Thursday, September 20, 2007

Music & Intelligence: Will Listening to Music Make You Smart

Will listening to music make you smarter? Will learning to play a musical instrument make your brain grow larger than normal?
Questions like these ones have been popping up all over the place in the past few years, and not just in scientific journals either.
In recent times the media has been fascinated by the research surrounding brain development and music, eagerly reporting on the latest studies to the delight of the music-loving parents of young children.
But all this information - and some misinformation too - has led to generalized confusion about the role of music and music training in the development of the human brain. The bottom line is this: if you’re confused by all you read about music study and brain development, you’re certainly not alone.
In part, this is due to the manner in which the phrase “the Mozart Effect” has been popularized by the media and bandied about to describe any situation in which music has a positive effect on cognition or behavior.
In fact the Mozart Effect refers specifically to a 1993 research finding by Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky and published in the prestigious journal Nature. The scientists found that 36 college students who listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata performed higher on a subsequent spatial-temporal task than after they listened to relaxation instructions or silence.
An enchanted media reported this interesting research as “Mozart makes you smarter” - a huge over-simplification of the original results.
As Rauscher explains in a later paper, the Mozart Effect was studied only in adults, lasted only for a few minutes and was found only for spatial temporal reasoning. Nevertheless, the finding has since launched an industry that includes books, CDs and websites claiming that listening to classical music can make children more intelligent.
The scientific controversy - not to mention the popular confusion - surrounding the Mozart Effect, has given rise to a corresponding perplexity for parents. They wonder: “Should my kids even bother with music education?”
In fact the answer to this question is still a resounding yes, since numerous research studies do prove that studying music contributes unequivocally to the positive development of the human brain. Other researchers have since replicated the original 1993 finding that listening to Mozart improves spatial reasoning. And further research by Rauscher and her colleagues in 1994 showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers demonstrated a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ, a skill important for certain types of mathematical reasoning.
In particular, it is early music training that appears to most strengthen the connections between brain neurons and perhaps even leads to the establishment of new pathways. But research shows music training has more than a casual relationship to the long-term development of specific parts of the brain too.
In 1994 Discover magazine published an article which discussed research by Gottfried Schlaug, Herman Steinmetz and their colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf. The group compared magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 27 classically trained right-handed male piano or string players, with those of 27 right-handed male non-musicians.
Intriguingly, they found that in the musicians’ planum temporale - a brain structure associated with auditory processing - was bigger in the left hemisphere and smaller in the right than in the non-musicians. The musicians also had a thicker nerve-fiber tract between the hemisphere. The differences were especially striking among musicians who began training before the age of seven.
According to Shlaug, music study also promotes growth of the corpus callosum, a sort of bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain. He found that among musicians who started their training before the age of seven, the corpus callosum is 10-15% thicker than in non-musicians.
At the time, Schlaug and other researchers speculated that a larger corpus callosum might improve motor control by speeding up communication between the hemispheres.
Since then, a study by Dartmouth music psychologist Petr Janata published by Science in 2002, has confirmed that music prompts greater connectivity between the brains left and right hemisphere and between the areas responsible for emotion and memory, than does almost any other stimulus.
Janata led a team of scientists who reported some areas of the brain are 5% larger in expert musicians than they are in people with little or no musical training, and that the auditory cortex in professional musicians is 130% denser than in non-musicians. In fact, among musicians who began their musical studies in early childhood, the corpus callosum, a four-inch bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right sides of the brain, can be up to 15% larger.
While it is now clear from research studies that brain region connectivity and some types of spatial reasoning functionality is improved by music training, there is growing evidence that detailed and skilled motor movements are also enhanced.
Apparently the corpus callosum in musicians is essential for tasks such as finger coordination. Like a weight-lifter’s biceps, this portion of the brain enlarges to accommodate the increased labour assigned to it.
In a study conducted by Dr. Timo Krings and reported in Neuroscience Letters in 2000, pianists and non-musicians of the same age and sex were required to perform complex sequences of finger movements. The non-musicians were able to make the movements as correctly as the pianists, but less activity was detected in the pianists’ brains. The scientists concluded that compared to non-musicians, the brains of pianists are more efficient at making skilled movements.
The study of music definitely affects the human brain and its development, in a staggering number of ways. But what to make of all the research, especially in terms of deciding the best course of music study or appreciation for yourself or your offspring?
A 2000 article by N M Weinberger in MuSICA Research Notes makes the following excellent point: Although the Mozart Effect may not list up to the unjustified hopes of the public, it has brought widespread interest in music research to the public. And listening to ten minutes of Mozart could get someone interested in listening to more unfamiliar music, opening up new vistas.
Irregardless of the hype surrounding the Mozart Effect, the overall academic evidence for music study as a tool to aid brain development, is compelling.
At the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, Dr. Frank Wilson says his research shows instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration and memory and also brings about the improvement of eyesight and hearing. His studies have shown that involvement in music connects and develops the motor systems of the brain, refining the entire neurological system in ways that cannot be done by any other activity. Dr. Wilson goes so far as to say he believes music instruction is actually ‘necessary’ for the total development of the brain.
So the bottom line is this: Music study and practice probably does aid in the development of the brain in various important ways. And after all, if you enjoy music, there is nothing to lose by trying, and everything to gain!
About the Author
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music and piano lesson instructional courses for adults such as He is the author of the popular free 101-week e-mail newsletter titled “Amazing Secrets Of Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions” with over 60,100 current subscribers. Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to
by Duane Shinn

