Brooklyn Piano Lessons
Test – Brooklyn Piano Lessons
Inspiring Musicians & Building Community
Test – Brooklyn Piano Lessons
When school is out – making music is IN! We have your child’s day off of school covered with an amazing camp experience at our School’s Out Songwriting Camp. Join an inspiring music community for a day! During all public school holidays this year Brooklyn Music Factory is offering full day camps in brooklyn for kids to experience a fun environment of engaging with music on their days off from school.
Brooklyn Music Factory is once again back in action for a rockin’ brooklyn day camp experience. We have condensed our the curriculum from our Summer Music Camps to bring the summer fun and musical learning of our camps to Brooklyn year round. At Brooklyn Music Factory’s School’s Out Songwriting Camp, kids ages 4-11 join bands and spend their days writing songs, playing music games, and more in our fully equipped studios. All campers are placed into bands based on their age, sparking their creative expression, as well as growing their collaborative and emotional skills.
The focus of our Songwriting Camp is to introduce campers to the fundamentals of storytelling through a very hands-on creative environment. The proven, game-based curriculum which we use in our private lessons is used here to pack the process of writing a song with fun activities that teach vital musical skills like rhythm, melody, and harmony. These games are designed for accessible and easy learning of musical skills, making the process of learning different kinds of notes, intervals, and chords exciting for everyone, and not a methodical bore looking at sheet music.
At the beginning of the camp day, everyone is broken up into bands based on campers ages. These bands form the bedrock of the camp experience. After agreeing on a band name, campers will gain musical skills as a group, practicing some foundational skills in rhythm and melody as they get to know one another. These skills are then used in the creation of the song the group writes together. A large brainstorming session will help the band write their first couple lyrics, then instruments are added around the lyrics and melody to harmonize as a group.
Another key part of our music day camp community building are our daily trips outdoors. Campers will travel to our neighborhood park everyday and, weather permitting, enjoy free time in the park with fresh air and outdoor adventures. On sunny days, we will also take lunch outside and utilize the time outside to relax before returning to rehearsal and eventually performing. These daily trips really help our campers get their creative juices flowing, as well as give them time to socialize and build connections outside of their band.
The songwriting component of camp is not only a central part of the work that Brooklyn Music Factory does, but is also a central part of the camp community. Brooklyn day camp musically culminates in performances by each band, as they share their original songs for all of camp. This is where some of the meaningful community which camp creates is especially present. Students get the opportunity to offer positive feedback about the song they heard, lifting up the creativity and musical skill of their peers. We will also share those camp songs with our campers parents to show off their hard work!
Our School’s Out Camp, like our Summer Camp, runs from 9 am to 3pm. These camp hours mirror a day of school and, like many school programs, we also offer an extended day session that runs from 3pm to 6pm. These extended hours give campers more opportunities to hang out with our excellent staff, engaging in hands-on-activities that continue all the fun from earlier in the day.
Songwriting Camp is open to kids of all skill levels and is a great introduction into the approach of Brooklyn Music Factory. Camp sessions are designed to be accessible to students with a wide spectrum of musical skills. Over the course of one day of camp, students will have the opportunity to jam in our fully equipped music studios. The fun environment of our camp bands is helps campers break down barriers and meet new people. Performing as a band takes teamwork and collaboration. The valuable life skills campers learn at Brooklyn Music Factory will continue to foster growth in our campers, meaning the learning from school students amass doesn’t have to stop becase of a day off.
Not only is our full day camp in brooklyn space a safe one to learn, grow, and collaborate, it is also an amzing place for campers to make friends and develop long-lasting friendships. Bandmates open up to one another throughout the creative process, and bond over the shared experiences of practicing rhythms, learning harmonies, and making intruiging melodies. The structured team-building actvities and collective musical learning that takes place during rehearsals make camp an amazing place to forge strong connections that last from school break to school break, and longer.
Our staff of musical educators are made up of the Brooklyn Music Factory private lesson teachers. Seasoned in fostering creative expression during their weekly sessions, our teachers make songwriting camp accessible for everyone from seasoned musicians to absolute beginners. Our staff are also the same ones who teach during Brooklyn Music Factory’s summer music camps, where they lead an exciting week of music and are fully prepared to fill what would’ve been a day of school with a day of fun! They are well-versed in teaching children ages 4-11 from all musical backgrounds, and work seamlessly together to facilitate a rockin’ day of camp!
Our camp dates mirror the schedule of New York Public Schools. Our upcoming music camps are largely one-day camps. For our Winter Music Camp and our Spring Music Camp, which coincide with Winter and Spring breaks, we offer week-long camps which span a four day period during those school breaks. Long or short, our day camp schedule is built to meet the needs of the most families as possible.
Where Are We?
