Motivation and the Drive to Learn

Why is it that some people achieve so much more than others? This simple question is one of the big concerns for education. Essentially though, it is motivation that underpins people’s choices and actions. Motivation is the fuel of human behaviour; nothing gets done without it. It is motivation that creates in us a desire to overcome obstacles, to persist beyond the boundaries of comfort, and to achieve beyond ours and others wildest expectations. Therefore, an understanding of how motivation works must be an overarching concern for parents and educators.

In her studies on achievement motivation, Harvard’s Teresa Amabile found the greatest motivational factor to be progress. People just love to get better at what they do. When progress stalls, most people give up.

An even greater level of motivation occurs when people believe they can make progress through their own efforts rather than because of external factors. For this autonomous competence to occur educators must provide students with the tools for making progress thereby providing independent and self-reliant learning. One of these tools is a growth mindset. We owe it to children to impart an understanding that the greatest factor in making progress and ultimate success is the quality and the quantity of their work and practice time. This triumphs all else – including perceptions of natural ability. A healthy growth mindset encapsulates several desirable learning traits including persistence, commitment and an ability to bounce back from failure.

Therefore, understanding motivation begins with appreciating this dynamic relationship between autonomy and competence in learning. Whilst much of motivation theory might seem to be common sense, not all teaching and motivational precepts are intuitive. For example, many teachers and parents praise children hoping to increase self-esteem and confidence when in fact the evidence shows mostly counter-productive learning and behavioural outcomes resulting from praise. Not all praise is harmful, but educators need to differentiate between types of praise (informational verses controlling) and know when and how to use it.

For some educators, taking a professional development course about the psychology of motivation will revolutionise their teaching pedagogy. For others, it might serve as a timely reminder of how to drive curiosity and enjoyable learning in the classroom.

Michael Griffin will be providing professional development on this topic throughout Australia February-April 2016, and in the UK September-October. Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for further details.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Tools for Musical Progress

I’ve just completed a speaking tour in Australia taking in Melbourne, Sydney, Bathurst, Newcastle, Launceston and Ulverstone. My talks were directed to staffs and students – general and music-specific – in school classrooms, assemblies and at conferences. I’d like to share a little about my keynote address ‘The Tools for Musical Progress’ for the Sounds Great! conference at the Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, July 2015.

It really is a simple message, but sometimes simple truth gets lost in the forest of new ideas. That is – the greatest motivator, trumping all else – is making progress. People just love to get better at what they do. The converse is a concern; should children make no progress with their musical endeavours, they will almost certainly give up.  The greatest contribution that an education can give a child is the autonomous tools for making progress. Clearly, the greatest predictor for musical progress is the quality and the quantity of practice time.

[Please note that in my presentations and in my book on this subject each discussion point  is accompanied by research, historical anecdotes, examples and personal stories.]

How do you practise, and how do you teach it? It is easy to fall into the trap of telling a pupil that they ‘need to do more practice’, or to ‘practise more slowly’. Unfortunately these words have little effect. Students need these skills modelled to them, and to have the chance to copy. It gets forgotten that mimicry is still the greatest meta-skill that underpins the successful acquisition of all physical skills, including talking and walking. Virtuosic music-making demands the greatest sequence of co-ordinated muscular skill possible. It represents the  pinnacle of human skill capacity. In my talks, I distil practice into a simple three-part model: Repetition, Chunking and Slow Practice. These are the essentials, and nothing is more important for consolidation. BUT you must know how to practise. Take repetition, for instance; you must know how to repeat. Students need to learn about the enormous power of spaced repetition, an aspect of variable repetition as distinct from the usual but less effective model of blocked repetition (drills give a false sense of competency). You see, not all repetition methods are equal. I explain the neuroscience and the psychology behind each method, along with examples from marketing, sport and other areas of learning. Likewise, what happens in the brain that renders slow-practice so utterly effective, and therefore why is it the hardest aspect of practice for children to actually do? This blog-length limits what I can explain, but it is all perfectly clear in my book. Educators need to be able to articulate the how and why of what we teach to children.

