Monday, May 15, 2017

Thinking of Joining?

So, you're thinking of joining Let's Play Music or Sound Beginnings class! Hooray! 

We've put together a list of articles from the blog that will be especially interesting to you as you figure out what we're all about and as you decide if this class is right for your family. Enjoy reading and please leave comments or questions!

First: Enjoy our video overview: this is Let's Play Music!

If you know you want your child to learn piano, you may be asking which is better: Private Lessons or Let's Play Music? Read this article to get the low down on what makes these two styles different.

For readers with a child who is 3-5, wondering "why should we even bother with  music lessons now...isn't he too young?" Please read my post on the pros and cons of getting an early start (in an age-appropriate program).  

How much do music lessons cost? Diving into a new program brings new financial commitments. Read this post to learn some tips for making sure your money is spent in ways that bring the most joy to your family, and get some insight about how much you can expect to spend on early music lessons.

Read Are Music Lessons Holding Me Back? to address the worrisome problem that some adults experience: they took lessons as a kid, learned to read and play a bit, but still came out after years of work believing that they don't really know anything about music. Help your child do it right this time.

How Let's Play Music teach note reading?  In a very natural and nurturing way:  
Read our 7 Steps for Music Reading Success here

Read our post to see that we help little fingers develop strength and form in a progressive way.  We will help your kiddo start to develop good piano skills, but be aware that Let's Play Music is not specifically a piano program.  

PLAY is one of the Core Values at Let's Play Music. 
Read the postWe Value Play for four four big reasons play is critical for learning, and how we use play in our curriculum.

Research shows that group classes are a big part of creating a playful atmosphere where learning through trials can happen. Read our post to understand why, at this age, children learn best in groups. 

Another core value at Let's Play Music is: We Value RelationshipsRead the full article to see how classes are built to encourage bonding between parents and children through an enriching, wholesome, and fun experience.  

We hope you are excited to join our Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings family. Find a teacher near you today!

So You're Thinking of Breaking Up With Us?

This post isn't for everyone.

But if you've nearly completed one or two years of Let's Play Music,
and if it's registration time,
and if you're hesitating or dreading or refusing to register for next year,
we can tell you're thinking of breaking up with us. 

And this post is for you! This post is my love letter telling you not to leave. 
This post is my way of telling you maybe we can work it out!  

You're My Karate Kid!

Do you remember the 80's movie, The Karate Kid? Mister Miyagi promises to teach Daniel karate, but whenever Daniel comes over to his place, Miyagi has him do chores like painting the fence or waxing the car, with the famous instructions "wax on, wax off!"

Daniel gets frustrated. He wants to learn karate, not how to do random chores. If Daniel leaves Mr. Miyagi right then, he will forever be stuck thinking that he had not learned any karate. Or maybe he will think,  "karate was not exactly what I expected, but I gave it a try for a while. Oh well."

But no! Daniel doesn't quit and I don't want you to, either. Mr. Miyagi shows him that the chores were actually building muscle strength and muscle memory that laid a foundation for the karate skills he was teaching.  

In Let's Play Music, we've been:
* Learning to recognize chords and chord progressions
* Learning to sing on pitch
* Learning to sing correct intervals, with the help of solfeggi
* Learning to read notes on the staff
* Learning to play music with chord progressions in time with other musicians

If you came hoping to learn to play awesome piano pieces and write your own composition, YES, that is coming. We are doing it the right way, which means this fantastic foundation has got to be solid, first. 

If you leave NOW, your child will be good at doing some random chores. 

She will  be a better musician for her time with us, but you're missing out on the awesomeness of the fulness of the program. It takes 3 years to pull it all together. Come on, Karate Kid! You WILL LOVE what's coming next! 

Just Tasting?

If you're a parent like me, you want your kids to try a BUNCH of different things in life. Just because they take one or two sessions of rock climbing or pottery or lacrosse doesn't mean that we plan to put thousands of hours into it (unless it turns out to be her thing, in which case that could happen.)