Piano Chords and New Age Music

There are basically two ways you can compose a piece of music. The first and most traditional way is to write out the melody and then harmonize it. Some call this working from the top (as opposed to the chords on the bottom.) The second approach is where you create some kind of rhythmic harmonic pattern and improvise (or compose) the melody on top. Now, which one is best for New Age music?
The answer is neither approach. Each has its own merits and own special benefits. For example, if you start with a pattern in your left hand and improvise a melody with your right, you are doing what most new age composers/improvisers do. This is what George Winston does most of the time. He has chords he sets to a certain rhythm and does his thing with that amazing right hand of his.
This is the style that I have been playing, but I’ve recently lost interest in it. Not because it isn’t good but because I don’t feel like playing that way anymore. Currently I’m leaning towards a softer sound that comes from leading with the melody first. What I do is get the first 2-bars down and then improvise the rest till I fill up 8 measures. This way I can vary the chords and patterns without it sounding very repetitive (minimalism). It’s actually another style. You can call it melodic while the other one (Harmony approach) is more textural. IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR MOOD!
Don’t let one style freeze you into something where you can’t maneuver artistically! Remember that your feeling must come first. Everything else is secondary. Let your feeling lead you and your creation will be truly inspired, however, if you try to mold what you have to say into a specific style, the result may be less than satisfactory.
About the Author
Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music’s online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years! Visit us now at for a FREE piano lesson!by Edward Weiss

Jazz Music: History of Jazz Music in Kansas City

>From its beginnings as nothing more than a simple trading poston the banks of the Missouri river, to its raucous heyday in the1920’s and 30’s, Kansas City has retained the independent spiritof its frontier beginnings. Even though an assortment ofcolorful characters, cowboys, politicians, criminals, and evenwagon trains populate the history of Kansas City, you can forgeteverything you’ve ever heard about it being a “cow town.” Today,the outgrowth of that colorful history and frontier spiritradiates energetically throughout the city and its populace.
Widely regarded as the birthplace of Jazz. KC’s early reputationas a “wide-open, anything goes” city captivated and allured themusical performers of the day. It’s central location and ease ofaccess via rail were the other components which induced thismusical migration. Kansas City became a haven for musicians andfans alike.
The musicians, who interpreted their experiences in KC’spermissive environment through their music, were also creatingthe elastic techniques and musical license, which remain at theheart of Jazz today. The hub of this development was the 18thand Vine district. Many legendary musicians, Count Basie, EllaFitzgerald, Joe Turner and Charlie Parker to name a few, madetheir way to Kansas City. Their connection to one another and tothe Kansas City “scene” brought about a unique musical expansionwhich enriched the city’s history and initiated the genesis ofJazz.
Kansas City’s affiliation with Jazz is celebrated daily at theAmerican Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District and nightlyat clubs and restaurants throughout the city. Live Jazz andBlues are still an important part of the Kansas Cityentertainment and nightlife scene.
Kansas City’s early sports history, specifically its affiliationwith Negro League Baseball, is showcased in detail at the NegroLeague Baseball Museum.
Also located at the 18th and Vine District, the museum documentsthe history of Negro League Baseball from its beginnings in themid 1800’s, to its demise in the 1960’s. If you are interestedin this facet of the histoy of baseball, a visit to this museumis highly recommended.
A part-time writer and full-time webmaster, Joseph Patrick, canusually be found managing his full service travel website, where you will find the resources tobook affordable trips to Kansas City as well as other excitingvacation destinations.

by J.Patrick

Improvising On The Piano: Jazz Musicians Do It — Why Not Other Styles?