Yesterday I arrived in the UK. This September/October I am presenting on these learning concepts – from short keynotes to interactive workshops of several hours – to music services in Hampshire, Wandsworth, Guernsey, Bath & North-East Somerset, Devon, and East Sussex. (I have room for more…) This excites me because the message is so important, and it can be kept simple without losing its profundity. The testimonials I receive consistently indicate a positive impact on musical learning and teaching. Whilst I love engaging with music educators through the music services and conferences, most of my work is still in schools, of which presently number about 250 schools in more than 25 countries.  I speak and demonstrate on the piano to all levels of music students, differentiating for prep through to a more appropriate level for senior secondary students. My favourite presentation model invites parents to join their children and music tutors in a twilight 75-minute presentation. Schools will often invite members of the community to join in. For example, I will be speaking at King’s High School in Warwick on Wednesday September 16. Director of Music Matthew Smallwood has opened this lecture to members of the public. If you would like to attend this  or another presentation (schools in Bristol, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Devon, Berkshire to name a few counties) I can tell you when I am in your part of the UK, and at which school. Alternatively, if this is something that appeals for your school or music conference, contact me (mdgriffin63@gmail.com) with preferred dates and times. United Arab Emirates – November 2015. Schools in Australia and New Zealand – bookings for Term 1, 2016. South Africa – April, 2016.

 

front cover final

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a wonderful collection of 130 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Chunking, Music Education, Music psychology, Pianists, Practice, prep, Repetition, slow practice

Music Education for Character Education

In 2015 the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham called for character education to be embedded in UK curriculum. The report linked strong character traits such as resilience and perseverance to higher educational achievement, employability, and social, emotional and physical health. Character matters. It is critical for personal happiness, maintaining relationships, and essential for an ordered society. Character strengths help people to thrive and become the best version of themselves. But how is it taught, cultivated and nurtured? UK Education secretary Nicky Morgan, in her quest to help schools build character, says one way to learn character traits is to learn a musical instrument. The Education Secretary is correct, of course. The Jubilee Centre study found that students involved in choir/music or drama performed significantly better on character tests than any other school-based extra-curricular activity. Interestingly, evidence that sporting activities build character was lacking. This is perhaps surprising given the widespread public belief in sport as a character builder.

There is nothing new in this modern-day appeal for character education to be embedded in schools, nor in the relationship between character formation and musical learning. In particular, the views of Confucius, Pythagoras and Aristotle are worth noting. Confucius (551–479 BC) believed the real purpose of education was not to get a job, but to become a better person. The ‘cultivation of the self’ should be a ‘daily renovation’, and is a life-long process, requiring constant work and practice. Confucius considered music education to be indispensable for character cultivation:

Wouldst thou know if a people be well-governed, if its laws be good or bad? Examine the music it practises.

Because of the deep influence music exerts on a person, and the change it produces on manners and customs, the ancient kings appointed it as one of the subjects of instruction

A man who is not good, what can he have to do with music?

Confucius suggested that the teaching of music, along with poetry, history and ritual, be the foundation for teaching moral behaviour. His view has support throughout history, for instance from Napoleon Bonaparte: “A moral book might change a person’s mind but not his heart, and therefore, not his ways. However, a piece of moral music would change his heart, and where the heart goes the mind will follow and the person’s ways will change.” To be a person of character is a choice from less virtuous alternatives. Accordingly, the moral choice would be arrived at through a change of heart influenced by music.

Aristotle (385-322 BC) believed that character is formed by doing. For example, one can only learn about commitment by being committed to a cause. One learns to delay gratification by exercising the patience and experiencing the possible discomfort that comes with the act of waiting. Aristotle believed that the development of character strengths took time, but nevertheless could be taught and learned through practice. The repetition of the act becomes a habit, resulting in consistent patterns of action.

Human excellence, in morality as in musicality, comes about as a result of habit. – Aristotle, Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics

Therefore, a person cannot be considered a “good person deep down” unless character traits are in action.

Pythagoras (570-490 BC) may well be the first person on record who employed music as a therapeutic agent. He believed that beauty and truth combined in music and so music could “quell the passions of the soul”. In his philosophy, medicine and therapy were based on music. Pythagoras believed that an appreciation of beauty aided recovery from illness, a position now supported by modern-day research. He called the medicine obtained through music ‘purification.’ Hence music played an important part in Pythagorean education because music could purify both manners, character, and physical ailments. Those who committed crimes were prescribed “pipe (probably the panpipe) and harmony” to shape the mind so that it became cultured again.  At night Pythagoreans sang certain songs to produce tranquil sleep and induce sweet dreams. In the morning they sang different songs to awaken and prepare for the day. Sometimes the music was instrumental, played on the lyre alone. Pythagoras considered the study of music essential for a rational understanding of God and nature. If education is about integrating thought, Pythagoras and the Greek thinkers who followed him led the way.