If you came to music class with the idea, "let's try this out and see if music is her thing," I don't blame you one bit because I actually did the same thing with my kids, and I'm the teacher!

HOWEVER! When you give soccer a try, would you consider letting her put on all the gear, go to one practice, and then quit? 

Or would you use this conversation (this DID happen to me), "Honey, we're giving soccer a try. In order to really get a feel for what it is and to find out if you like it, I expect you to go to games and practices for a whole season. If it's not your thing after that, we can try something else next season."

The thing is, for Let's Play Music, a season is three years. You cannot get the whole benefit in a shorter time. We structure activities that stretch over all 3 years, building up and coming to their fulness. 

I told my kids (and many of my students), "Stick it out for three years of Let's Play Music, and then you'll have a pretty great musical foundation. After that, you can go on to do whatever you choose."  

A big percentage of my students go on to play instruments OTHER than piano. Because they have a good ear and can read music and can improvise, they are amazing at their instrument of choice. 

Yes, help your child try out a ton of different activities by doing a season of each. No, music doesn't have to dominate their life. Yes, you should finish your season of Let's Play Music. There is time to be awesome at (insert other activity) very soon, but LPM has to happen now.

Did You Learn to Swim?

Speaking of trying out activities, I have a few requirements for my kids and I wonder if you have something similar for yours. 

For example, water safety is important to me, so I required all of them to learn to swim (but didn't force swim team if they didn't choose it).  

I also require that they each complete Let's Play Music. Playing piano at an intermediate level, having basic ear training, and understanding basic music theory is TOO valuable and fundamental to go through life without.

If your darling is only lukewarm to music, it's okay to be the parent and say, "You don't have major in music in college, but I do want you to finish Let's Play Music before you move on to other things."

Want to know a fun story? 

My first son finished LPM at my request but didn't want to take private music lessons after that, so I didn't force him. He was lukewarm about music.  In his junior year of high school, he played in the band and suddenly spent more time hanging around with other musicians...and improvising. And experimenting. And having fun. He started picking up other instruments. He started learning more piano pieces of his choice. He joined the advanced jazz band. He took a lead part in the school musical. He agreed to sing solos and quartets and in church. He agreed to play piano for hymns. He was assigned to be the chorister.  This kid adores music!  I didn't force him there, but when the setting was right, he had the musical foundations and ear training to confidently play with music and come to love it. Side note: although he didn't love swimming much as a kid, he now has a job as a lifeguard and plays water polo.

Don't let your kid find himself lacking when his musical opportunity comes. 
Also, water safety: think about it.

Not a Drop-Off

Maybe you are thinking, "sure, LPM is great, it just doesn't work for me right now. This is too much effort." I can see what you are getting at.

In other activities and programs, you get to drop your child off and pick them up an hour later. End of commitment. Phew.  (Unless of course, you are the coach of the team, in which case THANK YOU  for your service!)

In Let's Play Music, we ask you to:

* Get childcare for your other kids, so you can attend class every other week
* LEARN what your child is learning and understand her homework
* Be a student in class: clap, sing, dance, and be a role model
* Remember to play the CD to her, remember to help her with homework
* Make singing and practice part of YOUR daily routine (piano will take practice!)

Wow. That's a lot. You basically ARE the coach of your child's team. YOU are your child's number one, essential, irreplaceable cheer leader.

Let's Play Music is inconvenient. Anything important, anything that makes a lasting change, is bound to feel inconvenient in the early stages.

WHY!? WHY!?  Why does LPM demand so much from parents?  Because it works.  Time and time again. It's been proven. Kids that succeed long-term in music do so because they have involved parents behind the scenes. Kids that learn to practice at home do so because they have parents helping them get the routine to work. 

We're not trying to make parenting harder. We hope we can guide you through this somewhat painlessly. But it is going to be inconvenient. It is going to be more work than a drop-off experience. We do expect you to work on your relationship with your child.

Many other programs are still trying to get by without significant parent involvement, and parents find great ease in that, but they're not having the same life-changing results that LPM has.