For Fall 2022 our camps will take place at Battalion Studios, which is at 175 6th Street, Brooklyn NY 11215. Our campers write and perform in the fully-equipped spaces at Battalion Studios, which are used later in the day by local and professional musicians as they rehearse and record. Our after-school pick-up will take place at the Fall ’22 BMF Studio located at 540 President Street, Brooklyn NY 11215.
Starting in early 2023, all of the Schools Out Songwriting Day Camps in Brooklyn will move to 497 Carroll Street, Brooklyn NY 11215, which is the new home of Brooklyn Music Factory. The rehearsal and community spaces here are truly state-of-the-art students will have the opportunity to perform on a stage.
Our facilities in Gowanus are located to serve nearby communities in Brooklyn, with easy access available for those in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Downtown Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Heights. We’re proud to offer full day camps in Brooklyn and we can’t wait to see you on your next day off of school!
PIANO, GUITAR, UKULELE, DRUMS, VOICE, & BASS
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We provide families an alternative to the traditional piano lessons for teens. Our unique, game-based teaching methods spark a love for music and build the skills to compose and create original music. The one-on-one piano lessons for teens form strong bonds between teacher and student, and focus on organically developing students musical ear, training proper piano technique on the instrument, and learning essential like music reading skills. Lesson time frequently utilizes our engaging and proven game-based curriculum that accessibly teaches music with the aim of rapidly developing musical skills. The transformative musical experience our private lessons for teens offer the perfect for all aspiring piano students.
Our music curriculum uses an ears-first methodology, where the basics of music theory are first taught by ear. We teach four key musical fluencies: rhythm, melody, harmony, and songwriting. Across all of our lessons, these four skills are developed over the entire course of our students’ time at Brooklyn Music Factory. Our piano teachers expand that solid foundation of aural skills as they teach notation, key signatures, and chord progressions – the standard for jazz, rock, and pop music.
Brooklyn Music Factory students are also guided in writing their own, original pieces of music. This is an essential part of our teaching method from our beginner piano lessons for teens all the way to our most advanced skill levels. Producing unique and original music is allows our teenage students to creatively utilize what they have learned, instilling what they have learned through creating their own, complex pieces of music. Our students then have the opportunity to perform these songs at gigs – our version of piano recitals.
Beyond building a background in music theory, development of proper technique, and creating original music pieces, our students play music together regularly. Connecting and communicating with others through music is an integral part of our teaching method, and builds meaningful skills for our teen students. Through our strong community and playing gigs, our students widen their network of supportive fellow musicians and role models.
Brooklyn Music Factory provides ample opportunities to build additional skills outside of the piano studio or the performance stage. Our teaching platform, BMF Connect, allows students the opportunity for daily practice at home. Integrating class fun into family life continues the development of technique by getting more study time weekly, without demanding an excessive time commitment.
Our private lessons are available for 30, 45, and 60 minutes each week. We also offer the opportunity for students to play in bands in addition to their private lessons.
Playing music together is a key part of our curriculum for our older students. Students will be guided in how to assemble a band, how to find music which mutually highlights different skills, and how to create music for multiple instruments. This upper echelon of music programming makes our musical experience truly exceptional as it gives students the tools to organize and create musical performances on their own.
We think everyone should be able to make and share music. Our students have the freedom to choose which songs and genres they are most passionate about, and learn the essentials of rhythm, harmony, melody, and songwriting.
Our music lessons build four musical fluencies: rhythm, melody, harmony, and songwriting. Our game-based approach allows all of these skills to be taught in engaging ways. A keyboard student may develop the skill of rhythm by playing beats on a drum, then would play the same rhythms on the piano. Beyond these musical skills, we push our students to be more independent through their musical development.
Our beginner lessons focus on gaining musicianship and developing a deep understanding of music through the keyboard. These lessons foster a wide musical development that builds foundational, technical piano lessons for teens to improve skills alongside a holistic development of musical skills. Advanced lessons rely on the same musical and technical skills which our beginner lessons foster and use those skills working towards technical mastery of the piano and a robust understanding of musical theory. This musical development in service of collaborative performances. The advanced keyboard lessons breed musically independent students who have the skills to deepen their passions through collaboration.
Our private lessons occur over the course of a school year, during which there will be 34 sessions. Sessions are available in 30, 45, and 60 minute increments. These private lessons are one-on-one meetings which will include warm-ups and music theory games from our curriculum. Students put their musical skills into practice as they compose their own, original songs. Not only do our students gain the confidence to read and play music, they are also taught how to take a songs from being a few notes and an idea to a fully fleshed out piece of music that they can perform. The work in these lessons culminate in “gigs” where students from across Brooklyn Music Factory share their work from the semester.
Lessons for our teen students give offer magnificent, structured opportunities for musical collaboration. Beyond the benefits of learning music, the strong collaborative element of Brooklyn Music Factory allows students to gain independence and grow life skills of collaboration and communication through the process of learning their instrument.
