Friday, December 18, 2009

Music And Your Childs Development

As the mother of a two year old, I am always looking for activities that encourage learning and development. I find that most of the activities we do together that result in learning are purely by coincidence and luck – not by any skill or training I have.

As of late, my son has shown a real passion for music. He has even begun to differentiate between styles of music he likes and dislikes – his preferences are Contemporary Christian and Country, of course those both fall behind any song done by The Wiggles. But I digress. The point is, he is drawn to music and feels the need to express himself in many ways when he hears it.

For example, he has learned different dance moves from the television characters on his favorite programs, as well as from good old mom and dad. He recreates those moves into his own little dance routine whenever he hears a song he likes – even in the car. He is using his creativity and memory to express himself, which I believe is helping build his character. He also tries to sing – well, more like hum – but again, this is another form of expression and he is increasing his vocabulary by wanting to say the right words. He claps to the music and tries his best to keep a rhythm. These are all amazing skills that he is learning and using in his own individual way. This is such a breakthrough age where children begin to graduate from simply imitating to combining what they know in ways to interact with the world around them.

These activities are encouraging many facets of development: physical (clapping, stomping, other dance motions) social (a way for him to interact with those around him) cognitive (he is bridging pathways from what he’s learned to how he wants to use the information to express his own personality); emotional (a definite sense of pride accompanies all forms of learning in children).

If your child enjoys music, you can encourage them by making music readily available for them without having to spend a fortune. I would guess they already have toys that make music. A lot of books play music as well. Even just turning on the radio throughout the day and finding a station that is suitable for you both can be a very rewarding experience. Whether your child is hearing music on the television, radio, or directly from an instrument you are playing, he/she has so many opportunities for learning. Capture those moments and make the most of them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Does A Music Synth Work?

Music isn't just all about violins. There is also music synths. A music synthesizer makes sounds by using an electrical circuit as an oscillator to create and vary the frequency of sounds in order to produce different pitches. As long as the pitch is within the range of frequency that can be heard by a human ear, it’s known as a “musical pitch” (so a dog whistle wouldn’t count) as a musical pitch. You can use a keyboard to vary these pitches at discrete intervals that correspond to the notes on the musical scale. If you put several oscillators together, you can combine several pitches to create a “chord”.

OK, we’ve got pitch down (at least in a very simple sense). How do you vary the tone of a particular pitch? That is done by playing a given pitch with waveforms of different shapes (common waveforms include sine, square, sawtooth, and triangle waveforms). Since the harmonic structure of these waveforms differ, our ears interpret them as different tones. The sound you will hear can also be modified by voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCA) and voltage-controlled filters (VCF).

Synthesizers are able to only mimic the sounds of non-synthetic instruments, but also to create sounds that absolutely cannot be played by anything but a music synthesizer. That is because a music synthesizer is well-suited to delicate manipulations of its oscillators. Nevertheless, it’s a lot easier for a synthesizer to create entirely new sounds than to mimic the sounds of acoustic instruments because the waveforms of acoustic instruments are so complex. Interestingly, once complex sound that synthesizers so far have been very bad at reproducing is the human voice (although improvements are being made in this technology).

The entire electronic music scene would be virtually impossible without the use of synthesizers (no doubt some wish it were). Nevertheless, the number of sounds that a musician has to work with has been exponentially increasing in recent decades, and we have only scratched the surface of the creative possibilities. Imagine the consequences if a machine was invented that could generate 100,000 hitherto unknown colors?