I've been in and out of sports and music and activities with my four kids, and I have found that I always want more parent involvement. 

Because I want results! When parents can give gentle, loving help at home (in ANY subject) results are fantastically better!

My daughter and son begged me to let them join a martial arts studio, but I held off because the price was exorbitant. Eventually I managed to let them each do a few sessions (a 6-month commitment each time).  Parents would drop off weekly, then come to watch on specific advancement days.  I like martial arts, and I wanted my kids to do well, but I hated that I could never figure out how to help them practice at home. And so they didn't really practice at home.  It was my opinion that, if this is my one chance to give martial arts our full attention, we can find ten minutes/day to do something at home. My little kiddies were not always sure what to do as practice, and the coach was not of a mind that parents needed to be involved.  As a result...I didn't understand what they learned, I didn't get involved, and I didn't help. There was a family with an amazing kid- his parents were also experts, and he did practice at home as a family. I wanted the coach to take a few minutes to educate me just enough so I could be useful. It would have made a world of difference.

One of the great BLESSINGS of LPM is that it is a 2-for-1 deal: Parents get FREE music lessons for themselves right along with their kids. One of the tough parts of LPM is that parents really need to pay attention and learn it.

Can you make a fresh commitment? A new-year's resolution? 

Decide to do another year of Let's Play Music, and commit to be the involved parent. JUMP IN! Dedicate ten minutes each day next semester for you and your child to learn music together and strengthen your relationship. That's enough to get you on the right track!

Is Everything So Hard?

How did we get here?  
Let's see if any of these has happened to you, and maybe we can work it out:

*You didn't listen to the CD. This is a tell-tale sign that you didn't bring LPM into your life. What happens in music class must not STAY in music class, otherwise it dies during the long six days between classes.

Let's Make it better: Families that really internalize LPM are listening the CD in the car or at bedtime or at other regular/frequent times.  They dance to the puppet shows at home. They get the bells out and just to play with them during the  week. They sing songs from class while standing in line at the grocery store. You get the idea. YOU can be this family.

You don't even have to wait until next fall to fix this. Find your CD (or download it- ask your teacher if you need a new code). Set it up so your child can turn it on whenever she wants. Set it up so it's ready to play in the car or at bedtime. Welcome this music into your life. Over the summer, make a point of playing the LPM active games with your family. Make a point of learning the words to the songs.  Next year, the words will have even more impact- you will get your music theory questions correct if you can sing the songs!

* YOU were not in class on parent day: It is not impossible to have a nanny or friend go for you, but it means more work because you suffered if you didn't get the information about what was learned during class and how to help. All of a sudden, you don't know how to help with homework or practice. Parents who never attend forget that we are teaching real, fundamental skills. 

Let's make it better: In year 2 and 3, you'll attend class only once/month, so the time constraint will be less (and the babysitting for your other children will be less). Decide now that YOU are a student, too. Carve out 10 minutes/day to spend time with your child on music- helping her learn and helping you learn. That is all it will take. TEN MINUTES DAILY to help both you and your child have an amazing start to music. It is NOT TOO LATE for both of you to get on track and be awesome students. 

YOU need to attend your lessons, and YOU are worth it. Give this to yourself as much as to your child.

* Your child missed 4 or more classes this year. That number may seem small, but missing class always makes it harder to jump back in and cover missed material. Students end up lagging in knowledge and feeling frustrated.

Let's Make it Better: I always feel super sad when I find out a child missed class for not having a ride to class! Or because they forgot it was class day!

Decide that going to class is important. Make sure your spouse knows. If you can't drive your child, connect with other parents to find a ride, or call your teacher for help. We WANT to see your child in class. If you can't go on parent day, send the student anyway. If a family member is sick but the student is okay, send her! 

When you schedule activities, avoid skipping music class if possible. I've known students to come to class in fancy dresses, telling me, "There's a birthday party going soon as class ends I'm going to dash over and catch the rest of it!"  

