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We hope you enjoy our blog - we try to provide helpful updates about our music, what we are up to and cool things we find to do with music, activities for kids & families, and every day stuff! Stay Silly, Silly Bus

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Repetition and Musical Learning

Mastering musical concepts often requires much repetition. Repetition of patterns in songs reinforces content and retention of words and melodies. Since all children do not learn in the same way or at the same rate, much repetition using a variety of learning strategies is important. When planning repetition strategies, they should be chosen with thoughtful consideration in order to maximize the learning opportunity. Meaningful learning and music-making experiences are the result of well-thought out plans for teaching a song. Avoid mundane drill-like repetition. Add something new and engaging to each repetition. Do it again, but in a different way.
High repetition enables the child to develop an appreciation and enjoyment of a song or musical selection. Repetition reinforces the memory of the listener which, in turn, lays the foundation for comparing new musical material. Repetition aids clarity and understanding of music and words.

Through repetition and multiple applications of their musical learnings, children enhance their abilities to transfer new concepts with understanding from one musical setting to another.

Follow an orderly, sequential plan for high repetition. The process should include modeling, a positive feeling tone, and lots of variety. The repetitions should always be meaningful to the child.

When using high repetition in a group setting, keep an energetic pace to maintain the interest and concentration of the children. Avoid long practice sessions that cause them to become unfocused.

Examples of high repetition strategies include:
• Listening to the song and patting the steady pulse or beat;
• Echo-speaking the words of a verse or section of the music;
• Echo-singing the melody on a nonsense syllable such as “la;”
• Singing song phrases antiphonally, e.g. parent/child; teacher/class;
• Select a repeated word from the song and have the child stand or raise his or her hand when the word is sung.

After the song is learned, sing the song omitting a few key words. Have the child speak or sing the missing words at the appropriate time in the song. Then play or sing a song and have the child “draw” the melodic contour with his or her hand.
Let creativity and imagination be your guide in planning for repetitions of a song or musical selection. Consider the use of visual aids and movement to reinforce the concepts being repeated.

Using a diverse palette of repetition strategies brings freshness and excitement to the learning process. We are the engineers of successful learning for our children through the use of creative and meaningful repetitions.

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How to Find Great Music for Kids

We all know that the internet has become a dominate force in helping find things and answering questions quickly. One of the questions that arise for parents is "how to find great music for kids?"

Ten years ago people took the time to stop by the local music store and search for music. Stores readily provided a highlight of top selling CDs. This provided a good starting point for people to discover new music enjoyed by others. As we have moved farther into the Internet Age, more and more music has become available to anyone having access to a computer. This has been good from a content perspective. However, it can make finding great music for children a challenge given the volumes of songs and artists available online.

To find great kids music online today, the most popular resource by far is to simply utilize search engines like Google or Yahoo and enter key words such as "Kids Music." This will yield pages of results, but you can leverage the first page or two in the same way that the record store was used ten years ago. By reviewing the links that these search engines provide, you will quickly find that these sites are either 1) the most popular music groups for kids or 2) the most popular sites to find great kids music.

The second way that parents can quickly find great music kids is to utilize iTunes. iTunes provides the same search ability so that anyone can quickly search by artist name, song title, or general description. For instance, if a parent enters the words Preschool Music, they will find hundreds of artists listed on iTunes. The good news is that iTunes provides the songs and artists in order of popularity. So again, much like the old record store, parents can quickly find songs enjoyed by the masses and that are typically very good.

As we move forward in the Internet Age, we will certainly find new and exciting ways to quickly and effectively find the music that we want. Over the past few years social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace have grown into popular places for people to discuss and showcase music. These avenues will certainly continue to grow in popularity as people find ways to share information more quickly and as media companies learn to use them as distribution tools for their most popular songs and artists.

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The Benefits of Educational Music for Kids

It is interesting to observe how fast children learn when they are young! Research supports our observations that learning experiences must begin in the early years from birth to age five. This is a critical time in a child's musical and cognitive development. The benefits of music and movement in the preschool years have been well documented. Research studies show that music enhances brain development and academic learning. Music affects many areas of brain function and neurological development. Many levels of neurological readiness exist in children, and music is a powerful enhancer at each stage of neurological development. The earlier a child is exposed to music and movement, the better. Research findings include:

-Children who receive early music training score higher on standardized tests.
-The use of music during learning can increase a child's IQ.
-Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.
-There is a link between spatial reasoning and participation in music and movement activities.

Preschool children are at the beginning of the learning spectrum. Parents and teachers set learning patterns and attitudes and introduce children to learning by providing the first exposures. These exposures should encourage the joy of participating in music and making music. Joyful experimentation will result in the growth of musical skills and lay the foundation for future music learning as well as for future academic success.