In addition to our transformative piano program for teens, we also offer piano lessons for people of all ages. If you’re looking to see more about the rest of the programming we offer, you can Learn More here!
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Here are some of our private lesson students performing at their gigs:
2022-23 School Year Pricing!
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In teaching thousands of music lessons for kids over the years, a question we get a LOT at Brooklyn Music Factory is, “Will my child learn how to read music?” The short answer to that question is “yes”. But there’s a longer answer too—one that gets to the bottom of how and why we teach music the way we do. So yes, your child will learn to read music. But they’ll learn many other essential music skills as well. Read on for more from BMF co-founder Nate.
Let’s take a moment to sketch out what’s actually happening when a piano player sits down to play a song at the piano.
(Surprise: Observers often can’t tell, but different musicians use different approaches to playing music—and sometimes the same musician will use different approaches during the same song!)
The pianist memorizes the hand positions for every chord and then relies on muscle memory to play the song. The musician can literally play the song paying as little attention as you and I do to brush our teeth. They’re relying entirely on muscle memory.
We call this a body-first approach. The pianist doesn’t need any brain power to play the song, and they may not even be listening. (If they are listening, they are likely simply enjoying the music—just like the audience is.) The key is that the pianist’s body knows what to do so well that the pianist doesn’t have to pay attention.
In music lessons for kids, students develop “body-first” skills through repetition and drills.
The pianist quiets their inner ear and waits for the song, the melody, to start inside their head. Then they translate the song in their head to the piano by playing chord progressions and melodies. In real time, the pianist is translating from the music they hear to playing it on the instrument, minimizing mistakes by continuing to play, never stopping, even when the hands hit the wrong piano key.
Pianists in piano bars are true masters of this technique. When a visitor requests a song—one the pianist doesn’t know well or isn’t in their repertoire—the pianist goes to the library of songs in their head and tries to remember or ‘hear’ the one being requested. The pianist probably remembers some key elements of the song and then just dives into their own rendition. They make some “mistakes” —most of which the audience doesn’t notice—but the same rule applies from the body-first approach. The pianist never stops, making the song look easy, even though they are drawing on a ton of skill to play.
We call this an ear-first approach, though the musician also needs to use their brain a lot to be able to figure out a song on the spot like that. To translate a song into chords and an actual melody, a musician needs lots of understanding and analysis. The body actually doing what the brain has figured out is the last step.
At BMF, our music lessons for kids include LOTS of music games—where students gradually develop strong ears and listening skills.
In the final approach, the pianist places a piece of sheet music on the music stand and, after a brief glance, launches into song. Many or most people believe musicians rely on this skill more than any other. (And it’s why so many parents ask if their kids will learn to read music in their lessons.) In fact, as a musician grows and matures, strengthening their ears along the way, they need the brain-first approach less and less to play. Let’s look at why.
In the brain-first approach, the body and ear take a backseat. Instead, the brain looks at all the symbols on that piece of sheet music (notes, rests, chords, lyrics, etc.), makes sense of what they see there, and then, depending on how familiar they are with the song and all the patterns on that piece of sheet music), start playing automatically! Again, sight reading can kinda seem like magic!
The hurdle for students who learn with the brain-first (or brain-only) approach is that they often spend little to no time developing their ears. In other words, the pianist never really hears the music. Instead, they can’t actually listen to what their hands are playing because they are concentrating so hard just to translate the notes on the page.
When music lessons for kids focus on brain first, ie., “reading music” at the expense of listening to music, those kids often grow into adults who cannot remember a thing that they learned in those early lessons. Sound familiar?
At Brooklyn Music Factory, students learn to listen AND to read.
Want to try your first lesson free? Learn more HERE!
P.S. And you can always try out our music games for free at home on BMFTV!
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we’ve made music games for kids a cornerstone of the curriculum.
Kids hopping from one poly spot to another. Koosh balls being thrown at a happy face or a sad face. Chord dice being rolled on the floor.
If you walked into a Brooklyn Music Factory classroom, it is highly likely you would see at least one of the above activities happening. Could be in a band class or a private guitar lesson. And if this seems a bit different than the piano lesson you took as a kid, it’s because it is. In fact, our curriculum will probably feel radically different.
One of the questions people ask us more often than any other is: “Why do you play so many music games for kids in your classes? And what exactly is a BLAM game, anyway?!”
We play games in our music classes for one simple reason: they work. We have played music games for kids with thousands of students since we opened 10 years ago and they are incredibly effective at teaching the concepts (the music fluencies) we believe all students need to know and to play in a band. This type of game play is called “deceptive learning” and it remains the most effective tool we have found, especially for ages 4-11.
Games are fun, and fun is highly motivating. When they start, kids want one thing and one thing only from their lessons: fun. (Ideally, they’re having fun with other kids too, not just their teacher!)