* Your financial situation has changed. It's true- life happens to all of us. Maybe the resources you had this year are not going to be available to you next year. Money can be tricky.

Let's Make it Better: Before you assume that music class must be cut, talk to your LPM teacher!  Open and honest communication is a win-win for everyone. Some LPM teachers have been known to offer different payment plans, scholarships, or barters for services they need. Maybe a solution can be found.

Even if one cannot, it is far better to part ways after an honest and friendly conversation.  I once had a family VANISH from class, and not answer phone calls or was mysterious and frustrating. Five years later I found out they had a financial issue and decided to hide instead of tell me. Just call your teacher!

* You are moving. Yep, this happens, too. 

Let's Make it Better: Don't assume that Let's Play Music is over, forever. If you are lucky, there's a LPM teacher close to your new home.  Because our lesson plans are so well designed and because all teachers use them, I had a student move after Yellow lesson 2, and join with a new teacher in a new state for Yellow lesson 3.  

What if there is no teacher in your new home? Help us recruit! Parents of students are a huge driving force in finding (and becoming) new teachers.

Because We Love You!

Okay, student. Did I hit upon anything that resonates with you? Leave a comment below to tell me why you are thinking of breaking up with LPM if I missed it.  

The Let's Play Music family LOVES YOU and your family. We really do want what 
is best for you. This program is the best we have to offer. We work hard to create something that can strengthen the bond between you and your child and leave you both with a lasting and impactful musical experience.

Please don't be flippant or casual if you decide to leave. 
We take this seriously. You should, too.

And a gentle reminder: Did you know that because you have been in class with your teacher, she cannot replace you?  Teachers aim to accept families that will commit for the three year program. If you leave after one year, she cannot put any other child into the hole created in her roster (and her family income). You reserved that spot for three years.  

Most teachers ask for a drop fee if you leave early. Be kind and just pay it, or seriously try to work through any struggles before harming her studio by walking away for a small reason that could be resolved. The drop fee was designed to protect her, but also to protect your child

Since games and activities were designed for groups of a certain size (to create the optimal learning environment,) the entire class is less effective if, year after year, the group keeps getting smaller!

The entire class will sorely miss your child if you decide to go.

All the best!
- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Monday, May 8, 2017

Share the JOY of Music!

We hope you enjoy our blog, loaded with articles about helping young children learn music and musicianship skills.

More importantly, we hope you're LOVING your experience in Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings classes! 

Pay it Forward!

Somewhere near you there is a parent (a neighbor, a friend, a relative, a preschool parent) that could benefit from the joy of having music. Someone is out there searching for a quality program for their kids (or maybe a profession.) YOU can be their answer.

Music class has opened new doors for you in education, fun, musicality, and bonding with your child. What if, years ago, no one had taken the time to tell YOU about it?  Now is your chance to pay it forward and make sure your friends are aware of this educational gem. Don't let them miss out!

Let us help you share the joy of adding music to a child's life.  Click this button to share musical joy now:
 refer your friend

You'll be directed to tell us your name and your friends' contact info. They'll get one email from us, letting them know that you endorse Let's Play Music. 

Don't worry: We invite your loved ones to opt in for more information, or do nothing if they don't think it sounds right for them - they won't get any more messages from us.  

Raise Your Voice

Have you had a household product you LOVED? Did you tell everyone about it?  Well, I have! (Ahem, I own a RugDoctor and totally stand by it.  Also my Bosch mixer and Blendtec blender.) But anyway...

If you're like me, you want everyone to know when you find something amazing, because you find joy in helping them get the perfect resource they need.  So, THANKS for referring your friend with the button above.

There's still one more thing you can do. Raise Your Voice! We have an ongoing campaign that rewards YOU for simply giving us a video testimonial explaining what you love about Let's Play Music or Sound Beginnings, or telling us what amazing musicianship you've seen develop in your child.

Each month we feature a testimonial and give your child a cool set of headphones (and your teacher gets a little treat, too!). Just click below to jump to our entry page for Raise Your Voice!

Looking for a Class?