As a music educator for 40 years, I have seen the positive results of music education for children. At Silly Bus performances, I enjoy seeing the positive reactions of the children to the songs and interactive presentations as they learn a variety of educational skills and concepts. The music and shows have great appeal for children.

As children make music, listen to music, and move to music through a variety of experiences, they develop creative abilities, attention spans, motor and rhythmic coordination, socialization skills, mental agility, and the ability to process aural information. It is very important for parents to expose their children to music and to encourage participation in music and movement activities informally at home and in more organized music education settings.

Movement is innate in children and provides the basis of everything young children learn. It contributes to the growth and coordination of the large and small body muscles. In addition, movement is an important nonverbal learning tool. Preschoolers understand much that they cannot yet put into words. They demonstrate their understandings through gestures and other movements. As we observe the child's movement, we gain insight into what the child is thinking and understanding.
Songs help us to learn as well as express ourselves in a musical manner. Appropriate songs for preschool children include nursery rhymes, finger plays, educational songs that incorporate counting, letters of the alphabet, animals and animal sounds, colors, etc. Songs and recorded music should promote activities such as walking, jumping, dancing, and marching. Clapping or patting the steady pulse or beat of rhymes, songs, chants, and recorded music is a valuable activity and preparation for future music ensemble participation. The ability to perform a steady beat while singing, speaking, or listening to music aids the child's success in reading and other academic areas. Music education is an important aspect for a child's learning process in life. From simple beginning experiences the child is guided to more sophisticated musical and creative activities.

While music is a viable stand alone educational program, music also reinforces and enhances the learning of other skills and benefits learning in many ways. This is especially true for reading and language arts. Music helps children focus on the structure of sounds which is an important aspect in language development and literacy skills. Having a musical vocabulary of melodic patterns and phrases directly transfers to the ability to develop a spoken vocabulary of patterns and sounds-thereby aiding the child's success in reading and communicating.

It has long been believed that brains change as a result of music learning. Researchers in neuroscience, utilizing recent advances in MRI technology, are actually studying the human brain in the act of creating or listening to music. And what they are finding is remarkable.

Perhaps the most exciting news is the evidence that music can actually change the physical structure of the brain - a fact that has critical implications for both education and medicine. Music may even be a major key to unlocking the mystery of how the brain actually learns.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Writing Silly Bus Kid Songs

A lot of work goes into the writing of a Silly Bus kids song. Our approach in Silly Bus is to write songs that appeal to both kids and parents, and finding that balance of sound and style that appeals to both generations is not easy to achieve.

Let's take for example the song, “Teddy Bear Boogie.” The concept of the song was to write a song with a very youthful theme, and we wanted to emphasize the letter ‘B' because we were writing songs to align with an alphabet curriculum. We also wanted the song to have a lot of movement. The need for movement was to keep kids entertained while listening to the song both at home and at our shows. We have found that if we write songs with a lot of movement, kids feel that they can participate with the songs, and they respond more positively than to songs with less movement.

Taking into account all of the requirements we wanted to incorporate into our song, we came up with a theme about a dancing teddy bear. A dancing teddy bear certainly met our desire to create a song with a youthful theme. The fact that the teddy bear danced opened up all sorts of possibilities to add movement.

The end result is the song we have today about a teddy bear that starts out dancing to the front and back, and with each chorus the teddy bear performs additional moves. By the end of the song, the teddy bear is moving forwards and backwards. He is clapping, snapping, patting his head, and tapping his knees. These are all moves that children can happily perform while listening to the song. (Read the full lyrics below this article.)

The final effort for the song was the actual music to support the lyrics. As previously mentioned, Silly Bus writes songs to appeal to adults as well as children. Since this song was about a teddy bear who liked to boogie, we adopted a boogie-woogie blues style of music. This style just seemed fitting. It is a style of music that gained popularity in the early 1900's, and different flavors of boogie-woogie music are heard in many music genres today. One of those genres now happens to be kids' music. So, for those parents who appreciate classic styles of music, this song is for you…and of course your kids too.