Why jazz piano improvisation?
Why not gospel piano improvisation?
Is it not possible to improvise classical music, or sacred music, or any other kind of music?
Bach improvised many of his fugues and inventions while playing organ in church. Many others in all musical styles have improvised within the context of their own persuasion. So why study improvised jazz? Why not study improvised classical music, or improvised gospel music?
The answer is access.
Jazz piano improvisation is so much more accessible than is improvisation in other areas. Some classical pianists do improvise, but at performances they are generally expected to play Chopin or Debussy or Mozart, rather than to make up their own music. There are gospel pianists who do improvise, but the expectation of their listeners is not primarily to hear music created on the spot.
But the expectations of a audience of jazz fans is expressly to hear music created extemporaneously, without benefit of written score. And so jazz, far more than any other musical style to date, has become the music of improvisation. Not because there is anything inherent in the tunes jazz musicians play that calls for improvisation, but because of the expectation of improvisation that has built up over the years.
This fact makes it possible for an interested observer to study jazz improvisation like he could study no other kind of improvisation. He has easy access to concerts, recordings, transcriptions of jazz recordings, and even local jam sessions. When can he attend a classical concert and be sure of hearing music improvised? When can he attend church with assurance that the pianist will improvise? But with jazz, his sources are many and are readily available.
Can the principles derived from jazz improvisation be applied to other musical styles?
Of course.
Every pianist uses the same 88 notes of the keyboard. All music consists of some kind of melody, some kind of harmony, some kind of rhythm. Elements from one style can be transplanted to another style; in fact, this is happening all the time. Notice lately how much of contemporary pop music is flavored with elements from jazz, country-western, and even classical music. Cross-pollinization of styles abounds in contemporary music.
So improvisation can be studied by the student of classical music, the church pianist, the worship team keyboardist, the new-age pianist, the country-western piano player, and any other style of music. The benefits and rewards of learning to improvise on the piano are enormous.
So next time you see or hear a jazz pianist play, pay close attention to what she or he is doing. Ask yourself what’s going on musically — what chords and chord progressions are being used, what rhythms are in play, and how the tune of a song is being altered as the pianist improvises the melody line.
Then go home and apply what you’ve learned to your style of music. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by simply observing and then applying what you’ve seen and heard to your own playing.
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and music educational materials such as DVD’s, CD’s, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. He is the author of a CD-DVD course titled “How To Make Up Music As You Play — How To Improvise On The Piano!”. He holds advanced degrees from Southern Oregon University and was the founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He is the author of the popular free 101-week online e-mail newsletter titled “Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions” with over 57,400 current subscribers.
by Duane Shinn