If you aren't in a class yet yourself, head on over to the Let's Play Music site and find a teacher near you:

Thanks for sharing the joy of music!

- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Traditional Piano Lessons VS Let's Play Music

Perhaps you're one of the many parents who decided long ago that piano lessons would be an important part of Junior's eduction. You may have assumed that he would take piano lessons, just like you did (30+ years ago).  

But NOW, lucky you, you've been introduced to Let's Play Music! This program   helps children get ready for, and transition into, piano lessons as they build musicianship skills.  Let's Play Music has been on the scene since 1998, so it's the relatively new kid on the musical pedagogy scene. 

So...should you sign up for 3-years of Let's Play Music foundational classes, or find a traditional piano teacher right now?  Let's compare!

Note-Reading and Keyboard Technique

When you think of piano lessons, you likely think of learning to read music by looking at notation, and learning to play the music correctly on the piano. These are definitely big parts of taking lessons, and I confirm that private piano teachers have tons of experience, skill, and ideas for helping youngsters master these skills.  No doubt that in private lessons, you will get lots of help with this!

So, how does Let's Play Music teach note reading?  In a very natural and nurturing way:  We begin with exposure to musical notation, then introduce how notes work in relationship to tones (steps, skips). We teach common melodic patterns and relate reading to singing. Students learn white keys and anchor notes when they need them. 
Read our 7 Steps for Music Reading Success here

And what about keyboard technique? Read our post to see that we help little fingers develop strength and form in a progressive way.  We will help your kiddo start to develop good piano skills, but be aware that Let's Play Music is not specifically a piano program. If finger dexterity and strength and technique drills are what you're most interested in right now, you'll actually be better served with an instrument-specific teacher! 

BUT  WAIT! If your child is 4-5 years old, I really really think you have years and years of future lessons to work on technique. Let's Play Music will not teach bad habits or "mess up" your child's technique, but there's something more important you need to worry about for this age group, so read on...


In my earlier post, Are Music Lessons Holding Me Back? I addressed the worrisome problem that some adults experience: they took lessons as a kid, learned to read and play a bit, but still came out after years of work believing that they don't really know anything about music.

One danger that sometimes arises in private lessons is an abundance of focus on notation and executive skills (reading music, accurately playing the music like we just mentioned) and not much balance with skills that are harder to measure: rhythmic, tonal, and creative skills.  

How can you become a musician who understands how to jam? A musician who can write songs and re-harmonize songs and transpose songs? A musician who can play but is also "talented" at improvising music? 

Dr. Chad West gives some advice for choosing your child's first musical experience. "In classes where a focus is on movement, singing, chanting, listening, and creating, students are developing 'readiness' for music that pays off in the long run. Audiating, matching pitch, and keeping steady time are skills that don't have flashy, quantifiable outcomes to measure right away, but parents and teachers who value these skills see that in the long run, students with these skills bring more meaning to the notation. These students understand and create music, not just read and play music."

Does a traditional piano lesson give a foundation for musicianship through movement, singing, chanting, listening and creating?  Let's Play Music sure does! Read a post about what we cover in class.

PLAY is one of the Core Values at Let's Play Music. Fred Rogers summed it up when he stated, "Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the 'work' of childhood."

Read the post: We Value Play for four four big reasons play is critical for learning, and how we use play in our curriculum.

Does your traditional piano teacher offer the playful, silly, fun experience that children this age require? Just a heads up: I haven't met a 4-year-old who preferred sitting on a piano bench for 30 minutes over playing silly games for 45 minutes.

One reason private lessons struggle to achieve the environment we're looking for is because they're one-on-one. Research shows that group classes are a big part of creating a playful atmosphere where learning through trials can happen. Read our post to understand why, at this age, children learn best in groups. Let's Play Music has it!


Another core value at Let's Play Music is: We Value Relationships. Read the full article to see how classes are built to encourage bonding between parents and children through an enriching, wholesome, and fun experience.  

In your first year, you'll attend class with your student every other week. In year two and three, you'll attend about once per month. 