Teddy Bear Boogie
My teddy bear likes to boogie
Over here and over there
My teddy bear likes to boogie
Almost everywhere

Boogie to the front
Boogie to the back
Let's all do the teddy bear boogie

My teddy bear likes to boogie
When he hears a funny song
My teddy bear likes to boogie
Sometimes all day long

Boogie to the front
Boogie to the back
Turn around and clap
Make your fingers snap
Let's all do the teddy bear boogie

My teddy bear likes to boogie
He really really likes to dance
My teddy bear likes to boogie
Whenever he gets the chance

So, boogie to the front
Boogie to the back
Turn around and clap
Make your fingers snap
Give your head a pat
And give your knees a tap
Let's all do the teddy bear boogie
Let's all do the teddy bear boogie
Let's all do the teddy bear boogie

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Music Education - Effective Rehearsals In The Class Room

An efficient rehearsal is dependent upon a stimulating, interesting, and well-planned rehearsal with maximum use of rehearsal time. Use of rehearsal time and pacing are important factors in producing a successful rehearsal. Time management includes starting and ending the rehearsal at the appointed times. Use every second of the rehearsal time to achieve rehearsal goals.

Long-range goals and individual rehearsal objectives are an important part of making the most of the rehearsal time. If we don't know where we want to go in rehearsal, valuable time will be lost and less will be accomplished.

Make connections between what is known and what is to be learned whenever possible. Where are the musicians in their musical, physical, cognitive, and emotional development? What is the attention span of a specific age group? What are their language and music reading abilities? What do they need to learn, experience, or review in the next rehearsal? What activities are most suitable for teaching a musical selection, skill, or concept? Answers to these questions provide the backbone of the rehearsal plan.

Planning and providing references to previously learned musical concepts or skills saves rehearsal time. Develop objectives that are sequential and become building blocks from one rehearsal to another. Have expectations in place for each rehearsal. Expectations and procedures will need to be practiced and reviewed while children are becoming accustomed to the routines of the rehearsal. Always be consistent throughout all rehearsals as far as expectations and procedures.

Develop and write out a teaching plan for each musical selection to be rehearsed. Subdivide the teaching plan into several segments based on the amount of time available to rehearse.

Post an agenda or roadmap with objectives and rehearsal activities. We are more successful when we have goals and have an outline for learning and rehearsal activities. This enhances learning and facilitates maximum use of rehearsal time.

There are times when flexibility during the rehearsal is needed. Have a plan for adapting and adding activities when the unexpected happens.

Conduct a rehearsal evaluation. Use written notes for instant notation as well as video/audio taping, etc. Refer to these notes and tapings to assess and generate the next rehearsal's plan. Involve the musicians in the assessment of their learning and performance. As soon as possible after the rehearsal is concluded, take time to reflect on all components of the rehearsal.

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Music Education - Musical Learning And Transfer

The common definition of transfer is to carry or shift from one place to another. One of our goals in music education is for students to become knowledgeable about music and to be able to transfer that knowledge from one musical setting to another. As you read this article, view yourself as a parent or teacher involving the child in constructive and enjoyable musical learning.

The transfer of skills and knowledge takes place as children progress from one level of understanding to another. Refer to the child's previous experience and performance of the musical elements to aid the transfer process. The way we plan and implement transfer processes impacts the choice of music activities. Select teaching strategies that will provide ample opportunity for the children to make musical connections.

Involve the child in discovering and exploring the relationship between the new learning experience and his or her current knowledge. For example, understanding that two quarter notes tied together equal one half note.

Many years ago, one of my choral students, who was musically literate and conversant with reading music notation from basic choral scores, decided to join band. On the student's first day in band class, the band director was stymied by the student's difficulty in reading the music from an instrumental score. We discovered that the student was having difficulty transferring musical information from one format to another. Therefore, pay close attention to the format in which musical notation and information is presented to the students and help them make the transition from one format to another. A simple example of this might be learning to read rhythms with syllables or in “stick” notation and then progressing to standard rhythm notation.

Students should practice skills and music behaviors in a variety of settings. Through repetition and multiple applications of their musical learnings, we are enhancing their ability to transfer these learnings with understanding from one musical setting to another.

We are the engineers of successful musical learning for our children through the use of transfer.

Children’s Music - Repetition In Music And Its History

In a previous article “Repetition and Musical Learning,” the focus was on various ways to use meaningful repetitions to enhance musical learning. In this article we look at the history of repetition as it evolved through the centuries of music development.

Repetition of tones and patterns is an innate part of all music. Repetition encompasses a large variety of types and forms. Repetition gives structure and meaning to help us understand the music. It is a very important principle in composing or improvising music.

How does this relate to children and music? Repetition in melodic patterns is very prevalent in children’s songs, i.e., “Frere Jacques” or “Are You Sleeping.” Repetition may take the form of exact imitation or be a variation of a melody. The spectrum of repetition in music extends to repeating entire sections of a musical selection.

