Reducing Academic Pressure Through Failure

When I first saw the title of this article in Science Daily I was skeptical.  I figured an article with the title Reducing Academic Pressure May Help Children Succeed would be along the “A for effort” lines.  Unfortunately there seems to be a trend towards grade inflation, in spite of how current pedagogical research shows that reducing academic pressure in this way doesn’t actually improve students’ learning.  But this article covering research by Dr. Frederique Autin demonstrates how failure is a normal part of the learning process and can be used to actually improve the long term outcome.

It’s not about reducing pressure through grade inflation or dumbing down the work, in fact Autin’s study actually took a close look at the reverse situation.  In one experiment he gave students a problem to solve that was above their abilities, but the students in the test group were told that learning was difficult and that failure was common while the control group were just asked to solve the problem.  Both groups were then given a test to measure their working memory capacity.

The students who were told that learning is difficult performed significantly better on the working memory test, especially on more difficult problems, than the second group or a third control group who took the working memory test without doing the anagrams or discussions with researchers.

As with all studies of this nature it’s important to put the results into a proper context.  For example, the students’ improvements were temporary, yet there are some important implications. Continue reading Reducing Academic Pressure Through Failure

Guess the Embouchure Type – Tine Thing Helseth

This one is a sort of a repost.  I had done this same “Guess the Embouchure Type” of Tine Helseth from this video earlier, but a server hiccup (and not remembering to put on automatic backups) caused about 2 weeks worth of posts and comments to be deleted.

At any rate, Helseth is a very fine Norwegian trumpet player.  She’s really known for her classical trumpet soloing, but the below video shows some excellent closeups of her embouchure while playing (or at least during a video shoot, the production value of this video is such that they may not be playing exactly what we’re hearing).  Take a look and guess which embouchure type you think she plays as.

Continue reading Guess the Embouchure Type – Tine Thing Helseth

Appreciating Jazz Podcast Part 6 – Early Jazz

Beginning around the 1910s and through the 1920s a new style of music emerged in cities like New Orleans and Chicago.  Featuring both collective improvisation and solo improvisation, this music eventually developed into the earliest forms of what we call jazz today.  This podcast covers the development of early jazz styles and discusses some of the most important and influential artists of this period.

This episode can be downloaded by clicking here, going to my Podcasts page, or by subscribing through iTunes.

Asheville Jazz Orchestra Featuring Sidney Barnes

Vocalist Sidney Barnes

This Sunday, March 11, 2012, the Asheville Jazz Orchestra will be playing another show at the White Horse Black Mountain, in Black Mountain, NC.  The show starts at 7 PM and will be two sets of big band jazz ranging from Swing Era hits to original compositions and arrangements you can’t hear played by anyone else.

I’m excited to be featuring vocalist Sidney Barnes on this show with us for the first time.  I’ve worked with Sidney before on the Flat Rock Playhouse’s Music of Motown show last summer.  Sidney added a nice touch of legitimacy to our show, as he was a Motown recording artist.  He even wrote one of the B-side songs for a Jackson Five record.  He’s a terrific singer and an all-around great entertainer.  We had a rehearsal with Sidney last week and he sure sounded great.  The band for this one will be great too, with good players in every section.

If you manage to get out to hear us this weekend please come up and say hello.

The Non-Relationship Between Gapped Teeth and High Range

One of the more common brass urban legends is that players with a gap or chip in their front teeth have an easier time with the high register.  Indeed, it is possible to find players who have this feature and have incredible high range (Jon Faddis and Dave Steinmeyer come to mind) .  While conducting research for my dissertation this was one anatomical characteristic I looked at.  I didn’t have a large enough sample size of players with gaps between their front teeth to have a statistically honest result, but I was able to note that there are also players who have these features who don’t have an easy time with high range.

Recently I came across an interview given by the great high note trumpet player Maynard Ferguson in 1960 where he recounted an experience he had. Continue reading The Non-Relationship Between Gapped Teeth and High Range

An Open Letter to Charlie “hotlipsporter” Porter About Placing On the Red (and his response)

Charlie Porter is a very fine trumpet player.  If you’re not familiar with his playing, you can hear some excellent playing on his YouTube channel or on his web site.  Go ahead and check him out, he’s worth hearing.

Porter has created some instructional videos on YouTube and has made some comments on some of my own embouchure vods, specifically regarding our differing ideas on whether it’s incorrect to place the mouthpiece so that the rim contacts the red of the upper lip.  My point of view is, provided this suits the individual player’s anatomy, this may be the best possible placement for a particular musician.  Porter’s thought is that there are no exceptions to this rule and it is always bad to place the mouthpiece this way.  We’ve had some back and forth about this in the YouTube comments, but with the restrictions placed on how many characters you’re allowed to use in a comment it’s a very poor medium to have an honest intellectual conversation.  In an effort to both explain myself more clearly and also to make this conversation more open and accessible, here then is an open letter to Charlie Porter. Continue reading An Open Letter to Charlie “hotlipsporter” Porter About Placing On the Red (and his response)

Non-Conscious Knowing Or Dancing About Architecture

First, thanks to Lyle Sanford, who blogged about this topic over on his Music Therapy blog and called my attention to an article on Discover Magazine called Your Brain Knows A Lot More Than It Realizes. In this article, neuroscientist David Eagleman notes how much of what we do in life is something that we can perform easily, but are unable to consciously access.  Eagleman writes:

The ability to remember motor acts like changing lanes is called procedural memory, and it is a type of implicit memory—meaning that your brain holds knowledge of something that your mind cannot explicitly access. Riding a bike, tying your shoes, typing on a keyboard, and steering your car into a parking space while speaking on your cell phone are examples of this. You execute these actions easily but without knowing the details of how you do it. You would be totally unable to describe the perfectly timed choreography with which your muscles contract and relax as you navigate around other people in a cafeteria while holding a tray, yet you have no trouble doing it. This is the gap between what your brain can do and what you can tap into consciously.

Lyle notes in his blog post how much the examples in Eagleman’s article can relate to performing music and music therapy.  This got me thinking about how much of what I teach in a variety of music classes (ranging from private lessons to music theory, history, composition, and survey courses for non-musicians) is similar in this respect.  For example, Eagleman’s article points out how dividing baby chicks into genders and spotting and identifying incoming planes in Word War II era England were feats that required a master/apprentice relationship where the student couldn’t receive instructions, but instead needed to get feedback from their mentors. Continue reading Non-Conscious Knowing Or Dancing About Architecture

Appreciating Jazz Podcast Part 5 – Piano Styles

Ragtime, stride, and boogie-woogie were an important influence on early jazz styles and have an enduring impact on music even today.  In this podcast I discuss some of the more notable figures of these three piano styles and talk about some of the musical elements that were adopted by jazz musicians.

You can download this episode by clicking here, by visiting my Podcast page, or subscribe through iTunes.