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Music and attention

Music develops our attention and concentration in many different way.

Today I’d love to speak about the ability to pay attention to auditory stimuli that musicians’ brain develops and why this is so important.

Our daily life subjects our brains to a huge amount of sound stimuli simultaneously. Our brain performs very complex operations to discriminate the sounds it wants to pay attention to, using cognitive functions related to the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe.

The ability to discriminate sound stimuli allows us, for example, to be able to direct our attention towards the sound of our friend’s voice in a noisy room.

Musicians can discriminate between different auditory stimuli better than non-musicians.

The Kraus lab at Northwestern* performed an EEG study and found that musicians had better auditory attention scores than non-musician counterparts when listening to various sources of speech. The main difference was presented in the musicians’ prefrontal cortex. The latter is often associated with attention and control, as well as personality and values.

The most fascinating part of this study was that the magnitude of the effect correlated to how long the musicians had played music.

People with more years of musical training had a prefrontal cortex that “paid better attention” than people who had less years of musical training. It seemed that people who had spent more time training their brains via musical study had prefrontal cortexes that were better at locking their attention.

Playing music alters the prefrontal cortexes and therefore influences the capabilities to pay attention in other activities in life. Being able to attend to different auditory stimuli can be helpful for a multitude of people; students might better be able to focus in school, sports players might hear each other over the sounds of the stadium and ground crew at airports might be hear orders more accurately over the sound of airplane engines.

So, it seems like the time to recognise the importance of music in our daily life has finally come.


*Strait DL, & Kraus N (2011). Can you hear me now? Musical training shapes functional brain networks for selective auditory attention and hearing speech in noise. Frontiers in psychology, 2 PMID: 21716636

Musicians’ understanding of non-verbal communication

“One of the most interesting characteristics of musicians is their need to precisely anticipate not only what is going to happen, but when.

As the reader anticipate the words whilst reading, so the musician anticipate another musician to play together.

Think for example of a string quartet. When the first violin “gives the signal” to begin, the delays of the rest of the group are all inferior to 10 milliseconds. Moreover, durign the performance, their synchronisation improves.

This ability of anticipation and coordination is absolutely extraordinary, even more if we consider that it’s not just about playing a note together, but also playing it appropriately, with the right expression which is also dependent on the changing context.”*

How does this happen?

Our auditory system is able to synchronises with the temporal structure of the music stimulus, due to its rhythm and regularity.

Not only this, also other areas of our brain synchronise with the music, expecially our motor system.

A musician, to be able to play together, literally learn how to “read” other musicians durign a performance, recognising their littlest movements, their way of breathing and feeling the sounds of music.

“It is important to remember that, despite the age, the practice of music seems to facilitate:

1. the creation of a coherent relationship between the external world and brain activity

2. the communication between the different brain regions.

The consequence of the first aspect is to allow a more precise interpretation of the outside world, in particular the world of sound.

The consequence of the second aspect is more far-reaching, considering that cognition in general seems to depend on the good communication skills of different brain regions, like a good government requires parliamentarians to communicate well with each other.

Beyond our current knowledge, a corollary of these two aspects could be that the practice of music facilitates a common vision of the world around us, through a better synchronization of the brain activities of different individuals, and a better sharing of reality.”*

*D. Schön, “Il cervello musicale. Il mistero svelato di Orfeo”, Il Mulino 2018

Multimodal approach in our Growing with Music sessions

This week, during one of our Growing with Music sessions for 2 to 5-year-old children, Tiziana took inspiration from the book “A hole in the bottom of the sea” to compose the song and play it with many different instruments.

✔️Tiziana and the children listen to the melody with Pam Pam as in the Gordon’s approach;
✔️used the body percussion to learn the rhythm;
✔️composed the lyrics;
✔️played with instruments;

Before that they were pirates sailing in the deep blue ocean, accompanying the listening with natural movement.
Such a cool journey for these children!

WHY PARENTS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT DURING MUSIC CLASSES FOR BABIES?

ENGLISH / ITALIAN

As children grow, our music sessions also change!

These gorgeous children started their music sessions with me when they were 5 months old, their parents brought them to every single class (based on the Gordon’s Music Learning Theory) since when they were curious and happy, little babies.

During these years, these parents have discovered a different way to interact, relax and play with their children, through sounds, rhythms and music. You should hear how they sing during the sessions!

Their children are growing fast and soon they will enter in the music room just with their friends – they will turn 3 soon – so right now we are working on their autonomy and independence, to facilitate this change.

Our classes follow in fact the musical and cognitive development of the children; every session is planned based on their needs, to stimulate not only their musical skills but also their general growth.

Parents are fundamental for us during this process so it’s really important to have them on board during the sessions, enjoying the music activities as much as their children.

WHY PARENTS ARE REALLY IMPORTANT DURING MUSIC CLASSES For BABIES?

