Tune in to the Mozart in Your Child

Check out fun tech tools that can expose your child to music and spark his interest in picking up an instrument

Issue: Nov 2014

Let technology trigger the Mozart Effect in your child to and (maybe) up his game in life
Let technology trigger the Mozart Effect in your child to and (maybe) up his game in life

Since Alfred A Tomatis first introduced the idea of the Mozart Effect (a set of research that indicates that listening to Mozart’s music may induce short-term improvement in mental tasks) in 1991, parents and educators alike have been in a tizzy about the potential of music to unlock the genius in children. With technology added to the mix, there are now so many ways pre-schoolers right up to teenagers can be exposed to and immersed in music.

1. Count on Computers – Preschoolers

Musical computer games is a good way to expose your pre-schooler to music
Musical computer games is a good way to expose your pre-schooler to music

To expose children as young as pre-schoolers to music, computer games are a good way to start. They combine sound, colourful animation, and interaction to draw young ones into the world of music.

There is a series that introduces the little ones to classical music. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker: The Music Game,Alice in Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and Mozart's Magic Flute: The Music Game have music-related games and puzzles set within a storyline. Colourful and engaging, it is the perfect for preschoolers.

How it helps Junior

Some studies have shown that listening to Mozart’s music sparks brain patterns similar to those related to higher-order thinking. In another psychological study using Vivaldi’s Four Seasons showed that the more familiar and uplifting segments of the music enhanced mental alertness.

So, classical music has the power to engage several facets of your mind and create a general sense of wellbeing.

2. Keep a Finger on Mobile Devices – Primary School

Real Piano Pro is an app that turns your iPad, iPod Touch into an 88-key piano keyboard so you can play on the move or test out your child's interest
Real Piano Pro is an app that turns your iPad, iPod Touch into an 88-key piano keyboard so you can play on the move or test out your child’s interest in the instrument before committing to the real deal

By the time he hits about seven, mobile devices like tablets and mobile phones can be used to help maintain your child’s musical interests literally at his fingertips. At this age, you might be wondering how seriously you want your child to pursue his musical inclinations. You might want to engage the aid of apps to help you decide.

The Percussive is five instruments - glockenspiel, kalimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and marimba - rolled into a single app
The Percussive is five instruments - glockenspiel, kalimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and marimba – rolled into a single app

Real Piano Pro is an app that lets you turn your iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone into a full 88-key piano keyboard. It sounds just like a grand piano because its sound was sampled from an actual grand piano. Apart from portability, this app is better than a real piano because it also features other instruments: guitar, bass, harp, marimba, and music box. For the novice, the app aids learning because you can customise the key labelling – C-D-E, 1-2-3, or do-re-mi. For professionals, the tuning and transposition tools are interesting perks. It will never replace the real thing if you are serious about playing the piano. But it is a great way to pique interest and help to carry around for practice sessions on the move.

There are similar apps for other instruments – Percussive for percussion instruments like the glockenspiel, kalimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and marimba; and Garage Band for the guitar, drums, and organ. For the budding rock star, Garage Band has other features that let you record your singing, create new sounds with the Sampler, and compile music from a third source to create a big band sound.

How it helps Junior

Exposure to music ignites patterns in the brain. But playing a musical instrument takes that initial spark and fans it into a real flame. Playing a musical instrument requires two-hand co-ordination. This helps the left and right brain work together better. Music is also highly mathematical. Reading scores and counting rhythm can help mathematical ability.

3. Keep Your Game Face On – Teen Years

Sustain your teen's interest in music with music-based video games like Guitar Hero
Sustain your teen’s interest in music with music-based video games like Guitar Hero

The teen years are when interests in music may begin to wane. Video games are a fun way to keep passions aflame.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and Guitar Hero: Van Halen let you try out the lead and bass guitars, drums, and even exercise your vocals. For the guitarist, neither game can help in learning chords or tablature (musical notation that tells you where to place your fingers). What it does do is help get your rhythm right, a very important ability for any musician. The games also heighten sensitivity to chord transitions since the objective is to anticipate chord changes. Taking away the need to actually figure out where to place your fingers to get the right chords also lets you concentrate on the changes ahead.

Because the drum set used to play the drums on both games is a better approximation of the real thing, players have been known to up their real drum skills from playing these games. In addition, the drum note chart in the game looks similar to drum notations. So, the game can help to improve music reading.

How it help Junior

According to studies done by neuropsychologist, Brenda Hanna-Pladdy of Emroy University, Atlanta, playing a musical instrument can have benefits well into the middle age even if you have not played in years.

There is also no age limit to this. Another study involving adults aged 60 to 85 showed that after six months of piano lessons, their memory and verbal fluency improved. The speed at which they processed information and planned was also better than those who had no lesson. So, you are never too old to pick up an instrument.

4. Take up a Tech-enhanced Instrument – Serious Musicians

Yamaha, the creator of the hybrid piano and the only one to date to carry such a product - the AvantGrand Hybrid Piano N2
Yamaha, the creator of the hybrid piano and the only one to date to carry such a product, has married tradition with technology to produce a piano that is part acoustic, part electric, all innovative – the AvantGrand Hybrid Piano N2
Photo credit: Yamaha

One area that technology has helped the serious musician is by improving traditional musical instruments. When your child is truly committed to an instrument, you might consider some upgraded versions. One of the latest players to enter the piano scene is the hybrid piano. The AvantGrand (S$19,000) has all the sound and feel of a traditional grand piano, including the vibrations, but does not require tuning and comes in upright versions thus saving space. It also has perks no traditional grand piano affords – speakers, onboard recording and playback, piano sound options including the harpsichord.

The SG2 Type Yamaha SILENT Piano™ , with sound-muting capabilities that allow only the player to hear the music with a pair of headphones
The SG2 Type Yamaha SILENT Piano™ (S$8,600), with sound-muting capabilities that allow only the player to hear the music with a pair of headphones, plays like an acoustic piano but comes with 10 other voices including electric piano, pipe organ, harpsichord and strings
Photo credit: Yamaha

Another option is the Yamaha SILENT Piano™ which is an acoustic piano with digital capabilities. As its name suggest, its sound-muting capabilities let you play on it with headphones on so you will not disturb others.

How it help Junior

Making music focuses the brain on the precise connection between sound and meaning. Some studies have shown that having played an instrument (even if the person had stopped for decades) helps to keep hearing loss at bay as a person ages. So, play on!

Tech tools can never replace real instruments and actual hours of practice on an instrument. But it can definitely help musician wannabes and music lovers fan their interests, hone their skills, and experiment, making them wonderful aids to help the world tune in to music.

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