Growing into and up with Music, Effortlessly

Babies arrive with music in their bodies. Cooing, grunts, wailing. Side to side rocking in a rhythm, clapping hands on the floor, kicking feet before they carry the toddler walking....Don't forget how your children could so EASILY imitate your sounds - and how they never tire of doing so!  

Here is the magic: if you love making music with your young child, he or she will want to as well. Merely desiring music in the child's life is not the whole story. You have to think it is natural to do (nearly) all the time! Whenever! It is a circle of pleasurable energy. Play good quality recordings in your household. Pickup your instruments and play them! Sing familiar tunes while you do chores. 

So, be emotionally prepared to favor musical moments over others. Keep those efforts apart from other negotiations on daily life activities. Always make the time doing music together a positive place of joy in your own heart, then it will feel that way--you've transmitted the value -- to your child.  

We have several new siblings in our piano studio this year who are swaying, clapping, humming and rocking to the melodies played by their big brothers. Having heard the songs from Book One while inside their mothers, these babies are at ease and even activated to smiles with the familiar sounds, rhythms and dynamics.  

There it is! The immersive environment where young musicians flourish unconsciously absorbing the music without any 'effort'.  Welcome home to music little ones!



Who knew that encouraging playing music at any time of the morning, noon or night would result in a song going viral?

This young man, using his own name, Emmit Fenn, is smack in the middle of his college career. He has been messing around with composition for as long as I can remember and is one of those kids who just hung around the house and the pianos, playing all the time.  Many of the songs he wrote (and sometimes my son, his pal helped with) were mocking, laughter laden imitations of famous people, rap stars and balladeers. His mom and I would laugh and laugh at the originality and the antics. As he grew so did the kinds of compositions. Wherever he found keyboards or a piano, he just sat and played. At home. At his friend's house.

Now this 20 something uploads his beats and tunes to Sound Cloud and itunes. A hybrid genre song he wrote, Painting Greys, features his throaty (fashionable) vocals.  Surprise, THE THING IS GOING VIRAL. What a lark and a joy: make music in a home studio and then 'release it' like blowing on a dandelion flower into the wind.

Music is the universal connector.  Play it for joy.

Post Script: his 3rd single came out this week March 2017...Sound Cloud - He's working full time writing, composing and collaborating with other musicians. 

Playing the role of Teacher with your Little Brother or Sister

Pretty fun. Let your child teach his little brother or sister the basics from his lesson: sit tall, feet supported, hold the arm gracefully (now THAT is fun!) and TA-DA, place the hand over the keys, curved like a soft paw.  See how much your older child really does know! Give lots of praise for this mentoring, and patience with the wiggly sibling.

Be silly. Find ways to count out repetitions of Ready?.........GO! for Twinkle Rhythm A. Encourage patience with the little brother or sister! Remind him how hard it was when he learned it! Rehearse the 'improper' posture as well as 'together' posture. Making it a little whacky will remind everyone that music is is full of emotions including humor.

Lucky only child. If he is lucky enough to have you all to him or herself, (no siblings) use yourself as the recipient of the lesson, or another VIP in your child's life. Being the 'shower of things' is fun.

Mentoring others is magical.


Lecture: "Flow" and Participatory Music by Ge Wang of SMULE at MSRI with BONUS: Amateur defined

After a crash course including a life-sized image of 20 Stanford kids circled up into a SLORk -Stanford Laptop Orchestra - (there is a PlORk at Princeton), our lecture turned performance - or perhaps 'demo' for those of us newly intiated. You ask, "A laptop computer transformed into many new instruments?" Where is the wood? the vibrating string or hammer? At least explain how the IKEA salad bowl speakers work.....

The PR getting me out of the studio was the promise of discussing how people are naturally musical, how now with the internet and prevalence of mobile devices, we easily and passively 'consume' music. Is music only a commodity? What about making it for its own sake? for fun? This is the fiery debate I'd come out on a school night to hear.

Ge waxed about lowering barriers to participating in music, affording access through this little item we are very attached to: our phones. "Mobile music making" he further ties (via animated tablature for his Ocarina and Piano Apps) to games - and - what can be called getting 'in the zone' or 'in flow'.  As a musician, and in sports of course, many of us can relate to being lost or finding 'the flow'. Ge describes that headspace as being in flow with a sense of freedom borne out of a perceived skill set and perceived challenge. During flow there is a complete sense of joy and unconscious merging of action and awareness. He says that people who are used to manipulating their smart phones can learn easily to make music on them. Clearly, some college students are diving deep into instrument identities making up and crafting their parts to be in the SLORk. 

Of course, dedicated Suzuki approach teachers might relate it to learning the Book One songs with all the tunes and rhythms already in your head! The doable challenge of playing the known piece when well matched with skills at the keys produces an unconscious 'flow'.