Contrast the esteem of which music was held by the Ancient Greeks (and classical China) to the Roman Empire that followed. Music was not valued beyond entertainment, and became peripheral in education and culture. Rather than science, arts and intellectual thought, Rome’s focus was toward conquest and pleasure. Interestingly, one of the main reasons attributed for the decline of the Roman Empire was a decline in moral character. If only they had listened to Confucius.

Music is the only one of all the arts that does not corrupt the mind. – Montesquieu, 1689 – 1759, French Philosopher

The family is the first place where moral cultivation begins. If adults wish to raise children of good character, they should start by showing them through their own actions.

Children may not listen to their parents, but they never fail to imitate them. – James A. Baldwin, 19241987, American, social critic.

Schools also play an important part in developing character. Whilst there is no definitive set of character traits, consider for instance perseverance, commitment, and self-discipline. That learning a musical instrument contributes to developing these is threaded throughout my book Learning Strategies for Musical Success. Learning music is a long-term project requiring years of disciplined practice. Incorporating some of the most complex physical skills human beings are capable of executing, perseverance and stick-at-it-ive-ness are a must. To master difficult musical passages, musicians learn to overcome setbacks and self-doubt. Successful musicians do not give up. Learning music is a long-term commitment requiring self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and an ability to resist distraction. Clearly, music makes a unique contribution in the education of character. Many people desire to learn music but give up too early without ever fully exploring their potential. Often, the reason given is ‘lack of talent’. A more likely explanation is the lack of character traits required for the musical journey. Being a musician is in itself a testament to character.

Almost 2500 years ago Plato believed that “music training is a more potent instrument than any other”. Hopefully the world will again give music the place it deserves in education. There are positive signs.  In April, 2015 it was announced that for the first time in USA education history, music will be a core subject in draft federal education policy (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015).

Listening to music has long been argued as a method for developing children’s listening skills. Listening to classical music boosts concentration, self-discipline, listening power, social intelligence, and aspiration. (Hallam, 2014) Equally, another study found that listening to music with lyrics about alcohol makes people more likely to drink. (Primack, 2014). Yet another study found a link between music embodying aggression, sex and violence, with antisocial behaviour. (Coyne and Padilla-Walker, 2014). Music influences behaviour. These studies might serve to argue against the popular contention that there is no such thing as good or bad music.

Michael Griffin will be speaking in schools and at music-service conferences in the UK Sept -Nov, 2015.

Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for more information.

‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin.

American Music Teacher

“Super book. I am so impressed!” – Donna Michaels, USA

“Fantastic book, simply brilliant! – Ian Cooper, Norfolk, UK

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

front cover final

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a wonderful collection of 130 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in ancient greece education, character, China, classical greece, Confucius, Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Music psychology

How to Become an Expert – A Musical Perspective

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being a guest on Eugene Loh’s 938Live radio show  ‘A Slice of Life’ in Singapore.

We talked about the nature and pursuit of expertise, mostly -but not exclusively – from a musical perspective. The show goes for about 30 minutes and is easy to listen to.

It’s on YouTube at this link if you’d like to listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nczZ4lngQHE

Topics discussed include genetic giftedness, 10 000 hours, repetition, chunking and slow learning, myelin, persistence and self restraint, Dweck’s concept of ‘mindset’, Csiksentmihalyi’s ‘Flow’, Einstein, choir singing and oxytocin, and music’s effect on the brain. These topics are further explored in ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin. Reviews below.

The Music Trust 

VMTA

American Music Teacher

Ritmico NZ

“Super book. I am so impressed!” – Donna Michaels, USA

“Fantastic book, simply brilliant! – Ian Cooper, Norfolk, UK

“Don’t miss this opportunity!” – Mary George, USA

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

front cover final

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a wonderful collection of 130 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Music psychology

Do you play background music in your classroom?