Important: The goal of music lessons for kids is NOT just to get good at an instrument, at least not at first. The instrument is just the ticket to making lessons fun, and making lessons fun is CRUCIAL to kids wanting to continue music lessons. (And not quitting, like a lot of parents did when they were kids!)
We call our music games for kids “BLAM” games, which is short for Big Lessons About Music. What exactly makes a lesson BIG, you ask?
We split our games into four categories: Melody, Harmony, Rhythm & Songwriting. (You can read more about BLAM games in this blog post.) Over time, these games teach important lessons musicians need to know.
For example, they’ll develop focused and strong listening skills and they’ll learn the building blocks of songwriting and composition, otherwise known as music theory.
Musicians are like athletes. And like athletes, they need both great body awareness (developing fine motors skills) AND a sharp mind (knowing what to do with those fine motor skills under extreme conditions). At Brooklyn Music Factory, we use music games to help kids develop mind awareness. That mind practice is broken into games for strengthening ears and strengthening theory. (The body practice, while not simple execution, is much simpler to understand, because it’s what most people think of when they think of musicians. It’s the technique a musician uses to play the instrument. Students build their body practice through skill and technique practice.
We believe adding games to music lessons is not only fun, it’s essential to helping kids learn–no matter what type of lesson it is!
Want to try out some of our music games for kids at home? Our team of dedicated music teachers have created an entire library of free music games for kids of all ages on BMFTV. Try one out today!
Whether you teach private lessons or music in the classroom, our music games can add a HUGE dose of fun to your lesson plans. Explore music games for kids of all ages on BMFTV!
We play lots of games– at Brooklyn Music Factory—we call them BLAM (that’s short for Big Lessons About Music) games. Melody Memory Maker is one of our online music theory games for kids, and it’s fun, creative and inspiring.
Read on to learn more about Melody Memory Maker from Nate, BMF co-founder—and prolific game creator!
All of Brooklyn Music Factory’s in-person and online music theory games, including Melody Memory Maker, are designed to challenge kids from age four to 17! With fifteen levels—broken into three groups—Melody Memory Maker is a game that a young musician can spend years playing, developing their skills all along the way.
Kids ages four to eight start at level one, playing the game by singing or on a keyboard. (So no instrument required!) Then kids ages nine to 12 move on the intermediate series—levels six through 10. And then finally, kids ages 13 and up are ready to work on the really advanced levels, 11 through 15, which are perfect for pre college and college students. Advancing from level to level and group to group can take years. That’s the whole point.
Brooklyn Music Factory is an accelerated ear training and theory program, so we’ve created online music theory games for each age group and kids can move at the pace that’s best for them.
I’m going to explain what a student will learn when they play this game, and I’m going to explain it with an analogy. Oftentimes, we describe music as a language. Just like we build fluency in spoken languages—English, Spanish, Mandarin, etc.—we can also build fluency in the language of music. Melody Memory Maker is a tool that teaches and develops one specific music fluency: melody.
What is melody? Simply defined, melodies are notes that are played one after another. So, when you think about a melody, picture a horizontal line of music. One note after another after another. Melodies can be broken up into short little phrases or motifs, like bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum or dot, dot, dot, dot. And those phrases can be strung together to create longer and longer melodies.
Melody Memory Maker introduces students to the concept of listening to a melody deeply, as it moves horizontally through time. Melody Memory Maker always starts with one note, and then adds another note, and another and another and another, gradually stretching the student’s musical focus, and specifically their melodic focus. Can they hear a melody that’s getting longer and longer and longer, and remember that melody, be able to sing or play the melody back on a keyboard, guitar or bass?
Brooklyn Music Factory uses what we call an “ear before eye” approach, meaning we want our students to be comfortable learning with their ears. Why? Because music is an aural art form meant to be listened to. Learning how to listen better and with more focus, and ultimately being moved by what you hear, is essential for musicians.
Melody Memory Maker challenges students as young as four to listen really intently to a set of pitches in a specific order. Melodies move in specific orders and follow patterns, and this online music theory game teaches students from a very young age to begin to hear and recognize melodic patterns in music.
Now, the focus part of Melody Memory Maker is a skill that is essential for playing and collaborating with other musicians. As we mature as musicians—regardless of the instrument we play—we are learning how to focus on the other instruments in the band. Sometimes we need to focus on the singer, and what they are singing, in order to know exactly what we’re supposed to do on the piano. And conversely, sometimes the singer needs to focus entirely on the melody being played by the guitar player to know when to start singing.
Melody Memory Maker really helps musicians learn and understand the power of focus. The game stretches the student’s focus and, as they pass each level, the game asks the musician to listen a little bit more closely. And a little bit longer.
Melody Memory Maker reminds me of the game Simon. Remember that awesome game where you had four colors and four buttons to push? Melody Memory Maker is like Simon on steroids. It gets more and more complex, meaning there are more and more buttons and more and more colors that students need to follow and remember. Think of melodies as combinations of different colors. Melody Memory Maker asks students to remember the colors in a very specific order in a specific pattern, and those patterns get harder and harder with each level.