The last memorable point was dissecting the word, 'Amateur'. It used to very honorably be defined as "one who engages in a study, art or sport for pleasure rather than for financial gain". Derived from latin 'amare': love of the activity.  Today the definition often describes one who is a a non-professional, dilettante or dabbler, with superficial knowledge in an activity or lacking polish. Elevating the love of learning and playing music is what Ge really left the audience with- it kind of rescued my niggling questions about how or whether a laptop or a smartphone is a musical instrument.  

Meanwhile, keep the creative and active fun stoked with your child at the keys. Ask for a little song to reflect the emotions or activities of your day. Name the song. Do one yourself and try to remember it (use a smart phone to record it!) for your next lesson.




Summertime 2014

How Old Before Taking kids to Concerts?

When should we start taking our child to concerts, performances and recitals?  NOW of course! Why wait? Take your children as early as they (and you) can handle an outing from home! Summer festivals, outdoor concerts and music happenings are the best motivator for children (and ourselves!)  Choral concerts nearly always have instrumental components showcasing delightfully prepared student musicians. Check your local events calendars for August and early Fall. As our studio grows, we will post our own 'low stress'  piano parties here at the Maybeck Studio for observation and participation!


While you set aside time for grown up entertainment activities the summer, make one or two dates for the whole family in easy to attend daytime or early evening time slots with picnics before or after.  While traveling, make a point of finding open air concerts, recitals in old churches or cathedrals (respite from the heat!) and even visit music schools where practice halls might be open to the public!  Guaranteed your children will ask for more.


Enjoy summer with your kids: take them out to the park while light is late, garden in pots, burlap bags or the earth and then cook up the abundant summer produce, sort, clear out and plan for the school year, and most of all, keep folding music into the daily routine of family life!

Keep listening to your Suzuki Books One and Two! LISTENING TIP Listening a book or so ahead will ward off the 'I'm bored with the CD" from some of your family members! 





Daily Dose or "Joy".....Why listening?

This describes "Musical Intuition" really well!   Note her use of the word DISCOVERY in the last paragraph!


from  Suzuki in the Berkshires               by Janice Peters

Our lives are all so busy so it is easy fall prey to the temptation of skipping daily listening or daily practice or both. So think of what happens when we skip? Why do we need to be faithful to both?

Imagine trying to learn a foreign language without ever having heard it spoken. Now think how much easier it is with an “immersion” experience. When Suzuki devised his “mother tongue method,” he capitalized on the fact that learning the language of music works much the same way as learning any language.

So why listen to the recordings? Here are a few good reasons:

  1. First, listening to good quality music is enjoyable. It increases our musical sensitivity and this enjoyment motivates the listener to continue listening.

  2. It is so much easier to master the rhythms and use correct intonation (playing in tune) when the correct example is already stamped on the mind. This also enables self-correction as the learning takes place. Once imprinted, the music enters the subconscious mind and a “musical intuition” (brain- finger connection) forms.

  3. Listening actually allows the brain to experience the music before you play it. This is like “practicing for free” without doing the work! (However, this cannot substitute for the consistent daily practice!)

  4. Being able to hear or sing the piece in the mind makes learning easier. Listening gives us this ability. It is akin to visualizing a perfect golf swing or a well-executed tennis serves prior to playing. Research has shown this really works!

So help make your child’s learning easier. Play the work piece on endless repeat each morning. Also include the previous (“polish”) and subsequent (new) pieces. This music will remain playing in the brain all day. (How many of us have had an annoying radio or TV jingle play over and over in our mind wishing we “could turn it off?”) Also listen in the background other times during the day (as in the car), concluding at bedtime.

Need a reminder? Put a clothespin or a hair clip on your bathroom towel, toothbrush, or pajamas to remind you to turn on the music at bedtime. Stick a sticker on the light switch of your child’s room. Tie a “reminder ribbon” on the car steering wheel instead of around your finger. Use a twist tie on a kitchen cabinet, breakfast coffee or cereal box, or in the silverware drawer. You can have fun with this, too. Hide clues and have a daily “treasure hunt” or draw from a hat each day to see who turns the recording on and off. Have a family contest to see who comes up with the most creative suggestions. Also, those automatic timers (for turning on lights), which can be set to turn on and shut off at predetermined hours, work well.

Play the entire CD or tape on a regular basis as well. You can have fun with it, too. Try dancing the rhythms or “head, finger or feet dancing” or make up your own fun. Be creative!

You have chosen to give your child the gift of instrumental music. Imagine how much quicker and easier you’ll both enjoy this treasure as you listen each day.

You’ll make new discoveries each time you hear the music, and your child will be on the way to experiencing the joy of finer playing with ease, coupled, of course, with diligent daily practice. So, HAPPY LISTENING! Start now