Archive for Philosophy

Music Verse Posters

For my music classroom this year, I made a set of 3 posters.

Psalm 13-6 version 2

Psalm 13:6

Psalm 118-14 version 2

Psalm 118:14

Zephaniah 3-17 version 2

Zephaniah 3:17

I had them printed at the local Walmart photo department as 8″X20″ posters. They look great!

Children Innately Understand How Music Communicates

Take a group of kindergartners to a piano and ask one of them to make angry sounds on the piano. You will immediately get loud, low, deliberate banging sounds. Ask another one to play happy sounds. The child will instinctively play light, high-pitched, fast notes. Ask yet another child to make sad sounds and you will hear slow, mid-range to low, soft notes. These sounds will be created by children who know nothing of piano playing, much less traditional music theory.

What is their secret? How do they know what the music is saying?

Children innately understand that they can make sounds which mimic a person’s physical and emotional reactions. A person who is angry, for example, will make big motions, will talk in low, harsh, loud tones, and move about in a very deliberate manner. Recreating the emotion of anger on a piano then becomes simply a matter of doing the same things.

Take this exercise a step further, and you might be shocked at how proficient these small musicians are at using music to communicate. Ask a small child to think of an animal and portray that animal on the piano. See how quickly the other children can guess what the first child is thinking. In my experience, usually within 1 or 2 tries, the other kids know what animal was being “played” on the piano.

Music has the capability to communicate on so many different levels. It can communicate the emotions of anger, happiness, sadness, loneliness, joy, satisfaction, discontentment, and any other feeling you might experience. Music communicates physically, mentally and spiritually. And children are very much aware of this.

Years ago, when my children were very small, probably 2-4 years old, I played a CD for them of John Phillips Sousa marches, played by a marching band. Their response was obvious and immediate. They merrily started marching around the house in a perfect parade line, waving flags and stepping in time to the music. This was not something I taught them.

Children innately understand how music communicates.

So, What About Colored Notes?

Note Color WheelColoring notes to indicate different pitches is not a new concept. The problem is, there is no standard accepted color associated with each pitch. Probably the most common color scheme today would be the “Chroma-Notes” colors used by Boomwhackers. This system makes allowances for blended colors on the flats/sharps. The thinking behind these colors is discussed on this page.

Candida Tobin used her own system of colors for teaching beginning music students with great success. The colors seem to have been chosen arbitrarily.

The “We Hear and Play” system for teaching absolute pitch was used by the Tanedas when training very young children to play piano. Again, the colors chosen seem to be in random order.

FLime GreenBrownOrange
GTeal RedBlue

Here’s the color scheme that makes the most sense to me at this point, especially when using these colors with small children (try using “indigo” or “magenta” with kids, for example). The Mr. Noteman system would be a slight modification of the rainbow colors (ROYGBIV), close to the Boomwhacker designations.

Proposed Mr. Noteman Coloring System
C – Red
D – Orange
E – Yellow
F – Green
G – Blue
A – Purple
B – Pink

Color Strip

I do not know how extensively I would use colored notes for teaching pitches. I am very leery of getting too far away from teaching what music looks like when encountered in the “real” world. I do know that for small children, colors are very much less abstract than trying to decipher a notehead’s location on a staff.

Candida Tobin Got It!


Now, here’s a lady who knows how to teach music to small children! You’ve got to watch this video. Notice her use of rhythm manipulatives as well.


Tobin Music

Candida Tobin introduces harmony

Here’s the story about how I happened to discover this video. In my last couple of posts, I introduced the Noteman Babies. My plan is to make them in 7 different colors and correlate them to the 7 pitches in the musical scale. Boomwhackers use this method, for example. I can think of tons of music learning games that could make use of these cool music education toys. (By the way, I introduced the Noteman Babies to my elementary music classes this week, and the kids really loved them!) I discovered that my music notation software, MuseScore, has the ability to print colored note heads, corresponding to the Boomwhacker colors. During the process of learning about all of this, I found a reference to a guitar teacher who used the Candida Tobin method, so I had to find out more.

I love her approach, but would probably go with the closer-to-a-standard colors of the Boomwhackers.

If you like this, you’ve got to go here to download another video about her system:

Highly recommended!

What Is Music? Part 2

Read Part 1

For our purposes, music is defined as: a pattern of sound organized to communicate on a physical, emotional, intellectual and/or spiritual level.