Melody Memory Maker reminds every musician that there are two key skills that they’re developing around melody.
Number one: They’re beginning to hear melodic patterns and recognize the shapes of the melodies. I don’t need to see the music on a page, because I can hear it and know how to translate what I’m hearing to my instrument. Being able to do that allows two musicians to have a much more fluid “conversation” when they play together. When they share a vocabulary—in this case, melodic patterns—they can converse quickly and easily.
Number two: Melody Memory Maker helps a musician learn to focus for the entire length of a song. The average pop song is about three to five minutes long. That may not seem like a long time for you, but, for a four or five year old, focusing for more than 30 seconds on a melody or a rhythm or a harmony is asking a lot. Melody Memory Maker slowly stretches a musician’s focus so they are ultimately capable of being 100% engaged for the entire three or five or 10 minutes of a song.
What if you’re doing great at Melody Memory Maker? You’ve passed all five beginning levels, and you’re moving into the intermediate levels?
You can always couple Melody Memory Maker with another online music theory game like Rhythm Song Scribe or Complete the Composition. With Rhythm Song Scribe, you’re combining your ability to hear patterns of melodies with your ability to hear rhythms or lengths of pitches. Picture melodies as combinations of colors. How long does that color orange last before it goes to the color blue?
In Complete the Composition, the teacher plays a short melodic idea, and then challenges the student to answer with their own melodic idea. The game encourages the student to listen to the teacher play a melodic pattern and then improvise or compose their own melodic pattern in response. That’s asking the student to hear the pitches or colors in patterns in the teacher’s melody and to stay focused long enough to respond with their own.
We think of BLAM games in terms of the categories or music fluencies that they strengthen—melody, harmony, rhythm and songwriting. Our musicians play different BLAM games to develop different fluencies, learning how to combine and build on them along the way.
So, rather than thinking, “I want to complete all 15 levels of Melody Memory Maker,” we instead try to make sure that our students are growing in all four fluencies at the same pace. So, as a student passes level five of Melody Memory Maker, we’re also working with them to pass level five of Wait a Second or Rhythm Song Scribe or Beat Detective.
There are so many games to build melody, harmony, rhythm and songwriting fluencies, and we want our students to always work on fluencies in all four categories.
At Brooklyn Music Factory, we believe a Musician’s Journey should last seven to 10 years. So when a student starts a MiniKeys class with us at age four and plays Melody Memory Maker, or any one of our other Big Music Games, we think, “How are we going to help this student grow musically for seven to 10 years, before they head out into the world on their own as songwriters and collaborators and confident creatives?”
The most important thing to keep in mind with these games is that they are leveled very intentionally to last seven to 10 years. Our students love these games because they’re really, really fun and engaging to play. Most importantly, from our standpoint as we develop the curriculum, we want students to keep playing games every single year, year after year, so that they’re always strengthening their fluencies as musicians and communicators. We don’t want them—three or four years into their journey—to get hyper-focused on just becoming a really good technician on an instrument. We want to make sure that the student is always balancing music fluency with technical ability.
An easy way to think about this is when we’re learning a language, whatever language it is, we want to always be building a vocabulary and we want to share that vocabulary in group contexts. We’re not just technically capable on an instrument. We also understand what we’re playing on the instrument and are able to hear it in our head. We call that the “inner ear.” At each stage of growth over those seven to 10 years, we want students to be able to hear a sound, and then go straight to their instrument, and realize that sound on their instrument. Our students can do that because they understand and have categorized all of these amazing melodies and chord progressions and lyrical ideas, the rhyming patterns and song forms.
As they grow as musicians, they are constantly building these fluencies and developing an understanding of what they all mean and how to apply them on their instruments. Ultimately, they can use their instrument to collaborate with other musicians and be creative in their community.
Music teachers around the world play our online music theory games and ask all the time, “How do I implement this into my lesson plan? Are BLAM games appropriate for a classical program? Does the approach work if I teach only bluegrass?”
Our lesson architecture is structured very simply, and every single one of our classes or private lessons always includes at least one fluency game, and usually just one. So, for example, if I’m teaching a private piano lesson to an intermediate student, I will start with an improvisation game called “A Free and Easy Duet.” That’s just five minutes to say hello, using the language of music, to see how they’re doing and communicate without words.
Then I move straight from the improvisation into a fluency, BLAM or Big Music Game. The game, such as Melody Memory Maker, will last about 10 minutes, and then I’ll move into the song the student is learning or composing. If I’m working with a student on melody, then Melody Memory Maker feeds perfectly into an exercise where the student has to compose their own melody. Or maybe a piano player is learning how to solo over certain chords. I’ll use Melody Memory Maker as a starting point to talk about specific scales or melodic patterns they can use.