You probably already know that with a very young musician, parent involvement is the key factor in making practice happen and helping students succeed. The same would be true with a private teacher, but the difference here will be that you, parent, will have an intimate hands-on participation as your child is learning. You will never wonder what new things she worked on this week, what her favorite songs to play are, or what her challenges are- you will know.

Years from now, your grown child won't focus on exactly which songs she could play at which young age. But the attitudes and feelings developed around her first musical experiences will set the stage for years of hard work to come. We believe that having parents and kids develop happy memories together around music is the way to achieve a true love of music. Let us help you do it.

For most parents, another fantastic bonus in Let's Play Music is learning music theory in a fun way, at an amazing level, and using it with ease right alongside their child. Ever wanted to transpose easily or compose and harmonize your own tunes? You'll get lessons for you as a freebie by attending with your student.

Long-Term Growth

My goal in this article is to convince you that partaking in 3 years of foundational Let's Play Music (you will love these 3 years) is your best way to ensure long-term musical progress. Read our spotlight on Truman Walker, an amazing young musician who started with Let's Play Music.

I don't want you to avoid private piano teachers forever; I actually love them and think you are going to find a fantastic private teacher to help your child soar after LPM graduation. We even have a transition plan, Connections, in place to help you succeed with your private teacher.

Piano teachers will love your child when she comes as a LPM graduate. She'll really be ready to take off with piano-specific teaching, and she'll have tons of musical know-how internalized by then.

For readers with a child who is 3-5, wondering "why should we even bother with  music lessons now...isn't he too young?" Please read my post on the many benefits of getting an early start (in an age-appropriate program).  

For readers with a child who has aged out of Let's Play Music (children must be 4-5 to enroll), this is a bummer! This specific pathway to musical excellence is currently unavailable, but the great news is that a new program for older  beginners (age 6-7) will be rolling out soon, so I will have fewer of you to console.

Whichever route you follow, Let's Play Music classes or private piano lessons now, I honestly believe you've made a great decision to give your child music education in her life. Thanks for being a positive force for something so important!

If you're ready to jump in, find a teacher near you now!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Discover The Pentatonic Scale

You probably have the basic gist of what a scale is.  We sing some notes and they go up, up, up. 

But when I start talking about pentatonic and diatonic and chromatic scales in class, people start wondering, "what the heck are those and why do we care?"

In this post, everyone (especially Sound Beginnings parents) can get excited about the pentatonic scale and improve their melody skills.  

A Scale With Every Note

You may hear mention of the chromatic scale.  (Chromatic means colorful.) This is a good one to start with because it means we play 12 semitone intervals, so 13 notes.  Play every single piano key, black and white, and that's the chromatic scale.  Voila!

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

On a piano, the 12 steps are evenly spaced, meaning the wavelength of the note changes by a consistent amount between each step.  You've played an octave when you play a note that has a wavelength twice the length from the note you began on, a 2:1 ratio. 

The chromatic scale is the fundamental set of notes from which scales can be built. It's not really musical, because it doesn't have a tonic, a home note.  

We love finding "Do is Home" in Let's Play Music, and being able to identify the home, or key note, in music we listen to. Music naturally pulls back to Do, so let's look at some scales that have a tonic note and work for writing melodies.

Scales Around the World

Thousands of years ago, peoples in different parts of the world discovered frequency ratios and pitch relationships.  By selecting 5-8 tones with relationships they liked, scales were created and used to make melodies.  Different cultures settled on varying scales, giving the music characteristic sounds.  

Note: Any of the following scales could be played in any key by creating the same pattern of skipping tones (with whole steps and half steps) to create the scale. 

The Diatonic Scale is our beloved Major Scale Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do! Read more about it here. Western music since the Middle Ages on has been based on this scale. We spend most of our time in class learning about this scale. The steps go: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half. Remember that trick and you can build a major scale on any note.