Background music is used extensively throughout society, particularly in marketing, sports psychology and medicine. It is used to reduce stress, create an illusion, manipulate perception, alter people’s emotional state, and to enhance well-being. What about the use of background music in class?

There are two reasons teachers might experiment with background music in classrooms.

  1. To improve classroom behaviour and atmosphere
  2. To improve the quality and/or quantity of work

Appropriately chosen music can improve classroom behaviour and atmosphere, which in turn improves learning outcomes. As a general rule though, the more complex the learning task, the more distracting background music becomes. Most students like having background music in the classroom. Students report the following positive benefits of background music:

  • It shuts out distractions. I get immersed in my own world and become more productive.
  • It puts me in a positive frame of mind and a better mood. It gives me a general feeling of well-being.
  • It calms me before a large task and I stay focused for longer.
  • It makes time go by fast, it helps me work quicker.
  • It’s good for repetitive homework tasks
  • It helps me reflect
  • It helps my creativity (Einstein is well known for associating music and creativity)
  • It makes studying more enjoyable.

Knowing when to turn the music on or off will come with teacher experience, but there are some fundamental principles that apply when selecting background music for general school classrooms.

  1. Do not let the students select the music. This is not about entertainment, but about establishing an environment to improve learning arousal.
  2. Use instrumental music only. There are some exceptions such as Latin text in Renaissance choral. Students listen and even sing with lyrics, detracting from their cognitive attention. The most distracting background music is fast vocal music chosen and liked by the student. Refer back to point 1.
  3. Volume must be low. The physiological and psychological effects of music listening occur whether or not people are deliberately attentive to it. Volume preference is highly individualistic, but people are less tolerant of loud music rather than soft music. The louder the music, the more distracting it becomes.
  4. Volume level must be consistent. Most playlist compilations source tracks from several sources, so there is discrepancy in volume levels. Most computer based mp3 players such as iTunes have built in devices designed to condense dynamic variation. Shuffle the playlist to keep it fresh.
  5. Expect a settling in period. The introduction of background music in classes requires a period of adjustment. Students might complain about the style of music, and also offer their preferences as a substitute. Most research on this subject has found an adjustment period of up to two weeks. Grumblings will subside and listeners will be comfortable with this new addition to the environment. Then the positive effects of music can work its magic in transforming the ambience in your classroom.

How is music chosen to achieve different goals? Music components impact learning mood. In particular, tonality, tempo, pitch and texture all play an important role in affecting our mood. Music of a major tonality is happier and more positive than minor music. Faster tempi raise the heartbeat and music with lyrics demand more cognitive processing resources. These musical constituents should determine playlist selections.

The most important factor is the choice of music, and this is where I can assist. I have provided playlists for schools from Australia to Luxembourg, and have an 8-hour playlist specifically created for classrooms. The product can be downloaded as a zip file via a link. Contact me mdgriffin63@gmail.com. Please note, a fee applies.

What do schools say about this playlist? Michael, We are really enjoying the playlist. The children work better during writing time with the classical selections and the contemporary ones work really well for just general working atmosphere. Thanks a lot for the great resource. (Grade 5 teacher)

Michael, Your background music has made a big difference to the atmosphere in the classroom. Several other teachers here at the school are now trialling it in their classes. For my English classes it sets a very studious tone as the students start the lesson with a quiet comprehension activity. It plays throughout the lesson and is only occasionally noticeable ‘around’ the group activities. I suspect I might be playing the music too ‘audible’ but it is certainly barely there at times depending on the track. A couple of students have actually asked after certain pieces. (High School English teacher)

Learning Strategies for Musical Success by Michael Griffin. Reviews below.

“Terrific…eminently practical…excellent discussion…I came away inspired and excited, and I heartily recommend it.” – Inge Southcott, The Music Trust, Australia.

“This book really does deliver…a great resource on a piano pedagogy list…wonderful support for the teacher.” – Dr L. Scott Donald for American Music Teacher.

