareness begins. Our class requires an adult to accompany every child, so that each child benefits from the individual attention by a caregiver. This creates an optimal learning environment.

 

Over the years, I have personally witnessed children in our classes develop increased vocabulary, increased attention span, and stronger interpersonal social skills. Musically they can distinguish between high versus low pitches, loud versus soft dynamics, and fast versus slow tempos. They gain the ability to keep a steady beat, and those children who have been in the class for years can often actively listen then repeat rhythms and melodies (skills I’ve seen many older students struggle with in lessons). On a practical level they learn right versus left, counting, and pre-literacy skills. Perhaps most amazingly, very young children exhibit the ability to participate calmly in group activities with patience, as well as show compassion and empathy for the other children in our classes. I’ve seen babies as young as six months old focus while waiting to participate in an activity, and then smile when it is their turn!

 

A 2012 McMaster University study researching the impact of Suzuki Early Childhood Education (interactive music) classes versus passive music classes on babies ages 6-12 months found:

 

“Babies from the interactive classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn’t go their way.”

“Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music. Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.”

McMaster University. “Babies’ brains benefit from music lessons, even before they can walk and talk.” ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509123653.htm>.

 

If you would like more information about Suzuki Early Childhood Music Classes at Buffalo Suzuki Strings visit http://buffalosuzukistrings.org/infant-toddler-program/

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What are Suzuki Early Childhood Music Classes?

Kela Walton, BSS Suzuki Early Childhood Music and Harp Instructor

What are Suzuki Early Childhood Music Classes? Are they related to the Suzuki Method?

 

Dr. Suzuki believed that a great window of opportunity in a child’s life is opened between birth and the age of three, and he encouraged Dorothy Jones to create a Suzuki Early Childhood Education curriculum. In this interactive music class children and parents sing fun action songs, act out rhymes, and play a variety of instruments while learning fundamental musical concepts. Just as importantly waiting for a turn, sharing, self-regulating emotions, and pre-reading skills are also developed by children in the class. All families are provided with a booklet and CD of songs from the class to listen to and sing at home.

 

Parents become excellent observers of their children as they watch them develop rhythmic and melodic awareness in addition to memory and social skills. Each class ends with parents journaling about their observations. Teachers help parents and children learn a repertoire of lullabies, songs, and rhymes during the class, then parents and children listen to the CD and sing with their children daily at home. In all areas of development children watch the actions of their parents and then gradually begin to imitate them. Much in the same way all parents around the world teach their children to speak and celebrate their children’s first words, the Suzuki method approaches music and early childhood education from a “Mother Tongue” philosophy. In every class teachers and parents celebrate the physical and musical milestones achieved by the children!

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Why Practice Scales?

Shannon Levine, BSS Cello Instructor

Why practice scales?

 

Your teacher probably has many reasons for you to practice scales. Here are some of mine, in no particular order:

-Tone: develop a full, rich, consistent sound over a range of pitches

-Intonation: be able to play in tune in many different keys

-Ear training: know when you’re in tune

-Dexterity: create muscle memory for different finger patterns

-Shifting: be able to shift accurately to many positions

-Facility/Velocity: practice playing very quickly on a familiar set of notes

-Articulation: practice bow strokes and patterns repeatedly

-Fingerboard mapping: know where the notes are on the fingerboard

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What is a Scale?

Shannon Levine, BSS Cello Instructor

What is a scale?

In the most general terms, a scale is any set of repeating pitches.

In the majority of Western music, there are two standard types of scales: major and minor. If your teacher asks you to practice scales, these are probably what you’re going to play (unless it’s a chromatic scale, which is more advanced exercise).

Both major and minor scales contain eight pitches, one for each letter of the music alphabet plus a repeat of the first. For example, the C scale is C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C.

A scale can start on any note; the notes that follow are determined by a set pattern of half and whole steps. Every major scale has the pattern Whole Whole Half, Whole Whole Whole Half (this grouping of two and three whole steps separated by single half steps is the reason the piano black keys are in groups of two and three).

[What are half and whole steps? That’s a separate discussion, here]

Minor scales are a little more complicated. The basic pattern is Whole Half, Whole Whole Half, Whole Whole. [if you lay out the pattern, it’s the major scale starting at a different point!]. Because of the way composers write music in minor keys, there are three “flavors” of minor scales that have certain pitches adjusted higher.

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What does “pre-twinkle” mean?

Shannon Levine, BSS Cello Instructor
I signed my child up for lessons and went to the introductory meeting, and I keep hearing the term “pre-twinkle” —what does that mean?

 

It’s secret Suzuki teacher code 🙂

Joking aside, it’s a category label for young students who are just learning how to play their instrument. The first piece in each instrument’s repertoire is a set of variations on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, so students who are still learning things like how to act in a lesson, to cooperate in a group class, hold their instrument and bow, and how to make a sound are in the pre-Twinkle stage of learning.

It’s like baby steps: your child (probably) didn’t go from newborn stage to running around the house, right? Somewhere along the way, your child learned to sit, creep, crawl, kneel, stand, climb, stumble, walk, and run. Just like every child doesn’t spend the same amount of time on each step of learning to be mobile, every student develops the skills to play their first “real piece” at their own pace. It may seem like your child’s teacher is just playing games during lesson time, but those games have specific goals and require physical actions that develop individual skills before they are combined to play the first Twinkle variation – like learning to recognize and draw individual letters before reading and writing words.

 

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So, What Is A Scale?

Shannon Levine, BSS Cello Instructor

In the world of music, scales rule! If you are just starting lesson for your child or you are trying to figure out some of the lingo your new teacher is using, scales are probably one of them.

What is a Scale?

In the most general terms, a scale is any set of repeating pitches or notes that you can play.

In the majority of Western music, there are two standard types of scales: major and minor. If your teacher asks you to practice scales, these are probably what you’re going to play (unless it’s a chromatic scale, which is more advanced exercise).

Both major and minor scales contain eight pitches, one for each letter of the music alphabet plus a repeat of the first.

For example, the C scale is C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C.

A scale can start on any note; the notes that follow are determined by a set pattern of half and whole steps. Every major scale has the pattern Whole Whole Half, Whole Whole Whole Half (this grouping of two and three whole steps separated by single half steps is the reason the piano black keys are in groups of two and three).

[What are half and whole steps? That’s a separate discussion, here]

Minor scales are a little more complicated. The basic pattern is Whole Half, Whole Whole Half, Whole Whole. [if you lay out the pattern, it’s the major scale starting at a different point!]. Because of the way composers write music in minor keys, there are three “flavors” of minor scales that have certain pitches adjusted higher.


About Buffalo Suzuki Strings

The mission of the Buffalo Suzuki Strings is to teach children about music in a manner consistent with the philosophy and pedagogy developed by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki. The BSS music education program is patterned after Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy that any child can learn to play an instrument when the environment surrounding the child is supportive in the most positive way.

Contact us to sign your child us for lessons today!

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