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The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation

‘Music is one of the most powerful neurobiological tools we have to change our mood, mindset, and behavior. What is the impact of listening to music that promotes violence, hate or agression on our minds? How does this music shape the minds and explanatory style of our children?

Music and mood are inherently linked. Scientists continue to uncover how these influences occur at a neural level. Studies prove that the music we listen to engages a wide range of neurobiological systems that affect our psychology. A recent study by researcher Jacob Jolij and student Maaike Meurs of the Psychology Department of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands shows that music has a dramatic effect on explanatory style and perception.’

(Read rest of article)

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Song Analysis To Singing

In this new video series, we explore the potential of improving performance by analyzing the lyrics to a song before singing it again. So often, we sing on autopilot, mimicking what we hear on the radio, TV, internet…but how often do we really listen to the message the songwriter is sending us. Can you hear the difference before and afterwards?

 

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Choir singing boosts immune system activity in cancer patients and carers, study shows

Singing in a choir for just 1 hour causes physiological changes in people affected by cancer

 

Singing in a choir for just one hour boosts levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer, reduces stress and improves mood, which in turn could have a positive impact on overall health, a new study by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music published today in ecancermedicalscience has found.

 

The research raises the possibility that singing in choir rehearsals could help to put people in the best possible position to receive treatment, maintain remission and support cancer patients.

 

The study tested 193 members of five different choirs. Results showed that singing for an hour was associated with significant reductions in stress hormones, such as cortisol, and increases in quantities of cytokines — proteins of the immune system — which can boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness.

 

Dr Ian Lewis, Director of Research and Policy at Tenovus Cancer Care and co-author of the research, said: “These are really exciting findings. We have been building a body of evidence over the past six years to show that singing in a choir can have a range of social, emotional and psychological benefits, and now we can see it has biological effects too.

 

“We’ve long heard anecdotal evidence that singing in a choir makes people feel good, but this is the first time it’s been demonstrated that the immune system can be affected by singing. It’s really exciting and could enhance the way we support people with cancer in the future.”

 

The study also found that those with the lowest levels of mental wellbeing and highest levels of depression experienced greatest mood improvement, associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body. There is a link between high levels of inflammation and serious illness.

 

Choir members gave samples of their saliva before an hour of singing, and then again just after. The samples were analysed to see what changes occurred in a number of hormones, immune proteins, neuropeptides and receptors.

 

Dr Daisy Fancourt, Research Associate at the Centre for Performance Science, a partnership between the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London and co-author of the research, said: “Many people affected by cancer can experience psychological difficulties such as stress, anxiety and depression. Research has demonstrated that these can suppress immune activity, at a time when patients need as much support as they can get from their immune system. This research is exciting as it suggests that an activity as simple as singing could reduce some of this stress-induced suppression, helping to improve wellbeing and quality of life amongst patients and put them in the best position to receive treatment.”

 

Diane Raybould, 64, took part in the study and has been singing with the Bridgend Sing with Us choir since 2010. Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was aged 50. Her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time and sadly, passed away from the disease at just 28. Diane said: “Singing in the choir is about more than just enjoyment, it genuinely makes you feel better. The choir leaders play a huge part of course, but so does the support of the other choir members, the inspirational programme and uplifting songs. The choir is a family, simple as that. Having cancer and losing someone to cancer can be very isolating. With the choir, you can share experiences openly and that is hugely important.”

 

Rosie Dow, Head of Sing with Us at Tenovus Cancer Care and co-author of the research, added: “This research is so exciting, as it echoes everything all our choir members tell us about how singing has helped them. I’ve seen peoples’ lives transformed through singing in our choirs so knowing that singing also makes a biological difference will hopefully help us to reach more people with the message that singing is great for you — mind, body and soul.”

 

Following on from this research, Tenovus Cancer Care is launching a two year study looking in more depth at the longitudinal effect of choir singing over several months. It will look at mental health, wellbeing, social support and ability to cope with cancer, alongside measuring stress hormones and immune function amongst patients, carers, staff and people who have lost somebody to cancer.


