Music Speaks to Me

By Marilyn Floyd

Being a piano teacher, I think most people expect me to love classical music.

Generally, I do enjoy it, but it is not my “go-to” genre.  The California Conservatory of Music, gives an excellent list of reasons why we study classical music:

1) Classical music is the basic building block for all other genres.

Think about classical music as a Lego brick. Putting different Legos together results in all different kinds of colorful creations and masterpieces, but if you don’t know how to put the bricks together, you have limited building abilities.

2) Practicing classical music develops your chops

We’re not talking about pork chops or lamb chops; in musical terms, “chops” refer to your physical abilities and mastery of techniques. Chops are key to fulfilling your wildest musical dreams.

3) Classical music feeds your brain (and the rest of your body, too)

There are loads of studies out there that prove the benefits of simply listening to classical music. Some of those benefits include sleeping better, feeling more relaxed, and becoming happier.

4) Classical develops your repertoire

Learning and studying classical music gives you more options: not only will you learn more tunes, but you’ll probably also learn more techniques and learn to read music better.

5) Classical music teaches you to set goals and conquer fears

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: it’s not necessarily easy to play classical music and play it well. You will reap the rewards of challenging yourself. Perseverance and hard work are your rewards!

6) Studying classical music gives you a crash course in applied music theory

Music theory explains what music does and what’s going on when we hear it. Components of music theory include melody, harmony, rhythm, scales, chords, and how they all work together. Classical music is rich with musical concepts, and there’s no better place to learn the rules and elements of music than in classical music. It’s applied music theory at it’s best!”

More than any genre, minimalistic music speaks to the depths of my heart. It’s simple, prolonged rhythms and patterns, the almost excessive repetition of phrases, the avoidance of embellishment ground me.

I find the simple chord progressions of minimalistic music to be somehow comforting and soothing. Maybe I’m a nerd, but I lay in Savasana in yoga class (you know, the corpse pose, where you lay flat on your back), with my mind running through the simple I, IV, V progressions, or its variation during the final song.

Next, I gravitate toward Film Music. According to a Google search, “Music in film achieves a number of things: it establishes setting; it creates atmosphere; it calls attention to elements; it reinforces or foreshadows narrative developments; it gives meaning to a character's actions or translates their thoughts, and it creates emotion.”  I still contend that the Jurassic Park soundtrack is among the best film music ever written!

We all go back to the music we listened to when we were coming of age. Maybe I’m showing my vintage, but Elton John produced prolific piano music at this time in my life. This soft pop genre brings back times where I was learning, growing, and cutting my teeth on music; all-the-while, I was singing Italian arias and arranging Funeral for a Friend on the piano.

Understanding many genres of music allows us to become better all-around musicians.

Just as one cannot expect to learn everything in literature from a Harlequin Romance Novel (or quite possibly nothing), one cannot be exposed to only one musical genre and have a good understanding of music. Graded “lesson” books are used to cover the basic mechanics of music while giving exposure to all genres.

As young students become teens, they begin to develop their own tastes. Teens are coming of age; and with guidance, they should be allowed to experiment with genres of their interest. Typically, if a student is playing music as a teen, they will somehow incorporate music into the rest of their life - perhaps as a hobby, but maybe only to introduce piano to their children, the next generation.

No matter which genre a student gravitates to, the overriding goal is to help students find their musical voice. They will find their voice through creative, relevant teaching.  Here, a life-long love of music begins.

Marilyn is a freelance blogger/writer who has raised two neuro-diverse children. Her oldest son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 11, and her daughter with an Auditory Processing Disorder at age 6. 

In addition, Marilyn has taught piano to hundreds of students for over 23 years.  She has owned her own successful music studio and currently teaches piano at School for the Arts, Brighton, Michigan. She is skilled at pinpointing her students’ interests and at helping them achieve their next steps in music. She studied music at Julliard and the Richards Institute (Education Through Music - ETM). ETM  promotes physical, mental, and social growth through language, song, movement, and interactive play. In recent years, she holds a B.S. in Journalism with a minor in voice at the University of Kansas.