Finally, I always have the same simple intention: to meet the student where they are in their journey with melody, rhythm, harmony, or songwriting. I’ll challenge the student to work on melody or work on harmony or work on rhythm and get a little bit more comfortable, and a little bit more confident, being able to hear sound. I encourage them to analyze the sound using their musical mind, and then apply it to their instrument.
Want to try out some of our online music theory games? Play for free on BMFTV! It’s super easy to login and there are tons of games for all ages–even adults.
P.S. BMFTV is a great free resource for music teachers!!
You’ve probably seen or heard your child talking about playing musical games during their lessons, winning Big Music Game’s badges as they pass each level. Or maybe you’ve seen other kids with BMG badges (stickers) covering their lesson binders….maybe even stuck on their guitar case or even their forehead!
What do those stickers even mean?!
Big Music Games are ear training and music theory games and they’re woven into every lesson and every class at Brooklyn Music Factory. At Brooklyn Music Factory, students play these educational music games—regardless of the musical instruments they play or where they are on their musical journey—to learn music theory, grow communication skills and have fun with music!
Along the way, students acquire Big Music Game badges for several reasons:
Parents need to trust their child’s school, trust their teacher, and trust the plan. That goes for their music school and their music teacher as well, but stick with me!
I remember how shocking it was when I first sat in on my own daughter’s language arts class and the teacher explained the strategy called “Inventive Spelling”.
In a nutshell, the rationale behind Inventive Spelling is that letting a child decide the spelling of words in the beginning, even if the spelling is “wrong,” encourages them to write a LOT from the start, even if their language skills are just developing and they don’t yet know how to spell “correctly”. (In other words: We don’t tell toddlers not to speak until their language and grammar are perfect. Why prevent them from writing while they’re still learning how to spell?)
Writing a lot and writing early ultimately makes kids better writers and better readers. Why? Because kids (and adults) lose confidence and feel discouraged when corrected a lot. They stop wanting to do the one thing, writing, that they need to do to become better writers.
At first, it was really tough for me to accept that I needed to let my daughter misspell when doing her homework. But over time I came to understand that experience builds confidence, and people need to feel confident to be willing to learn and grow. Once my daughter believed in herself as a writer, she was ready and willing to learn different—aka, the correct—spelling from her teachers.
To believe in Inventive Spelling I needed to understand the why behind all of my child’s uncorrected ‘misspellings’ in her writing. Once I understood the path she was on to becoming a strong writer—and that this curriculum had been proven to work over and over again—I became a believer. My daughter has gone on to become a voracious reader and writer. In fact, she is now in her third year of college.
At Brooklyn Music Factory we take a similar approach, designing music games for kids and music players of all ages. We have seen that a fun first approach builds confidence and musical skills. And our Big Music Games teach the fluency of musicianship.
We play these interactive music games online and in person, and they fall into one of the four essential building blocks of rock and pop music. (They are actually the building blocks of all genres of music, but we focus on contemporary music at Brooklyn Music Factory.)
Melody music games, like Wait A Second, challenge students’ listening skills so they learn to hear the distance between two notes. (Musicians measure distance in sounds.)
When a musician recognizes the distance from a C to an E by ear, she can then translate that information to her instrument and use motor skills to repeat back the melody. Musicians with strong listening skills can actually hear the notes they see on a page, rather than simply reading the notes.
In music pedagogy, educators call this an “ear before eye” approach. The Suzuki method is another well known ear before eye approach, though that one focuses on Classical music.
“Suzuki students learn to play music before they learn to read it – just as a child will speak their first words long before they learn to read them. Suzuki students generally won’t begin reading music until they’re reading words fairly fluently, usually about 7 or 8 years old.”
-Suzuki Method School’s Blog Post
If melody is the horizontal part of music, harmony is the vertical one. Our harmony music games, like Major/Minor, challenge students to hear three or more notes at the same time.
Chords support melodies, and chords can move in progressions. So BLAM games played at our Students at our Brooklyn music school start by playing BLAM games that ask them to listen for a single chord quality (is it happy, meaning major, OR is it sad, meaning minor) and graduate to games asking students to hear one chord moving to another and then another. When students hear a chord quality and a harmonic rhythm, they then start to understand why they are learning how to play so many chords (on piano or guitar). They begin to listen more actively and hear MORE when they play music. And it all starts by playing music games!
If melody is the horizontal part of music, harmony is the vertical one. By playing fun music games, like Major/Minor, students are challenged to hear three or more notes at the same time.
Chords support melodies, and chords move in progressions. So students both online and at our Brooklyn music school start by playing BLAM games that ask them to listen for a single chord quality (is it happy, meaning major, OR is it sad, meaning minor) and then graduate to games that teach them to hear one chord moving to another and then another. When students hear a chord quality and a harmonic rhythm, they then start to understand why they are learning to play so many chords (on piano or guitar). They begin to listen more actively and to hear MORE when they play music or listen to their favorite songs. And it all starts by playing fun games!
