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Famous Celebrities You Didn't Know Play the Ukulele
By West Music Company
4/27/2017 4:38:00 PM  
The ukulele is a musical instrument that is full of rich tradition and history. This small string instrument originated in Hawaii in the 19th century and has gained massive popularity ever since. While it is a common choice for students, beginners, and other music enthusiasts, there are also many famous celebrities that love to play the "uke."

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Heritage Influenced His Ukulele Playing

Best known as a former WWE wrestler and current actor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson grew up in a musical family and has played the ukulele his entire life. He explains that playing the ukulele, singing, and dancing are large parts of his Polynesian culture, and he enjoys sharing them with others. He even goes so far as to sing a song while playing the ukulele in one of his recent movies, proving he can sing, play, and act.

Jason Mraz Island Inspired Ukulele Song

While Jason Mraz didn't learn to play the ukulele until later in his life, that didn't stop the sound and vibe of the instrument from inspiring a lot of his music. One of his most famous songs, "I'm Yours" was written after Mraz had spent a lot of time in Hawaii and Jamaica, both of which influenced the light and airy sound of the song. It is this song, in fact, that has encouraged thousands of others to learn the ukulele, and share their versions online.

Meghan Trainor Writes Songs on The Ukulele

Meghan Trainor skyrocketed up the Billboard charts with her 2014 breakout hit, "All About That Bass." While the song may have a funky and popular sound, she first conceived the tune in an acoustic format, on her ukulele. This was also the way she wrote a single from The Peanuts Movie, titled "Better When I'm Dancin'."

Ryan Gosling Performs the Ukulele Late Night

As if being able to sing, dance, and act weren't enough, add being able to play the ukulele to Ryan Gosling's ever impressive resume. Showing off his ukulele playing talents in a 2010 movie, Blue Valentine, he also recently performed it on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Taylor Swift Showcases Her Ukulele Skills at Concerts

Yes, even Grammy goddess Taylor Swift plays the ukulele. Taylor Swift began as a country artist and was quickly recognized for her musical talent, being able to not only sing, but also play the piano, banjo, guitar, and ukulele. She has been known to break out the ukulele during concerts, and she has also inspired many renditions from avid ukulele enthusiasts and fans.

Other Celebrities Who Play the Ukulele

Warren Buffett, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Eddie Vedder (who released a full album of just ukulele songs in 2011, aptly titled Ukulele Songs), and Bruce Springsteen have all performed on the ukulele. Likewise, George Clooney, Cybill Shepherd, William H. Macy, Adam Sandler, Zoe Deschanel, Pierce Brosnan, James Franco, as well as pop icons Marilyn Monroe (playing onscreen in the 1959 film Some Like It Hot), Shirley Temple, and Elvis Presley all have been known to pick up the "uke." That's just a few celebrities who play, with the list quickly growing each year!

Why the Ukulele?

As you look at just a few of these famous celebrities that play the ukulele, not to mention all the kids, teens, and adults that enjoy it, you may find yourself wondering, "Why the ukulele?" The ukulele has quickly become a top choice for young children and beginning students alike for many reasons. The uke, as its enthusiasts call it, has an interesting sound and is relatively easy to learn. It is also accommodating for all skill levels, as there are different types of ukuleles as well as many styles of music that can be learned. The ukulele is lightweight, compact and portable while not taking up very much space. These features make it an ideal instrument for school-aged children transporting the instrument from home to school, for people who don't have a lot of extra space, or someone who likes to be able to easily take their instrument with them wherever they go. Although you may not be a celebrity, you can still play like one when you have the correct instrument. West Music has a great assortment of ukuleles, for beginners all the way to performing professionals, in a range of colors to fit your taste, plus method and song books. Check out our large selection today!



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Categories: Guitars & Folk
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The Benefits of Music Education in Childhood Development
By West Music Company
4/13/2017 3:50:00 PM  

The Benefits of Music Education in Childhood Development

baby having music fun

While hearing music is enjoyable in its own right, the benefits of taking part in it highly outweigh those of just listening. Musical education during childhood can positively impact cognitive development, improve social skills, and increase academic achievement. And you don’t have to wait until your child is older — music education has been shown to have positive effects on babies and toddlers!