They are their children’s reference so everything they do is an example for their children:

  • Everything a parent feels during the class affects their child. If a parent is anxious or doesn’t feel comfortable during the session, this will probably influence their child similarly. If a mum or dad is relaxed, then the baby will feel relaxed too 🙂
  • When parents sing or move to rhythms, they are showing their child how to enjoy music; they’re basically saying “It’s fine, we can sing, dance and move in this space”. This will help their child to feel comfortable, safe and enjoy the session.
  • In our classes, we ask parents to accompany our songs with easy ostinatos (repetitive notes or patterns): in this way children will be surrounded by richer music (called polyphony) that will support children’s musical development.
  • Playing and singing together with other parents is also an amazing example for children to collaborate and work as a team.

ITALIANO

Man mano che i bambini crescono, anche le nostre sessioni musicali cambiano!

Questi stupendi bambini hanno iniziato le loro sessioni musicali con me quando avevano solo cinque mesi, i loro genitori li hanno accompagnati ad ogni singolo incontro (basata sulla Music Learning Theory di Gordon) sin da quando erano dei curiosi piccolissimi

Durante gli anni, questi genitori hanno scoperto un modo diverso di interagire, rilassarsi e giocare con i loro figli, attraverso suoni, ritmi e musica. Dovreste sentire come cantando durante le sessioni!

I bambini stanno crescendo rapidamente e presto entreranno nella stanza della musica solo con i loro amici, senza i genitori – avranno quasi tre anni in Settembre – e ora stiamo lavorando sulla loro autonomia e indipendenza, per facilitare questo passaggio.

Le nostre lezioni seguono infatti lo sviluppo musicale e cognitivo dei bambini; ogni sessione è pianificata in base alle loro esigenze, per stimolare non solo le loro abilità musicali ma anche la loro crescita generale.

I genitori sono fondamentali per noi durante questo processo, quindi è molto importante per noi che siano coinvolti durante gli incontri, godendosi le attività musicali tanto quanto i loro bambini.

PERCHÉ I GENITORI SONO DAVVERO IMPORTANTI DURANTE LE CLASSI DI MUSICA PER I BAMBINI?

Sono i riferimenti dei loro figli, quindi tutto ciò che fanno è un esempio per i loro bambini:

  • Tutto ciò che i genitori sentono durante la lezione condiziona i loro bambini. Se un genitore è ansioso o non si sente a suo agio durante la sessione, probabilmente influenzerà suo figlio in modo simile. Se una mamma o un papà sono rilassati, allora anche il bambino si sentirà rilassato.
  • Quando i genitori cantano, tengono il tempo o rispondono in maniera musicale, stanno mostrando al loro bambino come godersi la musica; stanno praticamente dicendo: “È tutto ok, possiamo cantare, ballare e muoverci in questo spazio”. Ciò aiuterà il loro bambino a sentirsi a proprio agio, sicuro e a godersi la sessione.
  • Nei nostri corsi, chiediamo ai genitori di accompagnare i brani con facili ostinati (note o pattern ripetuti): in questo modo i bambini saranno circondati da musica più ricca (chiamata polifonia) che supporterà lo sviluppo musicale dei bambini.
  • Giocare e cantare insieme ad altri genitori è anche un meraviglioso esempio di collaborazione e lavorare di squadra.

Caterina, our new piano teacher

Today we want to introduce you one of our new piano teacher, Caterina Toso!
She will start with us from September but she will be available for the trial sessions from June.

She is an amazing pianist from Italy and she will teach piano to all levels, starting from the youngest children with the Suzuki Method (but not only that!).

Read more about her amazing music CV:

Caterina has been playing the piano for more than twenty years. She graduated in piano
with highest grades and honours at the Conservatorio “A. Vivaldi” of Alessandria (Italy). Here she also obtained a Master Degree in Piano Performance with highest grades and honours at the age of 22. During her studies she took part to many national and international competitions where she placed in the top three positions and in 2010 she was chosen to be part of the “Study Abroad” project which allowed her to attend “Hugh Hodgson School of Music” (Georgia University – Athens, GA, USA).

Following the professional path she had the chance to study with important pianists (such as
Bruno Canino, Pascal Rogé, Benedetto Lupo, Folke Greasbeck, …) and to perform both as a soloist and in ensemble formations in several cities in the north of Italy, France and Rome in Parco della Musica. In 2016 she perfected her skills with M° Roberto Plano at the “Accademia Musicale Varesina” (Varese – Italy).


Caterina has been teaching the piano for almost ten years, both to children and adults. In order to deliver a natural and entertaining teaching style she became a certified teacher in Suzuki and Willems method. She has also explored Gordon’s Music Learning Theory through workshops held at Highbury Park Music.
In 2018 she collaborated on a very unique project called “AMI” (Inclusive Music Activity) that helps people with physical and mental disabilities express and connect playing in small orchestras.