Story Source:

Materials provided by ecancermedicalscienceNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daisy Fancourt, Aaron Williamon, Livia A Carvalho, Andrew Steptoe, Rosie Dow, Ian Lewis. Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine and neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carersecancermedicalscience, 2016; 10 DOI: 10.3332/ecancer.2016.631

 

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Unitots: more info

We are all born creators. It’s a skill we forget as we grow older and are influenced by our peer groups, our environment, our teachers and our parents.

 

Here at USPA, we aim to help you and your child nourish his or her innate love of music, and lay foundations for future musical pursuits in childhood and beyond.

 

We have two levels of learning at Unitots. Our Caterpillars (Stage 1) group is for babies and toddlers up to 2yrs old. Our Butterflies (Stage 2) group is for 3 to 5yr olds. We split the learners by age as the older children are livelier and may stand on little fingers when dancing about!

 

Unitots lesson plans are designed by Emma L.M. Sweeney and inspired by the Orff Method.

 

“The Orff Method is a way of teaching children about music that engages their mind and body through a mixture of singing, dancing, acting and the use of percussion instruments (i.e. xylophones, metallophones, glockenspiels). Lessons are presented with an element of “play” helping the children learn at their own level of understanding.

 

Using the Orff approach, students learn about rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form and other elements of music. Students learn these concepts by speaking, chanting, singing, dancing, movement, acting and playing instruments. These learned concepts become springboards for further creative pursuits such as improvisation or composing their own music.”

 

For more information about either group, please use the drop-down menu above.

 

If you are a parent of two children in two age groups, you are welcome to choose one group to bring them both to. Sibling discounts are available.

 

UNITOTS Toddler music and movement classes starting Tuesday mornings in Central Palma this month (March 2017). Spaces limited! Contact unitots@uspaespana.com for more info and to reserve your child’s place.

HOW OUR PROGRAM BENEFITS YOUNG LEARNERS

Our Unitots program encourages children to:

– care for themselves with love and compassion
– develop social skills and participate in their peer group and extended community
– treat others with compassion and respect
– cooperate with other children to accomplish collect goals
– celebrate individual and group achievements
– express a range of emotions
– be inquisitive and ask questions
– listen to others and share ideas and tangible objects
– pursue ideas and achieve solutions to problems
– develop motor skills through song, dance and playing instruments

http://uspaespana.com/unitots/

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Effective Practice

(Some of the points I raise here may be more applicable to playing an instrument, some targeted at singers, so use your judgement when reading and apply what you find helpful to your own musical journey.)

 

A topic that frequently arises when tutoring students is the importance of sticking to a regular practice schedule. Perhaps because it is a reminder of schooldays homework, or because is in addition to younger students’ workload who are still at school or college, but some players who enjoy playing during class and melodic repertoire are loath to practice regularly (and effectively) at home.

 

Students who shirk practicing think tutors don’t know. We know! Trust me. I’ve used all the excuses in the book to get out of practicing. Tutors who have taught for years are also able to gage the rate at which you should be progressing with a good teacher and regular time set aside for practicing.

 

If you don’t commit, you are only cheating yourself.

 

This next sentence is the most important part of this blog entry, so please read and re-read it until it sinks in.

 

Regular practice is the most important thing you can do to improve as a player.

 

Let’s read it again.

 

Regular practice is the most important thing you can do to improve as a player.

 

Did you get that? Are you making best use of your practice sessions? If not, why not? Think about what changes you need to make in order to better the outcome of your rehearsal sessions.

 

Everyone who plays should practice and practice can often be fun. For me, as a perfectionist, my fun is in seeing the progress I make, regardless of study content, but students who need a little more motivation (particularly younger learners) may need to find fun material to work with (catchy melodies etc).

 

Rudimentary mechanics is the basis for all great performance, so take your medicine in the knowledge it will make you a better player. Most importantly, structuring your practice will help you maintain regular sessions.

 

Below are some ideas I have for you.

 

FOCUS ON THE FINISH LINE

What do you want to achieve from playing your instrument? Close your eyes and visualise it; see yourself doing whatever it is that you want to do, be it performing onstage at the BBC Proms or Carnegie Hall, touring with a live rock band, or teaching others. See yourself already doing it.