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

Here are the notes/intervals that make an Indian whole-tone scale, just one of the many scales that could be used in Indian music. Notice how evenly spaced the tones are...all whole steps, all the time. Here is some piano music using a whole tone scale. Sounds dreamy!

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

And a Hungarian Gypsy scale. Listen to it here...sounds like you would expect.

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

And an Arabic scale.... well, sort of. Arabic tone scales actually define wavelength intervals smaller than what we use (or have names for or piano keys for). When you're tuning your guitar and your note is a little too flat to be C but a little too sharp to be B, you're playing one of those Arabic notes that we usually pass over. Want to see how a guitar can make the microtones by adding extra frets? Pretty cool, and if you like getting sciencey with microtones, check out some computerized 53-microtone music.

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

The Blues Scale comes in super handy during our 3rd year of Let's Play Music when we get to play some piano blues! Write a new melody for your blues using these notes. Get some help learning Blues Scales here.

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C

Pentatonic Scale Everywhere

The pentatonic scale, created by the  mathematician, Pythagoras, is rather special.   He started with a home/tonic note and added a perfect 5th. The 5th is an interval between two notes whose wavelength have a ratio 3:2. 

Take the notes you have, repeat the process again and get 2 more notes, or 5 all together: the pentatonic scale. These notes have nice clean ratio-relationships, so they harmonize nicely together.

By the way, repeat the process to get 2 more notes and create the diatonic scale. If you want to get a little nerdy, let Donald Duck take you on a tour of Pythagorean society in this classic educational cartoon about math.

The result is a five-note scale with the intervals most commonly used for music worldwideYou can find this scale in every musical culture.  There are loads of country, folk, jazz, and rock songs that contain just these 5 notes in the melody, but they are especially prevalent in children's songs.  

C  C# D  D# E  F  F# G  G# A  A# B  C
Do       Re      Mi         Sol     La          Do

Why so popular for children??  Because hearing and singing this small set of easily defined musical intervals is age-appropriate and prerequisite for more advanced melodies.  Pentatonic hearing and singing is foundational for children.  You'll notice in class we start by hearing, echoing, and singing the minor 3rd (sol-mi). 

Once children are hearing and reproducing it, Echo Ed sings patterns that contain la.  Then we add in do  and re as ear-training progresses to more complex tunes.  (Very last we add echoes with fa and ti...notes from the major scale)

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates how his audience has already internalized the pentatonic scale. Wherever he goes in the world, the audience 'gets' the pentatonic scale. The pentatonic scale is part of every musical culture!

Sing the Pentatonic

Here's a collection of songs built on the pentatonic scale. Many more of your favorite children's tunes fit into this category, too. 

Notice that the pentatonic scale avoids half step intervals. It seems easier to train your vocal chords to jump to the intervals without having to consider the half steps that occur in the major scale.

Pentatonic songs are great to teach to your child or any beginning singer. You'll recognize many from our Sound Beginnings classes (click links to hear these songs). There are thousands of pentatonic songs you would recognize, but here are a few:

Have fun singing with the pentatonic scale, and if you're interested, check out our blog series on Singing in Tune.
- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

Saturday, March 4, 2017

How Much Do Music Lessons Cost?

If you're a new parent, you're starting to find out that raising kids is expensive! Now that your darling is of the age for music classes, you might be asking yourself, "How much is this going to cost? Is it worth it?"

Happy Money

Before I tell you too much about music class cost, be aware that HOW you spend your money really CAN affect how happy you are!  In the book, Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn explains that your spending can bring you great joy and satisfaction, especially if you:

* Focus on Experiences
* Make it a treat
* Buy Time
* Pay now, consume later
* Invest in others

When it comes to Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings, these principles can really apply.

* Focus on the experience of being in class with your child and of practicing with your child. Take photos and videos of this special time in your lives. You're not buying a result. You're buying an experience. 

* Knowing that music class won't last forever might make you enjoy it more...lots of parents are sad when their family graduates. Sorry! This is a special treat that only lasts a little while. 

* You're buying quality musical playtime with your child, so really focus on playing/engaging with him during music class. Turn off your phone. This is special time together for you to bond.