FUN FACT: Musicians can learn to hear what they will be playing on an instrument—whether they’re writing their own music composition or reading notes and chords on pieces of paper—before they even play it!! And this is what inspires them to WANT to play an instrument. They anticipate or imagine a sound, and then make that sound happen on their own instrument.
Musicians often talk about their inner ear versus their outer ear.
Inner Ear is that melody you keep humming that you can’t get out of your head.. It lives inside your head…Think of your favorite (or most annoying!) ad jingle. “State Farm is There” or “The Simp-sons”
The Outer Ear is what we think of when we think of listening. We literally hear an external sound (or harmony or melody) and then, if we hear it often enough (and it makes a big enough impression on us). we process it, remember it and it moves to our inner ear.
Music games (Big Music Games!) can be played on different musical instruments—or on no instrument at all—and focus on repetition and processing, while always trying to maximize the fun factor.
In rhythm music games like Groove Puzzler, students get to dive into notes of different lengths and combinations, starting with basic rhythms and ultimately learning how those notes form grooves.
We have found that rhythm is the #1 place to start when giving musicians the tools they need to play with others in a band—regardless of the musical instrument they play. Groove, groove, groove! It’s both the MOST fun and the MOST important. At least it feels that way in the beginning. Rhythm and groove are like the glue that binds melody and harmony together.
Groove Puzzler is a fun music game for kids that challenges the player to listen for patterns in rhythm and then put the note values in the correct order, left to right, to recreate that pattern. Kids love this music game, online or in person! And what they don’t realize is that they are actually learning how to read rhythms, in addition to listening to and transcribing them.
The final Big Music Game category is songwriting. One of my favorite songwriting music games is Word Beat. Word Beat challenges the player to listen to the words and syllables in the lyrics of a song and place them correctly within a measure of music. By “correctly,” I mean accurately placing each syllable where it falls in the rhythm sequence.
Take a familiar song like “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream”. In Word Beat, the game asks the player to count in their head and decide if the first “row” lands on beat #1 or beat #2 of the measure of music. Simple songs and simple rhythms like this one teach essential listening skills and the basics of music.
Why is this type of music knowledge SO important? For starters, kids get to listen to words and then drag them around the screen, either during in-person music lessons or online music lessons. They are addicted to this simple game!! So just from a focused listening point of view, Word Beat is a hit. In addition, this music game actually teaches the musician to realize how a song’s lyrics influence the overall groove or rhythm of the song.
Along the way, kids start to view lyrics differently. Lyrics are more than the story a song tells; they are a key element of the composition!
Really smart musicians (those with advanced music fluency) use lyrics to trigger the part of the song they are playing on their instrument. For example, a drummer might know that every time “row” is sung, he is going to play his bass drum with his foot. OR a guitar player might listen for lyrics to recognize when exactly to switch from a G chord to a C chord. Word Beat and other music games for kids teach growing musicians to be more in touch with the story, aka the lyrics of a song, as they apply to the entire arrangement.
Here is great comment from a video for pro drummers on how to learn a song (and make a chart) in just 10 minutes:
“I think most drummers have their own way of “charting” songs? Personally, I do like a lot of what others are saying. I’ll print the lyrics out and make notes where things will need to change, or where a fill starts and stops, pauses, builds up, etc. directly over the word where whatever needs to happen in the song. Having the lyrics also helps me memorize the song a lot faster as well.”-Randy Cooke, Drummer (Drumeo)
Big Music Games are so much more than simply games we play to have fun. These music games provide a holistic approach to nurturing the entire musician and encouraging them to lead with their ears and find joy at every one of the 15 levels.
Do Big Music Games get hard for our students? Yes.
Are Big Music Games leveled by age? Yes.
Do some students move more quickly than others thorough levels? Of course!
How long does it take a student to get through all 15 levels? As long it needs to!
Whether your child is taking piano lessons in Brooklyn, learning guitar on her own at home, or studying classical voice in Chicago, playing BLAM games can–and will!–level up their musical mind!
Check out our library of fun and FREE music games on BMFTV! There are BLAM games and fun music activities for all ages–even adults!
Click HERE to learn more about BMFTV and explore tons of free games!
Have fun playing!!
What does Lebron James have to do with music education? Why, you ask, is he my musical hero?
It’s simple. Musicians are like athletes because—just like athletes—they need both body awareness (fine motors skills) AND sharp minds (knowing what to do with those fine motor skills under extreme conditions) to excel at their craft.
Lebron James—a power forward who can shoot three-point shots like a guard and plow through the lane, scoring at will—is my musical hero because he, better than most, can show us how to do it.