“A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating! It is Griffin’s combination of his many years of practical experience as a music educator and consultant, with his broad overview of research and primary sources that makes this book so valuable and unique. A combination of big-picture theories and ideas with immediately practical strategies and examples.”

front cover final

“Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ brings together recent developments in learning psychology and cognitive neuroscience and presents them in a very readable and engaging format. The strength of Griffin’s discussion lies in his clear explanations of the terminology as well as practical ways in which teachers can foster highly motivated, self-driven learners in both the classroom and private studio. This is a fascinating book, deserving of a wide readership. It provides clearly written explanations of a number of important developments in psychology and neuroscience, and articulates the benefits of music learning with convincing clarity. It’s a book to share with parents and senior students for the insights it provides on the benefits of sustained effort and perseverance –a message that can’t be heard often enough in our fast-paced, distracted, sound-byte-driven, contemporary society. Highly recommended.” – Dianne James, October, 2014 for Ritmico, New Zealand.

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 129 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Posted in Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Music psychology

Background Music with Homework? Part 4: Music and Study

A continuation from Background Music with Homework? Part 3 -Music in Society, Part 2 -Stress, emotions and music and Part 1. To understand this post you should read these first. This is the final instalment.

In the previous blog I discussed some ways that music is used to manipulate our emotional and physical states to cause a behavioural effect. In particular, the use of music in marketing, sports  psychology and medicine were discussed.

study stress bannerExamples of the power of music and it’s use for manipulation are included in my talk ‘Study, Stress and Music’ which I presented to Year 11 students at United World College, Singapore, in January 2015. When I asked this groups of students who studied with background music, more than 80% indicated that they did. For their reasons, see Part 1 of this blog series. No doubt those of us who don’t study with background music find it to be distracting.

Why some people can and others can’t tolerate music with thinking is explainable, and is essentially dependant on four factors.

1. What you are doing (task complexity)

2. Your personality (based on extrovert/introvert continuum)

3. Your (music) education

4. The characteristics of the music played in the background

Let’s take these one at a time.

1. Task Complexity

Generally, music reduces the boredom of routine work but distracts during complex mental work. Even those who do study with music usually have a threshold dependant on task complexity. When the thinking becomes more demanding they either turn down or turn off the music.

2. Personality

Introverts require a lower intensity of external stimulation than do extroverts. Studies have shown that introverts perform better than extroverts in a silence condition, whereas the reverse is true in conditions of external stimulation, such as having the radio playing or the television on. Introverts are more self-regulatory with their choice of background music than extroverts and will change or even turn off the music depending on the task at hand. Extroverts prefer working in more social and arousing environments. Extroverts report less awareness of self-regulation, preferring rock styles, regardless of task complexity. Extrovert teenage boys are most at risk to choose poor study music.

3. Education

One’s level of music education is another factor. When an understanding of music gets to an academic and ‘declarative knowledge’ level, the listening experience becomes more left-hemisphere dominant and must compete for attention with the comprehension processors in that part of the brain. Consequently, music specialists such as teachers will cope less well than others when attempting to concentrate on a task while background music is playing. They listen to and analyse the music using vernacular.

4. Music characteristics

Volume preference is highly individualistic, but most people have less tolerance for loud music. The louder the music the more attention it demands, so the more distracting it becomes if one is trying to concentrate on a mental task. This is why most people prefer to relax with softer music. Music with sudden dynamic shifts elicits greater emotional responses than music with a narrow volume range. Good study music is emotionally calm.

Tempo. Fundamentally, faster music stimulates, and slower music calms. Faster music engages us in physical responses, including finger snapping, head nodding, foot-tapping, and dancing. Faster music can be more difficult to study to because, by definition, fast music requires the brain to process more musical events per second. Slow music might cause drowsiness. Music with a tempo slightly faster than the heartbeat works well for study purposes.

Tonality refers to the musical scale, or the set of notes on which the music is based. There are numerous scales in world music, but the Western major and minor scales are the most common. These scales are usually identified by a ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ tone. For example, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ is in a major key, while a funeral march would be in a minor key. Most children can discern this aspect of music by the age of about six. Generally, major key pieces are more suitable for study music because of their ‘happy’ tone. However, some minor key pieces might be included in a study playlist because they focus the seriousness of the task at hand. As well as the Western major and minor scales, tonality refers to the modes of Classical Greece. Both Plato and Socrates recognised links between musical modes and character qualities. For example, the Dorian mode was perceived as masculine and courageous, and the Lydian mode as feminine and indolent.