* Pre-pay for the whole year up front. It takes away the sting of the payment, and helps you focus on your own well-being and enjoying the class.

* Invest in your child by giving them the gift of music lessons.

Bargain Hindsight is 20/20

I have had a few parents who hear our rates (a year of Let's Play Music in the USA is about $400-$450 per year) and break into a happy dance. If you do the math, that's like $15 per lesson. Our lessons are 45, 50, or 55 minutes long and are PACKED with carefully timed activities (so we work all the musicianship skills in every class.)

I found out these parents are so happy because they have older children who have already explored exciting activities and incurred the exciting costs.  In comparison to just about everything else you can get involved in, LPM is a BARGAIN.  Now that I have older kids, too, I look back and realize, yes! A BARGAIN!

Don't get scared, but you might expect to spend a lot on these activities:

* Private music lessons: $20-$50 per 30-minute lesson ($1,000+/ year) 
* Swim lessons: $10-$20 per 30-minute lesson  
* Swim team: $100-$200/month 
* Karate: $100-$150/month 
* Dance classes: $60- $200/month
* Soccer: $50/month
* Club Soccer: $100-$200/month
* Gymnastics: $15-$20/ class 
* Gymnastics, advanced: $150-$200/month

An Abundance Mindset

Oh dear. I hope I didn't scare you too much.  I like to focus on an abundance mindset.  Yes, I want my kids to learn to swim AND learn music AND learn a team sport AND get passing grades. How can we have enough time and money to make all of that happen for them? (My post on teaching abundance mindset)

The truth is, we usually can't have it all, all at once. But we CAN give our kids a lot of experiences over time.  

Which activities do YOU value most? 

Which need to be done NOW?

Important and Urgent: I decided to have my kids learn to swim up to a competent level as soon as possible, since I value it as a life and safety skill. Once they're competent, that frees up more time/money for other things.  (Bonus: I now have a teenager working as a lifeguard and earning $$ with those mad skills.)

Valuable, Less Urgent: I also decided that my four kids would not play club sports year-round, so that they could have time and money to try out different sports each season. (Year-round club sports are not only super expensive, but often lead to burn-out) With some sports and activities, I came to grips with the fact that no harm will come if my kids don't get to experience all activities, like downhill skiing, in their youth. It doesn't fit into our budget now, but I plan to have a great ski-learning trip with them when they are college age. (Update: when one of my sons was 13 and wanted to play club soccer, I let him make that choice and put other things on hold during that time.)

Valuable and Urgent: Finally, because I understand the importance of whole musicianship, the sensitivity of the young ear, and the importance of starting early (post), I decided that starting music now is urgent.  My children would all complete the 3-year Let's Play Music program at ages 4-7, followed by piano or a different instrument if they chose.  

I am not afraid that I missed my chance to offer some other experiences to my kids. Instead, I'm confident that they eventually will accrue enough options to taste what the world has to offer, and they had enough consistency to get pretty-good at a few of the things.

Yes, we had a few dry spells when a child or two was not studying music (gasp!), but it didn't worry me because I took a big-picture abundance view. I adore when they join a high-caliber high school music program or sports program...and all of sudden the tax dollars start working in a visible way. 

I'm loving the fact that my LPM-graduate kids enjoy making music, and have the skills at least to know what to do when they want to learn a new song or piece. I love that they can understand what they hear in music, giving them a deeper appreciation and joy from it.  I love that their focus and study toward music helped them develop their minds and habits.

Were music classes worth the price? I say, Yes! 

This scenario is all about ME, but you can make a plan that works for YOU and your family. If music is important to you, you CAN make it work into your budget and you CAN still fit in the other things (eventually) that you value. 

Well, new parent, take some time to think about what experiences you want to invest in and when they need to happen. I sure hope that, if music is important to you, you will join us in Sound Beginnings or Let's Play Music classes.

If you're ready to jump in, find a teacher near you now!

- Gina Weibel, M.S.