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How ColorMusic is like the Rosetta Stone

It’s true … music is just a bunch of simple patterns. But what sounds like poetry to our ears is a foreign language to our eyes. It’s strange, because while my ears are naturally fluent in music, my eyes can’t make heads or tails of it. Why?

Well, that’s because traditional notation does a bad job of translating the patterns we hear into the patterns we see. In other words, music gets lost in translation. Staff lines, little black dots, and accidental symbols don’t really illustrate the sounds of scales, chords, and progressions. Sad, but true. In fact, these symbols look more like ancient hieroglyphics than any understandable pattern.

Traditional notation and Egyptian heiroglyphics

Which is why we need some type of translator—our own musical Rosetta Stone. When Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops rediscovered the original Rosetta Stone back in 1799 during a trip to Egypt, it was a major breakthrough in understanding real Egyptian hieroglyphics. Until then, no one could understand any of the messages written on the pyramids.

Rosetta stone translates Heiroglyphics into Greek

The Rosetta Stone was a big deal because it included a single message written in different languages. And that helped crack the code to Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because people already understood the Greek text etched into the stone, they could easily decipher all the hieroglyphic symbols written on another part of the stone. So just like that, folks used a language they already knew to quickly learn a totally knew language. Brilliant!

This is how ColorMusic works, too. It quickly translates the patterns of music into a language we already understand. How? By combining color and music … which both happen to follow the exact same patterns. We already know about red, blue, orange, complementary colors, and so on. So we now can easily understand musical terms like “tonic, “flat-five,” major-third,” etc.

It’s sort of spooky, actually. Color and music directly mirror each other. Just two different languages that tell the exact same story. And that makes learning music a breeze—seriously. So I hope you have your seatbelts on. Because we are in for one a wild ride. Honestly… our new music skills would make even the most powerful pharaohs jealous.

Ancient Egyptian heiroglyphics with ColorMusic

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How music is like architecture

Music doesn’t exist in a silo. It lives alongside all the other arts and sciences. You can enhance your lessons by exploring how music relates to other disciplines … like architecture, for example.

On the surface, music and architecture are opposites. While music is invisible, architecture is visible. And while music is made from vibrating air, architecture is made from concrete, steel, and glass.

But if you look a little closer, music and architecture are surprisingly similar. In fact, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous poet once said that “Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.”

architecture house blueprint with color music notationIn reality, both music and architecture are a perfect blend of art and science. Just like an inspiring song, a building design involves flowing lines, unexpected turns, and a solid, pleasing structure. Both disciplines are built around recurring patterns that evoke a sense of order and excitement.

Like the large, bright windows in a hallway, a song’s lyrics can conjure vivid and stunning imagery. Or like the swirling melody of a concerto, a grand staircase can rise magnificently into the sky. Music and architecture are sisters. And each one can influence the other.

As a musical architect, what kinds of sonic buildings do you create? Are your songs more like slick, glassy skyscrapers? Or do you design humble, little ditties … like cottages nestled in the trees?

What activities can you do in the classroom to connect music with architecture? Does anyone have any ideas?

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How to make real art in the music classroom

Do you make art? I don’t mean music … that’s easy. I mean, do you make art in the classroom? Do you approach each and every lesson like a special art project? If not, then you’re failing your students.

Music education requires more than just showing up. Anyone can do that. Teaching music—really connecting with students—requires your concerted effort. It demands your full energy and passion. It takes your whole heart and soul.

real art meditation head with radiant light

In his book, Good to Great,  Jim Collins wrote that excellent organizations all share the same mantra: “Good enough never is.” The same holds true in the classroom.

Do your students simply learn to recite notes? Or do they play with emotion? Can your kids perform a song with technical accuracy? Or do they project sound with passion and understanding?

Your success as a teacher depends on your students’ success as musicians. If you approach each lesson as an art project, you’ll cultivate greater excellence in your class. To truly connect with your audience, you must reach beyond your comfort zone and try new approaches.

And always remember—good enough never is.

What is your favorite teaching moment? How did it make you feel?

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The difference between safe and successful

teaching music 101Did you enjoy music lessons as a kid? I didn’t. I love music, of course—and could never get enough. But music lessons? Well … they sucked.

My lessons were painful for one simple reason: Every teacher played it safe. Always.

Each lesson went by the book. And it was always an old book … written by an old person … using old methods. Nothing was fresh. Nothing was interesting. And worst of all, nothing was fun!

old music book

If you measure each of my teachers by their ability to inspire, they all failed. Not on purpose, of course. They wanted to make a positive impact, I’m sure. But by playing it safe, each forfeited his chance to truly succeed.

If you’re willing to go beyond what’s safe, though, you’ll succeed every time. Here are a few tips you can use in your own music program to ensure true success:

1 – Use new methods

Virtually every music teacher on earth is unoriginal. They use traditional notation and methods that were developed decades—or even centuries—ago. Talk about playing it safe.

But you can do better. Seek out new ways of teaching. Research the methods available and develop a curriculum with oomph! Your students can only care as much as you do. So prove your passion by offering something remarkable.

2 – Make a real connection

When I was a kid, each of my teachers maintained their distance—intellectually and philosophically. But it’s impossible to truly connect with someone when you stay so reserved.

Obviously, you need to keep the professional lines drawn. But engage yourself in the relationship. Students need a mentor who’s invested in their progress. So experience the joy of discovery together in order to make a lifelong impact.

3 – Keep students accountable

You can’t expect more from a student than you’re willing to give. Every one of my childhood instructors were laze faire. So, as a result, I was too.

If you use outworn methods and refuse to connect with your students, it will be equally hard to keep them accountable.

If you play it safe—lying low and taking it easy—your students cannot succeed. And neither can you. Demand only the best from yourself and your students will benefit.

What else can music teachers do to succeed?

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Why do YOU make music?

why should you teachIf you’re like me, you absolutely love music. It wakes you up in the morning. And it keeps your brain buzzing all day.

But why exactly is music so awesome? That is, why do you love it so much?

why do you make music

It seems everyone has their own, unique answer. And the reasons you give say a lot about you. Think about it for a minute.

If you understand why you like music, you’ll know how to stay motivated to play. Especially when the practice becomes hard or your schedule gets busy. Here are a few reasons people give:

To communicate

Music is, after all, the ultimate form of communication . It allows you to express thoughts and feelings that may not have words. Is this why you like music?

To know yourself

Making music is a lot like turning on a faucet. When you twist the knob, a lot of stuff can pour out. Some folks learn more from music lessons than they could from a psychiatrist. Is this why you like music?

To stimulate your mind

Music is a perfect blend of art and science . It flexes your analytical left brain and soothes your artistic right brain. Is this why you like music

To find love

When I was a kid, a friend of mine learned the guitar—simply to serenade cute girls. He saw the power of music and used it to his advantage. Is this why you like music?

To make friends

A lot of people do it. Nothing connects you with others more than a fun jam session . You can meet more cool friends when you know how to play. Is this why you like music?

Think about your own reasons for playing. And if you have any students, ask them why they like music. It’s good to know!

So really … why do you like music? Let’s talk in the comments.

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