As a kid, I was NOT a diligent prodigy, practicing piano on my own with no help from Mom. Any home play I did, all the way through high school, was motivated by attention from my mother. If she didn’t sit with me while I played piano, she reminded me to play it and said encouraging words when I did.
Once I had built up certain skills, playing piano became its own reward. Its 88 keys became a place where I grew into myself, physically, emotionally and cognitively. The piano was a place for me to be myself, independent of my family. But my family's encouragement still fueled my efforts.
As we get ready to head into summer, I thought I would send you a few words about home play. These brain-friendly words mean 'practice' in my Playful Mindful Music studio. Home play does not have to happen every day in order to work--a lot of benefit can come from three mini sessions per week.
I made How to Home Play, an easy download that you can print and share with your loved ones as you plan for summer. No matter how busy your schedule is, these three simple things can make home play for your family fun and doable.
Could you use an extra tool for calm? I've got a mindfulness tip for you that's all about low sounds, which are different from quiet sounds as my students learn.
Let's start with high and low sounds. High-pitched sounds include birds chirping, swooping car alarms and kitten meows. Instruments that play high sounds include flutes, piccolos, violins and chimes. They are called high because their sound waves happen at a high frequency or quickly, and look a little like this:
Low-pitched sounds such as a mature cow's moo, the chuff of a train engine or a tiger, or a ship's fog horn have lower frequency sounds waves, which means they happen more slowly than those of high-pitched sounds. Their sound waves look roughly like this:
Bass guitar, tuba, bass drum, bassoon and didggery-doo all make low sounds.
For kids, it's easier to hear high sounds with clarity than low sounds (because of the way both brain and ear develop). But adults can hear low sounds more acutely. And low sounds have deep emotional significance: they are the first steady rhythmic sounds humans hear in the womb as mama's heartbeat.
This brings me to your mindfulness tool. Because low sounds have such a harmonious relationship with the oldest parts of the brain, listening to low sounds can calm your system. In a celebrated relaxing song by Marconi Union, low-frequency sounds are used continuously. It's probably not a good idea to listen to this while driving, because it is so relaxing.
Even without cuing up a snooze-inducing sound bath, you can still experience the benefits of active listening to low sounds. Most mainstream music features some kind of bass or percussion sound that is steady throughout each tune. There are also a range of higher and lower sounds in the ambient noises of daily life, from the working din of a cafe to the sounds on a television to the noises of a busy street.
Your mindful mission, if you choose to accept it, is to listen for low sounds throughout your day. Want to train your ear to hear low? Listen to Bach's cello suites (mostly bass sounds) Chaka Khan's Tell Me Something Good or Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (slower bass) or Charles Wright's Express Yourself (quicker bassline). Listen for the steady sounds that outline the beat of each song.
This will train you to hear and name low sounds. Over time, you will be able to use your ears, even in what seems like chaos, to find a focal point for your mind. This can reduce irrititation in the moment, and stave off overwhelm to keep you more contented all day long.
Rhythm is the first thing I work with in my students’ early lessons. We improvise (play spontaneously) based on fast and slow rhythms. I teach them the basic musical note shapes for 1 (one) beat and 2 (two) beats.