Used Musical Gear – Why You Might Give a Damn!

This will be about describing the three most important and relevant things that must be in place so that a person can learn and play music and specifically how used musical gear plays a key role. The idea is that we are going to blend the theory with the practice with the instruments. So those are the three things: theory, practice and the instrument.

Accessing the Theory

The theory means why does music work the way it does? It typically is the type of question that an adult will ask you and will want to know, such as the “why this?” and the “why that?” These things are important but they can be learned in a modular online course that has resources and activities like videos on what a major scale consists of or how to form different types of intervals and how to identify them and maybe why they are important. But mostly, this “why material” can all exist as accessible lessons in a course laden with lots of great music theory content.

Attending to Practice

Then there’s the practice part and this part is not about the why but about being able to do something almost at an unconscious or is it subconscious level. Things we do like tying shoes or driving a car. You don’t think anymore about which hand to hold the lace and what goes over what or whatever, you just do it and it’s done. This is our goal when we play music. Practicing music to get our skills into the subconscious can be done using two great iPad apps that don’t cost much and that are really great. These apps are Tenuto and ReadRhythm.

Finding a Musical Instrument

The third part is having a musical instrument to play and this is where knowing about getting used musical gear is great because often a student will want to try something out for awhile and after that trial period may find out that it’s too hard for them or that it doesn’t make the kind of connection that they thought it would.

You shelled out significant cash for a new instrument and you now may be left with something that you no longer need. That’s where a community comes in. And if you are looking to try out an instrument you could purchase one of these used tested quality lower cost instruments and later exchange it for something else. In fact, some communities are happy to do a dollar-for-dollar value exchange based on the published value of the gear.

And those are the three ingredients that must be blended to learn and play music. All the best!

Learning How to Read Music For Piano

It may seem formidable to learn how to read sheet music, but it is well worth the effort. Look at it this way…you were able to learn how to speak without having to read or write. But how much of life would you have missed if you had never learned to read a newspaper, a book, a letter, or read and write a text message?

The same is true for a musician. If you play by ear, you can only learn to play the songs you have heard and are able to remember the melody. If you have taught yourself chording, you can really only accompany other musicians or singers, in a simple way. However, if you can read sheet music, you can play anything.

Sheet music gives you more than just notes that play out a simple melody. It does more than simply supply a few chords and chord progressions. It enables you to play music you have never even heard, in any style…from easy listening, to blues, to jazz, to classical. It helps you grasp the theory of music in general.

The first thing you see on the staff when you look at it are the clefs. The two main ones are treble(usually played by the right hand), and bass (usually played by the left hand). The lines and spaces on the staff are where the notes are placed… in the treble clef the lines are EGBDF (every good boy does fine) and the spaces are FACE. In the bass clef they are GBDFA (good boys don’t fall apart) and ACEG (all cows eat grass). These are read from the bottom upon the staff. See…you are already reading!

Between the clefs you find the key signature, which tells you what key the piece is in and whether certain notes are sharp or flat. The sharp and flat notes are played on the black piano keys and the natural notes are the white keys. If a note is going to change from the original signature, it is indicated with a natural symbol in front of the note. This tells you to eliminate the flat or sharp.

The time signature is located just to the right of the key signature, and it tells you what tempo the music is played in. For example, ¾ time is a standard waltz tempo. This may change throughout the music, and will be indicated by another fraction in front of the next series of notes. The top number tells you how many beats there are in each bar (bars, or measures are separated by vertical lines through the staff). The bottom number tells you what kind of beat gets one beat. There are also rests, which indicate a beat in which no note is played at all.

A period over a note tells you to play it quickly and sharply (staccato), but there are many more terms that give you further instructions. Allegro tells you to play in a lively fashion, legato means slow, and andante means at a walking pace. There are symbols below the staff that indicate when to use the foot pedals.

Like reading a good novel, reading sheet music gives you every aspect of the song, from tempo to mood, from romantic to angry, to soothing.

Can Musical Tones Played in the Ear Help With Gait-Freezing in Parkinson’s Patients?

Parkinson’s Disease is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder. The incidence of Parkinson’s Disease, let’s called it PD for short, is growing rapidly with an aging population. The fundamental cause of PD is the death of nerve cells that produce a chemical called dopamine. The loss of these dopamine producing cells occurs in a part of the brain known generally as the basal ganglia and specifically the substantia nigra.

This part of the brain, the basal ganglia, is known to influence movement and diseases or injury of the basal ganglia produces what are known collectively as movement disorders which include Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by slow movements known as bradykinesia (brady = slow, kinesis = movements), tremor and other signs of abnormal muscle function. One of the more disturbing symptoms that can occur in patients suffering with PD is called freezing of gait.

