There are moments in our days that are inextricably linked to music. The soundtrack of our lives, if you will. Music can bring back memories, trigger emotions, give us strength, motivate us, calm us, and help us through.
Recently, the Royal City Ukulele Ensemble — an adult ukulele group that I run — had a powerful experience through music. For the last two years, our weekly classes have taken place in a wonderful retirement and assisted care facility. Residents are welcome to listen to us work through our technique and material each week and every few months we put on a more formal performance for those residents.
We have come to find happiness not only in our own music-making each week but in watching the effects of our music on those residents who might sit for a while and listen, who come bopping down the hall to our more upbeat tunes, or who come religiously and listen to our entire 2 hour class each week.
It is one of those residents who allowed us the opportunity to be a part of something extra special this summer. I will leave you with the link to an article that was written about this story in the retirement community’s newsletter, the Village Voice. May your days be filled with the magic and power of music.
Learning to make music isn’t just about reading notes and making sounds. It’s just as important to hone your skills as a good listener.
A fun way for you or your kids to work on this musical skill outside of formal practice time is to crank up that radio in the car or put on that sound system at home and perk up those ears with a listening challenge. By the way, parents, this is a super way to engage your kids in musical thinking between lessons or during the summer and they’ll have no idea they’re working on their skills!
Here are some initial things to listen for:
Mood/key: For beginning learners, you can ask what mood the song feels like. Happy? Sad? Agitated? For more advanced, can you tell if the key is a major key (happy) or a minor key (sad)? Does the key change during the song?
The beat: For beginners, can you find the pulse or beat? Can you tap it along with the song? Advanced – what is the time signature? 3/4? 4/4? 7/8? Does it change during the song?
Tempo: Is it fast or slow? Does the tempo stay consistent throughout the song?
Instrumentation: What different instruments can you hear in the song? Is there a solo part where a particular instrument shines? What instrument is it? Are the sounds you hear real instruments or electronic?
Song structure: Can you tell what parts of the songs you’re hearing? The intro? Verse? Chorus? Bridge? Outro?
With active listening – even with pop or rock songs on the radio – musical learners can start to move from just hearing to really listening and identifying what they hear. So turn up the stereo and engage your ears!