How do You Find and Download Good Rock n’ Roll: 4 Tips on Finding Top Music

When it comes to music, rock n’ roll is still king. People theworld over still list rock n’ roll as their favorite musicgenre. You may be one of those people who truly appreciates andenjoys rock n’ roll. To that end, you may be wondering how youcan find and download good rock n’ roll on the Internet andWorld Wide Web. Through this article, you will be provided withsome basic information on how you can find and download goodsounding rock n’ roll on the Internet and World Wide Web.
By following these tips, you will be well on your road toexpanding your rock n’ roll music collection. Indeed, youabsolutely will have fun seeking out and finding the exact rockn’ roll music that you enjoy.
First, identify reliable and reputable websitesto download music. There are two primary reasons that you needto make sure that your utilizing a reliable website to downloadrock n’ roll music. You need to use a reliable site to make surethat the downloads that you obtain are legally transmitted toyou. Unfortunately, there are some sites that have not crossedtheir Ts when it comes to complying with copyright laws.Additionally, when it comes to obtaining music downloads, youneed to use a reputable site that works hard to ensure that thesite is free from viruses that might get transferred to yourcomputer. (Also, keep in mind that it is important for you tomake sure that you have an updated and active virus program inplace before you take off and start downloading music. In pointof fact, you really should never spend time on the Net withoutan effective virus protection program in place.)
Second, decide what types of rock n’ roll musicyou would like to download. You need to bear in mind that thereare some different types of rock n’ roll music available fordownload on the Net. As a result, there are different sites thatcater to different types of rock n’ roll music. By spending sometime shopping around, you will be able to find precisely thestyle of rock n’ roll music that you seek. For example, somesites specialize in delivering music from a particular timeperiod — the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and so forth. Ofcourse, there are many, many sites that generalize when it comesto downloadable music.
Third, there can be a different in the soundquality of music downloads from one site to another. Take thetime to determine which sites offer the best music quality inregard to their downloads. Some sites take great pride inensuring that the downloads they provide are of the greatestquality. Certainly, if you are going to take the time todownload music, you will want to be able to obtain the bestpossible quality for the money you are expended on the downloads.
Fourth, shop around for the best bargains thatyou can find in regard to rock n’ roll music that you candownload online. There can be some pretty significant pricedisparities between different websites. Therefore, it serves youwell to shop around to find out where you can get the best dealon downloads. For example, some sites offer package dealsthrough which you can purchase a set of downloads for one lowprice. Other sites operate rather like the music clubs that werepopular in the brick and mortar world in the past. In otherwords, you are entitled to receive a certain number of specificdownloads each and every month if you so desire.
By making the effort to follow these tips and pointers, you willbe able to download the best in rock n’ roll music from theInternet and World Wide Web. In a short amount of time, you willbe able to develop a wonderful collection of rock n’ roll musicthat will provide you with hours of entertainment and enjoyment.With very little effort, you can establish a terrific rack ofdownloaded rock n’ roll music.

by Roy Barker

Western Rock Music

Western rock music is a popular music form. It featuresvocals often with vocal harmony and accompanied withinstruments- electric guitars, a bass guitar, keyboardinstruments- electric piano, organ and synthesizer anddrum sets. Other musical instruments like saxophone,trumpet and trombone are also included. Earlier hornswere also used which are not being used since the 90s.The central piece of instrument in western rock musicis of course the electric guitar. The microphone usedby the singers itself functions as a musical instrument.Many singers depend upon the amplification and variouseffects like echo obtained by electronically transformingthe sound obtained through the microphone.
The characteristic musical style categorized as rockmusic and music of its related styles has dominated themusical scene of the west since about 1955. Western rockmusic has its origins in the Unites States. However, ithas been influenced and shaped by a broad field of culturesand musical traditions over the years. There has been theinfluence of gospel music, the blues, western country music,western classical music, folk music etc. Some elements ofpopular music of Asia, Africa and Latin America have alsobeen incorporated in western rock music.
Western rock music styles have evolved into its completeform around 1959 with predominant influence of the whitemusicians. A major western rock music style is rock and rollor rock by Soal Brown

Rock’n\'roll is the Future of Music at Wichita Falls Records Thanks to Pioneer Frank Lee Sprague

With the state of the music business becoming more and more stale, consumers are looking to the internet to satisfy their craving for new and innovative music. A record label located in Wichita Falls has started a revolution on the internet with music that is daring and groundbreaking. Wichita Falls Records has released albums such as Merseybeat, the Savage Sprague Brothers, and now its newest release Cavern.
The recording artist Frank Lee Sprague is well known the world over for his loved recordings of the best in rock’n'roll. Playboy magazine called his band a “great lost west Texas rock band.”
Now he has turned his innovative approach to business. With the launching of his new label Wichita Falls Records Frank has created marketing strategies that have been blazing the internet resulting in sales and promotion in staggering numbers. Not content to do things the old fashioned way, Sprague keeps creating in music as well as business. As a sign of recognition of Frank’s genius El Toro Records in Spain recently aligned itself with Frank’s label and released a multi-volume CD of the Sprague Brothers music. This is a sign of things to come concerning Sprague’s music as other companies worldwide are eager to join in the new music revolution. Many cooperative ventures are on the horizon and there are DVD’s in the queue for release as the label is growing at a staggering rate.
The future of music is secure at ‘tomorrow’s music company’ and with the internet becoming more and more of a force in the industry Wichita Falls Records and Frank Lee Sprague forge ahead!
Lee Holley is head of Artist and repitoire at Wichta Falls Records.
by Lee Holley