Texture refers to the thickness of the musical arrangement and whether the music is vocal or instrumental. The simplest texture is monophonic, which is a single melody played either by itself, or with more players in unison. Homophonic music adds vertical support in the form of chords, while polyphonic texture is contrapuntal in nature. The thicker the texture, the more cognitive attention required to process the music. Therefore thickly textured music such as a symphony can be too demanding for studying. More suitable is thin-textured music, perhaps that of a solo acoustic guitar, cello, or piano.

In the home most students study to fast music with lyrics. Lyrics pose a problem. There are some exceptions, such as a Latin text in Renaissance choral music, but the problem with lyrics is that students listen more intently, and even sing along with the lyrics, if only in their mind. This requires cognitive attention and competes with the same brain areas that are trying to comprehend the task at hand. The brain perceives instrumental arrangements of songs without the lyrics in about the same way as it perceives those same songs with lyrics. For studying, instrumental music is a better choice. Background music that incorporates the optimum characteristics for study can be found in many genres, but music from the baroque and early classical period probably satisfies the criteria best. Whilst for some people this genre of music may not be first-choice in regular music-listening, in this situation it’s important to realise that it’s not about entertainment, but regulating one’s emotional state in preparation for learning.

This blog topic has explored using background music at a private study level. I hope you have found it interesting and useful, and welcome your comments and any other feedback you would like to offer. Further, my one-hour presentation ‘Study, Stress and Music’ for students Years 10-13 is available, should I be in your part of the world. Although I spend most of my time between Australia, Asia and the UK these days, I do find myself in other parts of the world, so contact me for more information.

Some school teachers play music for whole classes engaged in quiet work. This is the subject of my next blog.

Excerpts from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin. Reviews below.

“Terrific…eminently practical…excellent discussion…I came away inspired and excited, and I heartily recommend it.” – Inge Southcott, The Music Trust, Australia.

“This book really does deliver…a great resource on a piano pedagogy list…wonderful support for the teacher.” – Dr L. Scott Donald for American Music Teacher.

“A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating! It is Griffin’s combination of his many years of practical experience as a music educator and consultant, with his broad overview of research and primary sources that makes this book so valuable and unique. A combination of big-picture theories and ideas with immediately practical strategies and examples.”

front cover final

“Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ brings together recent developments in learning psychology and cognitive neuroscience and presents them in a very readable and engaging format. The strength of Griffin’s discussion lies in his clear explanations of the terminology as well as practical ways in which teachers can foster highly motivated, self-driven learners in both the classroom and private studio. This is a fascinating book, deserving of a wide readership. It provides clearly written explanations of a number of important developments in psychology and neuroscience, and articulates the benefits of music learning with convincing clarity. It’s a book to share with parents and senior students for the insights it provides on the benefits of sustained effort and perseverance –a message that can’t be heard often enough in our fast-paced, distracted, sound-byte-driven, contemporary society. Highly recommended.” – Dianne James, October, 2014 for Ritmico, New Zealand.

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 129 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Music psychology

Background Music with Homework? Part 3: Music in Society

A continuation from Background Music with Homework? Part 2 -Stress, emotions and music and Part 1. I recommend you read these first.

As said in the previous blog, music evokes emotion, and emotion affects physiological change. Consequently music has the power to change us not only mentally but also physically. Hence, music is used widely in society to manipulate purchasing behaviour in marketing, performance in sports psychology, and well-being through music therapy. As for  any impact on learning and thinking skills, you’ll need to wait until the next post for that.