Carl Orff, renown German composer and music educator, and his collaborator, Gunild Keetman, outlined a process of introducing music to children. The process parallels the development of Western music. Using a single repeated tone (pedal), a simple accompaniment is created to add elemental harmony to a melody. Ostinatos or verbatim repeated patterns occur throughout a musical selection or a segment of the selection. The earliest examples of ostinato are found in 13th century music.

Ostinatos are used in a variety of ways and with a variety of musical media, i.e., clapping, voice, unpitched instruments, pitched instruments. Rhythm and melodic ostinatos appear as accompaniments for speech chants and melodies that are sung or played on a variety of instruments. Borduns (drones) are repeated harmonic patterns and appear in early music accompaniments. Other musical examples of repetition include canon, round, theme and variations, chaconnes, and rondo (ABACA) form. The world of repetition in music is multi-faceted and limitless whether for the composer or the listener.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kids Music - Fun Fitness for Kids

Exercise and fitness for kids can be both physically rewarding and fun at the same time. One of the biggest challenges facing youth today is childhood obesity. Due to a more sedentary lifestyle, this is a growing problem that will take some solutions that deal with children’s attitudes toward exercise.

In today’s age of technical innovations and new ways to entertain children, the growing trend is a lower level of physical activity. More time is spent in front of the television watching movies, surfing the internet, or playing video games. Activity and exercise have given way to the latest sports video game and online adventure. These forms of entertainment seem to have caused today's children to have an increasingly negative attitude towards real exercise. With a little positive guidance this doesn’t have to be the case.

One way to encourage children to exercise is to change the way the think about exercise. Instead of the notion that exercise is nothing but hard work, emphasize the fun aspect of it. Show children what fun it is to play basketball. A fun time can be had when shooting hoops. Look at it as playing a game instead of a chore. The child won’t notice the cardiovascular activity, agility, strength training and hand eye coordination that is being developed. They will only remember how fun it was to play the game and want to play again.

Another positive aspect of group exercise is social reinforcement. Since basketball is a team sport, it is very easy to get other kids involved in the game. It can be played by yourself or up to ten people at a time. When this many children are involved it emphasizes the “fun” aspect of the game. Kids see other kids working as a team and having fun. This leads to other positive aspects such as social interaction, teamwork and sportsmanship. It also shows children that exercise and activity don’t have to be a chore, but a fun game. With a positive outlook on exercise, children can live healthy, happy lives now and into the future.

Kids Songs - Making Meaningful Music

In 2005, I co-founded Silly Bus, a multi-media company specializing in fun, entertaining and educational children’s songs and videos. Up to that point as a songwriter, I had focused predominately on the usual pop/rock topics – love, loss, redemption, etc. Although early in my career I experienced moderate success, nothing could have prepared me for the rewarding life of a children’s songwriter.

Ever since joining Silly Bus, songwriting has been more meaningful. Simply put, it feels great to write songs to help children learn the alphabet, health & fitness, math and other fundamentals of life. The songs have a purpose beyond self—to enrich the lives of children and their families.

An unexpected, but welcome result of Silly Bus’ success has been the opportunity to work with our favorite nonprofits. This work has allowed us to expand our repertoire through the production of unique multi-media combining partner messages with our creative handiwork.

“Heroes and Angels” is one such song of which I am particularly proud. Inspired by and written for Connor’s Heroes Foundation, Heroes and Angels discusses childhood cancer, the unique issues associated therewith and the heroes dedicated to helping children with cancer and their families. Heroes and Angels is a song of awareness, strength and understanding. The song is Silly Bus’ contribution to Connor’s Heroes and its mission. It is our way of turning fear into hope.

The song was recently unveiled in Connor’s Heroes’ new public service announcement featuring Connor Goodwin, Tommy Hilfiger and Alex Garfield. The public service announcement stresses the importance of being a hero in the fight against childhood cancer, and is available on YouTube. Heroes and Angels lyrics are reproduced below. The song will be released for download in early 2010.

For more information, please visit us at: www.sillybus.net

Kids Music - Branding Through Educational Media

As consumers we are drawn to familiar brands that consistently provide great products and services. Brand loyalty is sometimes inherited from our parents (i.e., Do you prefer Pepsi or Coca Cola?). It is also earned through a company’s dedication to quality.

Even the best products and services, though, can go unnoticed or be forgotten. Competition is fierce, and no matter what a company’s line of business, there is almost certainly a comparable provider in the market. To raise awareness and to stay fresh in consumer minds, companies should break the mold and think of creative ways to make a lasting, meaningful impression. Branding through educational media offers just that.

Educational media, as used in this article, refers to kids songs and kids videos containing substantive messages designed to teach children subjects like math, science, fitness and green living. One way for companies to make an impact, raise brand awareness and grow goodwill is to supplement the traditional “pushing” of products with educational media. Educational media through kids songs and kids videos enables companies to use radio, television and bandwidth for the greater good.