  • A Pattern – Patterns are what distinguish music from random noise. Even non-pitched rhythm instruments which basically produce “noise” are played in particular patterns. Pitched instruments play a pattern of vibrations, which are then put into rhythmic patterns.
  • Of Sound – Music is the art form dealing with sounds. Other effects can be added to or associated with music, such as visual effects, but the word “music” refers exclusively to aural vibrations.
  • Organized – Music is performed on purpose. Whether it is a person sitting on a hollow log beating out a rhythm or a first chair violinist, the composer/artist/performer organized a pattern of sounds to suit his own taste.
  • To Communicate – Music is a tool of communication, just as any other art form. It has it’s own capabilities to mimic movement, emotions, ideas, and physical objects. It can be constructed in such a way to carry a message from the performer to the listener, whether the ultimate audience is himself, God, or others.
  • On a Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, or Spiritual Level – Music speaks to the listener on multiple planes simultaneously. The rhythm is capable of completely bypassing the intellect to speak directly to the body. The melody can communicate with the intellect and spirit of a man. The harmony can please or displease a person’s aesthetic sensibilities. The structure of a piece, and it’s expressive elements all say something to the listener.

As a tool of artistic communication, music has the ability to amplify any message the composer or performer wishes to convey. It can be, and has been, used for both good and evil purposes. It is, therefore, vitally important that we become aware of what is being communicated, and how it is being communicated.

Mr. Noteman wishes to be a help in training young people to understand how music communicates, and then learning to use music as a power tool to glorify God, and to be a blessing to others.

What Is Music?

Do a simple internet search to find the answer to this question, “What is music?”, and you will discover there are multitudes of opinions as to what constitutes music. Some opinions are so esoteric as to be laughable. Other definitions are so flowery that the reader ends up having no idea whatsoever what they just read. However, I think all would agree music consists of sound. I also think most people would recognize music contains organized sounds of some sort, as opposed to random, non-packaged noises.

How much of music is art or science is immaterial, I think, because for our purposes, the function of music is to communicate. Organized sounds have the capability to intrinsically deliver a message to the listener. Whether it is a simple beat pattern that causes us to tap our foot, or a complex classical symphony that stimulates us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, music creates a response of some type in the listener which is discernibly different from the response induced by hearing random noise.

So, Mr. Noteman believes music can be defined as: a pattern of sound organized to communicate on a physical, emotional, intellectual and/or spiritual level.

Because music is such an incredible tool of communication, it is desirable for us to become students of it’s forms, and learn to master the basic skills of music, so we might be able to better discern it’s messages, and be able to communicate to others through this medium.

Even small children can learn to communicate to others through the manipulation of sound.

And this is what Mr. Noteman is all about.

Read Part 2

Every Child Can Learn Music!

This post addresses the first point of the Mr. Noteman Manifesto, which states: 1. EVERY child can learn to connect with God, himself and others through music.

Former New York Teacher of the Year John Gatto, in his book The Underground History of American Education, discusses the fact that practically everyone in the United States learns to drive an automobile. We as a culture do not see anything extraordinary in the fact that average people are given the right and responsibility of piloting a couple of tons of metal, containing fuel that has the explosive capacity of three sticks of dynamite, through the neighborhoods and streets of our cities. In other words, despite what we have been trained to think of personal limitations, we are all very much capable of developing complex skills and can learn to perform extraordinary tasks, given the appropriate freedoms and motivations.

I believe that the subject of music is no different. All children, practically without exception, are very much capable of learning to understand how music works, are able to sing on pitch, and can learn to appreciate and perform music in a competent manner. Actually, the younger the better! As children grow older in our culture they develop the limiting mentality that learning certain things is hopeless, or, even worse, boring! This is caused, I believe, primarily by their constant exposure to teaching methods based on the outdated concept of creating industrial drones, training children to perform menial, degrading tasks over and over to receive ethereal, non-substantial rewards.

Teaching that reaches children must be based on THEIR perceptions, and by fanning the flames of their NATURAL CURIOSITY to experience, explore, and create. The teacher that has a firm grasp of fundamental musical concepts, and also of the incredible learning styles of small children can very easily teach complex musical skills, such as reading rhythm notation, singing on pitch, and even sight singing skills. Some music teachers even go so far as to say that young people can be taught to develop the skill of absolute pitch, sometimes called perfect pitch!

The point, of course, of these musical skills is to allow children to connect with God, themselves and others. Music is a form of communication, and in it’s idealized form, allows one person to transfer thoughts, ideas, feelings, and concepts to another. Music truly is a “universal language,” communicating even on levels deeper than our conscious understanding. And children have a very keen, innate understanding of the types of communication going on in music. Try asking a small child, for example, to communicate the idea of an angry lion on a piano keyboard! You will get the idea quickly!

No, musical skills are not out of reach of any normal child. Music is not the domain of only the “gifted” or “talented.”