In the early 1980’s occurred a seminal study on the impact of different types of music on purchasing behaviour. Known as the famous ‘wine shop’ experiment, the purchasing behaviour of clients was noted under two different conditions: 1) popular ‘party’ type music (let’s say Kylie Minogue), and 2) the more posh, up-market music of Chopin. What happened? Contrary to what you might have thought, the quantity of purchase was not impacted, but rather the quality of purchase per bottle price was. Under the ‘Chopin’ – that is, the classical music-type condition, patrons were spending a whopping 30% more per bottle. Music can powerfully effect the atmosphere and the way we feel. Under the classical music condition, patrons felt a bit more up-market and this affected their purchasing. Any good restaurant is well aware of this. If a 5-star establishment plays run of the mill pop music, people won’t spend. Patrons expect music to match the décor – and the prices. Can you imagine Rap music at the Ritz? This is called gestalt psychology; the atmosphere and the ambience must be in accord. Conversely, it would be pretty weird to hear Mozart playing in McDonalds – which of course is why some councils play Mozart at train stations – it just doesn’t do it for graffiti artists. The tempo of music effects one’s walking pace. In one study of the effectiveness of music in a national chain of supermarkets, the use of slow music increased sales over the use of fast music. Shoppers stayed in the store longer and purchased much more than the no-music condition. The average gain was 39.2%. Sound can permeate a space and reach all potential listeners simultaneously. Crowded shopping centres play music with a high tessitura with a simple texture -perhaps like Montavani strings on Bach – to create an illusion of spaciousness. We could go on, but what about sport performance?

One of the most interesting studies of recent times was from a university in Queensland.

According to Australian Olympic sports psychologist Peter Terry, when people exercise to music they use one to 2% less oxygen and can run for 18% longer. It is not clear why this is so, but it is a useful return on the investment. After exercise, slow music hastens recovery. In addition to offering these physical benefits music helps athletes achieve a state of mind conducive to their tasks. Australian swimmer Kieran Perkins attributed music as a key factor when he won the 1,500-metre Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. Perkins had a disastrous heat and just managed to qualify for the final. When interviewed about his remarkable turnaround Perkins said that for an hour before the race he focused his mind by listening to music. He won the gold medal in a world-record time. South African Olympian Brendon Dedekind uses pre-race music to energize himself but also for relaxation, focus, and privacy; music fast-tracks Dedekind’s emotional state before major sporting events. He says his choice of music is determined by his emotional requirements at the time. More recently US swimming superstar Michael Phelps has revealed his preference for listening to hip-hop to prime himself for big events. You might be interested to know that according to surveys, the most motivational song used is ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ by Survivor (tempo = 109 BPM).

We are increasingly understanding music’s effect on the body. A substantial amount of current medical research involves music and surgery. Post-operative recovery requires lowering heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. In clinical trials, music’s ability to assist in establishing this desired physiology is encouraging.

What you have read in this  blog series thus far, along with Part 4 ‘Background music and homework’ (coming up next) forms part of my special presentation to students; ‘Study, Stress and Music’.

Excerpts from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin. Reviews below.

“Terrific…eminently practical…excellent discussion…I came away inspired and excited, and I heartily recommend it.” – Inge Southcott, The Music Trust, Australia.

“This book really does deliver…a great resource on a piano pedagogy list…wonderful support for the teacher.” – Dr L. Scott Donald for American Music Teacher.

“A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating! It is Griffin’s combination of his many years of practical experience as a music educator and consultant, with his broad overview of research and primary sources that makes this book so valuable and unique. A combination of big-picture theories and ideas with immediately practical strategies and examples.”

front cover final

“Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ brings together recent developments in learning psychology and cognitive neuroscience and presents them in a very readable and engaging format. The strength of Griffin’s discussion lies in his clear explanations of the terminology as well as practical ways in which teachers can foster highly motivated, self-driven learners in both the classroom and private studio. This is a fascinating book, deserving of a wide readership. It provides clearly written explanations of a number of important developments in psychology and neuroscience, and articulates the benefits of music learning with convincing clarity. It’s a book to share with parents and senior students for the insights it provides on the benefits of sustained effort and perseverance –a message that can’t be heard often enough in our fast-paced, distracted, sound-byte-driven, contemporary society. Highly recommended.” – Dianne James, October, 2014 for Ritmico, New Zealand.

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

Amazon
Amazon UK
Kindle US
Kindle UK
Australia: Contact mdgriffin63@gmail.com for direct mail.

Also by Michael Griffin

BookCoverPreview

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents.  “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at Amazon.com

BookCoverPreview Bk 2

Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!”  – St George College, Australia

Available at Amazon.com

BookCover VR

‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a collection of 129 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“Will prove useful for almost everyone”- Rhinegold Music Teacher Magazine.

“This is a great resource to add to one’s library of rehearsal tricks.”- Anacrusis, ACCC, Canada

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging.  Available at Amazon.com

Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Emotional intelligence, Multiple Intelligence, Music Education, Music psychology