 

Inhale slowly through the nose and then exhale slowly through the mouth, all the while seeing your future self in your mind. Visualisation is half the journey and helps you accomplish your goals more quickly. It is done!

 

SET TIMES

Decide when you can best practice and stick to that slot daily. Maybe you prefer to play as soon as you get home from school or work, or maybe you’d rather have a rest first and then get to it. Whichever works best for you is fine.

 

Make sure to rehearse for at least half an hour every day. Longer is preferabl for intermediate and advanced students as the first portion of practice sessions merely warms up the fingers/larynx/lips etc and wakes up the mind; I find with busy students, this in itself can take up to an hour to accomplish – especially if practicing at the end of a stressful/busy day – so if time permits, spend another half hour or more actually playing the study pieces. Younger students and beginners can start with twenty minute sessions.

 

If you have been playing for longer but can only find twenty minutes in your day to practice, do it and do it daily! Don’t beat yourself up about having small amounts of time free to dedicate to your musicianship, just knuckle down and do it. Quieter times will come when you will be able to extend your sessions, but for now, it is better to be consistent and have daily practice than play for an hour or two one day and then do nothing for two or three days.

 

The mind and body needs repetition in order to make playing your instrument a habit. Think about when you learned to walk or tie your shoes. These activities are second nature now and need little to no thought, but initially, you would have had to concentrate in order to accomplish them. We want wonderful playing and singing to come as naturally to us.

 

One thing to note:

 

If you are overly tired, not concentrating, or unable to play/sing (cracked lips, sore throat, sore joints, stop. There’s no point in worsening your state or wasting time. If it is a matter or tiredness or concentration, go and do something that fires up your brain or relaxes you – whichever you need – and then come back to play.

 

FIND YOUR SPACE

There is no perfect space in which to practice. Some people prefer to work in noisy environments, others in quiet solitude.

 

Find the best place for you.

 

Set up your music stand, ensure your books are at hand, and try to leave your instrument there so it becomes a dedicated practice space. When not touring, I have one of my violins on a stand in plain view from anywhere in the room; seeing it reminds me to play and I practice more often than I would if it were locked away in a case.

 

MAKE NOTES

I’m not just talking about the audible ones; write down what you do during your sessions. At the end of the week/month/year, you can see visually how much you have accomplished. If you do not have a teacher who provides goal sheets or keeps regular notes in your homework diary – perhaps you are teaching yourself or working with a friend – find your own way of metering your progress. Set goals for the next day and then mark off each goal as you achieve it. This could be a list of scales, a difficult passage in a piece, anything you decide.

 

ACTUALLY DOING IT

Don’t just idly play through your material, give each note or syllable full attention. Practice standing u, if you are able, and breathe regularly and in a relaxed fashion.

 

SWITCH IT UP

If you are practicing alone, play with a friend and vice versa. If you usually start with technical studies, begin with a piece from your repertoire and then play through your studies. Change when you play your scales, or if you start with major scales and arpeggios, start with the minor ones. Whilst the repetition of practice is essential for growth, making changes in how you practice help keep you on your toes. Join an ensemble and better your sight-reading and awareness.

 

START AT THE MIDDLE (OR END)

When playing longer pieces, especially if they are dificult, starting at the beginning can be a waste of time. You may find there is a point at which your mind switches off and you keep making the same mistakes, or there’s a tricky passage that always gets the better of you and so you play something else instead. Sometimes, simple boredom can throw you off.

 

Attack it.

 

Start with that section, regardless of page number. If it is tricky, slow down and play it at a pace you can manage. Maybe the bowing trips you up, or position changes. Focus on what makes the passage hard to play and go over it again and again. Repetition is key to muscle/mental memory.

 

HIGHLIGHT MISTAKES

It is tempting to skip past difficult passages that you consistently play in a sloppy manner. DON’T. Go back and try again, taking it SLOOOOOOOOOWLY. Take those few bars and play them until you’ve mastered them.

 

I will touch upon these points in more depth in a future article. For now, happy practicing!

 

Copyright © Emma L. M. Sweeney 2012. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except as follows: You may repost this article on your website or blog, providing the articles and author are not depicted in a negative manner, and you have linked back to this original page.