Lebron embodies what all great musicians strive for:
In short, Lebron has what every mature musician needs:
Even more important? At the foundation of Lebron’s skill and ability is an infectious level of passion for both the pursuit (the learning process) and the product (the game itself) of his sport.
So let’s draw a few comparisons between Lebron James and music… and how exactly this thinking can be applied to music education. I like to break it down into three categories of learning:
We’ll start here because it’s the most visible piece of the puzzle and is probably the easiest one for most people to understand at first.
Music Body = Technique
Technique is everything from the ability to strum a chord progression in multiple keys to the ability to play three different scales during a guitar solo. Here is the key… Knowing how to play that chord progression, while also staying aware of how your body feels, is what ultimately makes it possible to maintain technique for long stretches of time (like the length of an entire show or recital).
This is the theory (or the building blocks) behind those chords and scales that you executed with that technique. The Music Mind is where many many musicians fall way short.
Maybe you can play a fast scale on the guitar, but you have no idea why you are choosing those notes or even why they ‘sound good’ over a certain chord progression.
All great composers and songwriters have strong music minds. They have the know-how and the knowledge to make the educated choices needed to create specific sounds.
And let’s be clear: This is true whether we are talking about Tom Petty or Mozart.
This is pretty self explanatory, even though it’s the most neglected piece of music education. Sometimes called your ‘inner ear,’ this is the skill you need to be able to hear something in your head and then make it happen on your instrument.
It’s also what makes it possible for you to read notes on a page (sheet music, for example) and understand and hear those in your head before playing them on the instrument.
The Music Ear is actually THE most important skill all musicians need, yet it’s often the last one tackled. (Usually music students aren’t challenged to develop their inner ears until high school or college.
All three areas of growth are required to have any shot at becoming the Lebron of music.
Skip technique and you will be laughed off the court.
Skip the ear and mind work and you will have no idea what to do with all that technique on the court.
As a basketball player, a masterful three-point shot does you no good if you can’t read the court, run a play, or know exactly when to pull up and shoot.
As a musician, blazing fast scales on the guitar do you no good if you don’t know when to use that scale or how to listen to and communicate with the rest of the band, waiting for the perfect moment to place that guitar lick.
So where am I going with this? It’s important to support your child’s musical interests in many ways, not just asking if they playing the “correct” notes! Playing music is about so much more than reading the notes on the page. It’s the full package: passion and creativity, technique, playing on a team with others (or in a band!), and finding your individual voice. (And don’t forget FUN.)
At BMF, our answer to developing a music mind and music ear in a super fun way and early in your music education journey is through playing games.
Instead of waiting until high school or college to start developing the Music Ear with ear training, we dive in with our youngest students, so they can begin to learn music as a language, right from the start.
Each and every one of our games—called BLAM games: Big Lesson About Music—do just that: teach a BIG lesson about music, whether it’s strengthening harmony, rhythm or melody, or flexing your child’s creative Music Mind with songwriting.
We believe that every kid deserves to dream of becoming the next Lebron James of music. And they should also have a ton of fun while doing it!
Let’s give them all the tools needed to have a shot at their dreams!
Last year I signed my daughter up for an amazing class for toddlers. It was really fun, good for her, and she loved every minute of it. The following year, I signed her up again, and at the very first class she did the exact same activity that she did the year before.
This time it fell flat.
After a few classes we ended up dropping. She wasn’t feeling it anymore and didn’t know why.
She was a year older and needed a new and interesting challenge. My daughter was no longer psyched by the same goals and activities.
In other words, she had been there, done that.
The reason I recognized what was going on was because I had seen this happen at my very own school. A child signs up for Rock, Write and Record, ages 9-11. Comes in for year one at age 9 and is so psyched to be playing in a band. Then, that same child comes in year two at age 10, and finds him or herself bored, doing the same thing he or she did last year.
By age 11, we’ve lost them emotionally.
They have checked out and might drop out of the band.
This is a loss that is bigger than BMF. This loss often translates to a student’s relationship with wanting to learn music all together. A result that is against everything we aim to do here at the Brooklyn Music Factory which is to create a lifelong love of learning and playing music.
That’s why we’ve now created a clear music fluency guideline for each type of band. (read more HERE)
No longer will a student be in a band where they’ve been there done that. We now have a concrete way to measure each individual’s level and where they should go next. It is with this, that we can be sure that students continue to be excited to learn and are challenged by what they are learning. They will be given the environment that is best suited for them to most effectively learn and thrive.
Questions? Schedule a call with Jessica today to talk about class options for your family. CLICK HERE.
Let’s not just do this – let’s do it right.
Co-Founder of Brooklyn Music Factory, and Camp Director.
As of November 2018, we’ve launched our very own music class for babies and toddlers – Little Songwriters!
In Little Songwriters, kids and their grownups will sing, dance, play lots of drum circle games AND write original songs as a group every week.