Voluntary movement takes place in two basic steps. To move we create the intention to move in one part of the brain. Thus one part of the brain plans the movement and the actual movement commands that activate the muscles occur in a different part of the brain. So we plan a movement and that plan is carried out by other circuits in the brain which then execute that plan.

In many patients with Parkinson’s Disease, planned movements like walking have delayed or failed execution. This is called Freezing-of-gait and it can severely diminish the quality of life in a Parkinson’s patient. Although we call this symptom freezing of gait, it can actually occur with any voluntary movement, like reaching for a glass, brushing your hair or getting up from a seated position to stand. It often leaves the Parkinson’s patient unable to initiate a movement or stuck in the middle of a planned action. It should not be hard for you to imagine how freezing might severely diminish a patient’s functional abilities and interfere with his or her daily activities.

Not surprisingly, freezing has also been linked to falls and injuries in PD patients.

The medical treatments for PD include drugs that replace the dopamine that is lost with degeneration of the substantia nigra. As a general rule dopamine replacement therapies are quite effective for patients suffering with PD with two notable exceptions:

  1. They usually are not particularly effective for freezing-type symptoms and
  2. They usually loose their effectiveness over time

A number of research groups believe they have identified the specific part of the brain which malfunctions and causes freezing symptoms in Parkinson’s patients. It is known as the pedunculopontine nucleus (let’s call it the PPN for short) in the brainstem. This has lead to a number of trials of electrical stimulation of the PPN through the use of surgically implanted deep brain electrodes. There are a growing number of reports that suggest that electrical stimulation of the PPN may produce promising results for patients in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease. This technique appears to activate the PPN and results in reduced gait-freezing in patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. While this is a promising surgical procedure, it does however, require brain surgery and all of the associated risks.

If only there was a way to stimulate the PPN in the brainstem non-invasively.

Some recent research suggests that non-surgical PPN stimulation may now be possible. What is even more encouraging is the possibility of stimulating the PNN and reducing freezing through the use of musical tones played through special bone conducting headphones. Let’s see how this might work.

Research has shown that structures in the inner ear called otoliths can be stimulated by tones of highly specific frequencies. These inner ear structures have direct connections with the PPN which as we have discussed are important brainstem structures related to freezing symptoms in Parkinson’s Disease. Stimulating the otoliths with a tone played through special bone-conducting headphones may activate the PPN and has the potential to reduce gait-freezing in patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Other research suggests that neurological rehabilitation and cueing patients with auditory or visual signals can improve freezing symptoms in PD patients. Thus there is the potential to improve freezing of gait through the combination of rehabilitation with auditory cueing using sound frequencies known to stimulate the PPN which is implicated in freezing of gait in PD.

This is very encouraging news for patients suffering from gait freezing associated with Parkinson’s Disease.

Music As A Great Motivator

Ever watch a group of teenagers listening to their music? They are all singing the lyrics in unison as loud as they can. They are motivating each other. We hear the music and suddenly our feet are tapping out the beat. It is not something we consciously do, it just happens. The music takes over our body and soul, so let it. Wherever you go music is always present. We all hear and complain about elevator music, yet we all are humming the tunes. The company Muzak doesn’t put music in elevators for the fun of it or do they. They understand that people get motivated in that cramped quarters and music keeps them occupied. They are making money on pleasing you. Now, that is motivation. Another example of public music is in the grocery store. The customers are always complaining about the old tunes, but there again they are walking around the market and standing in line at the register humming the tunes as if they loved them.

Music gets the body moving and the mind is free to be motivated. While writing this article my music is playing through my computer speakers, energizing me and motivating me to keep on writing. Allow your mind to start thinking and learn to motivate yourself with they help of music. As a child my first motivation that I can recall is watching a movie about a musician, Benny Goodman. This motivated me at the age of 8 to want to play the clarinet. The motivation was so strong that I had to wait one full year before my parents let me take music lessons and I played for 40 years.

Music plays a large part of our lives. Music can make you cry or laugh with joy and even make you feel proud. We all relate to music in some form. Let the music sway you to motivate yourself in very positive ways. We do work harder and better with music. Many years ago a business man who canned pineapples in Hawaii played upbeat music for the employees while they were working. The result was happy people whose production went wild. Motivation through music is great.

Listening to music allows your mind to dream and to motivate. It cannot be stopped. The blood starts flowing and the adrenalin starts pumping and there is the start of your motivation.