By providing consumers and their children with useful and sometimes otherwise unavailable information in fun, entertaining kids songs and kids videos, a company enriches its brand in a number of ways. First, the company shows its engagement in the community and desire to be more than just a product or service provider. Second, the company builds its goodwill with current and future customers by using its resources to give back to the community. Third, the company shows its drive to do something meaningful for its customers. And fourth, the company gives consumers a reason to feel good about doing business with it.

Ultimately, a company wants consumers to know its name, associate good thoughts with its products or services and to remember this when opening their wallets. Commercials and traditional marketing campaigns are great, but sometimes it pays to think outside the box. Companies wishing to do something meaningful and beneficial for their community and their brand should explore educational media and all it has to offer.

For more information, please visit: www.sillybus.net

Making a Difference with Educational Music

At the beginning of 2005, Silly Bus was nothing more than a start up small business. Today, they have released nationally four CDs, and multiple music videos, which can be heard and seen on stations throughout the United States. They have played for numerous benefits, kids’ expos, and schools. They have also worked with well known companies, such as Radio Disney, XM Radio and NBC.

You may be asking yourself, ‘So, how is their music making a difference?’ What distinguishes Silly Bus from other kids music is their focus on educational content. Their first CD release focused on Standard of Learning (SOL) content for young children (Kindergarten through 2nd grades). The songs on this album cover a range of topics, including math, grammar, science, physical fitness, and history.

For their second and third CD releases, they teamed with preschool educators to write songs geared towards learning the alphabet. These songs incorporate both phonics and whole language techniques. The song Turkey Time has fast become a national favorite having been featured on NBC’s Today Show the past two years on Thanksgiving Day.

In addition to these releases, Silly Bus has worked with several companies and non-profits to launch multiple CDs and singles. For example, Silly Bus wrote, performed and produced “Watch Me, I Can Do This!” for promotional support of SportsBackers’ Monument Avenue 10K. This motivational song was used to energize thousands of children participating in the event’s annual kids run. Similarly, Silly Bus teamed with Media General and The Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) to promote and market RTD’s “Kids Extra” kidzine. Silly Bus wrote, performed and produced “Artie,” the Kids Extra theme song. The song received significant airplay in advertisements and on the web.

The powerful difference Silly Bus makes is evident in the small anecdotes heard from parents. One story from a father conveyed how a Silly Bus song helped his daughter answer a question on her first grade quiz. This powerful difference is not unusual. Attend a Silly Bus show near you, and you are sure to witness children singing every word of their favorite fun, educational songs.

For more information, please visit: www.sillybus.net

Marketing Opportunities with Educational Media

Educational Media, like kid's songs and videos, is an effective medium to engage children and their parents in a meaningful and positive way. Videos and songs can be paired with brands to give back to the community, promote healthy behaviors and to just let kids have fun while learning. Different types of media coupled with an effective marketing strategy to create campaigns can be done on-line, during event marketing, or used together to drive engagement with a fan/consumer base.
Marketing content can be delivered quickly to the consumer with social media tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Businesses can create differential and 'sticky' consumer experiences through these types of push/pull campaigns. For example, a push strategy sells directly to the consumer by using promotions and advertising as typical 'push' tools. A pull strategy, on the other hand, is one that creates demand from a consumer to 'pull' them to your product or service. Usually this requires a lot of marketing investment to create consumer demand. However, with the advent of new tools like social media, the ability to more easily make something viral allows for businesses to create a 'pull' with much less up-front investment.
Marketing is about getting a consumer's attention and also keeping it through the marketing funnel. Once consumers are engaged and at the website, for instance, it is important to have their experience be positive and valuable to create the 'stickiness' desired. This refers to the ability of the marketing and experience to keep a customer engaged and coming back as a consumer again and again - hence stickiness.
Educational media is exciting and entertaining. Providing valuable and fresh educational content through kid's songs and kids videos can keep a child or parent coming back to the website and provides opportunities for companies that leverage this unique content to benefit from a brand enhancing customer experience.
When selecting a company to work with it is also important to identify partners that share the same values and want to promote the same positive messages. When combining complementary goals and marketing strategies - educational media provides new options to reach new consumers; give back to the community and drive value for the partners and consumers alike. A great example is Nickelodeon's The Big Green Help, which integrates education with environmental awareness and provides the ability for involvement with the cause.
When Educational Media is integrated with creative marketing strategies - great experiences and value is created for all parties involved.

For more information, please visit: http://www.sillybus.net