 

West Music’s History of Supporting Music Education

Since opening our doors in 1941, West Music has strongly supported music education. In fact, our founder Pearl West taught in the music department at Iowa City High School. Today we work directly with thousands of school music programs across the county and support many more with charitable donations through our membership with NAMM (The National Association of Music Merchants). In our stores, we offer Early Childhood Education for children as young as three-months. Supporting music education is an integral part of our mission to “Play now. Play for life.”

 

Music and the Brain

Being exposed to music throughout childhood has profound impacts on the development of the growing brain. A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences during these crucial years accelerates brain development, especially in the areas of reading skills and language acquisition. It has also been found that learning how to play an instrument can improve mathematical intelligence and even boost academic achievement.

 

Music Education Benefits for Infants (birth to age 1)

Recent research has found that babies benefit from music education long before they can even walk or talk. One study found that one-year-olds who participated in interactive music classes with their parents smiled more, communicated better, and showed more sophisticated brain responses to music.

An excellent way to incorporate music and movement with infants is through soft and colorful scarves. You can manipulate these in the air while singing soft lullabies and nursery rhymes. They are also great for sensory play, so be sure to let your infant feel the softness of the scarf on their hands and feet. While your baby might want to hold onto them forever, please note that movement props are not toys’ they are to be used under adult supervision.

 

Music and Movement for Toddlers (ages 1-3)

One of the biggest benefits of having toddlers engage with music is in language development. Recent studies have found that musical training can wire the circuits of the brain in different ways. This development is specifically seen in parts of the left side of the brain, which contributes to processing language.

The key to music with toddlers is repetition. Children at this age crave consistency and routine, which is why they love reading the same books and listening to the same songs over and over. Repeating songs together promotes memorization and helps them to predict what comes next. Sound Exploration Books are a perfect fit for this age!

Toddlers also love being able to move and dance to the beat, so encourage them to explore with using instruments. Instruments specifically designed for small hands, such as toddler shaker instruments, are the perfect way to introduce them to creating and playing music.

 

Early Childhood Music Education for Preschoolers

Researchers in the field of brain development are quick to point out that the brain of a musician is wired differently than that of a non-musician, even a very young one. Preschoolers who were involved in making music showed larger brain growth in neural activity, so, simply put, being a musician makes your brain work harder.

Preschoolers love to sing and let their voices be heard. They enjoy nursery rhymes about familiar things, and they like songs that have repeating words and melodies.  Plays using puppets are great fun for this age, and learning rhymes together is the perfect musical actives for preschoolers and their parents!

 

Child Recorder Music

Music Learning for School-Aged Children

A study published in 2007 at the University of Kansas reported that students in schools with superior music programs scored approximately 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests. This reveals how music impacts many aspects of a child’s life and how vital it is to school performance.

Elementary school may be the first time some children really begin to have an interest in taking music lessons for a specific instrument. Many school music programs start with a musical recorder. Lightweight, simple, and capable of producing a charming sound, recorders are an ideal pre-band instrument to lead children into a lifetime of music-making.

 

Let Our Music Experts Help!

There are many things you can do as a parent to cultivate and grow a passion for music in your child, no matter their age. Remember, it’s never too early, or too late, to enjoy the benefits of music! Shop online or contact West Music at 800-397-3978 for suggestions and assistance.




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Categories: Kids & Movement, Music Education
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Piano Types for The Home
By West Music Company
4/6/2017 1:34:00 PM  

Whether you are starting to think about taking piano lessons, have been playing for a few years, or are an expert pianist, having the proper piano that suits your needs is vital. With all of the options that are available, it can be challenging to find the right instrument for your level and your budget. Let us help guide you in finding a piano that fits your needs.


Vertical Pianos

vertical piano

A very common type of piano for the home or studio is the vertical piano. They are called vertical pianos, because of their vertical strings, and are particularly known for their height, which ranges from three to five feet. Due to their cost effectiveness and space efficiency (they typically are no wider than 5’), verticals are a popular choice for homes, churches, schools and music studios.

Common Types of Vertical Pianos Are:

  • Spinet – 36” to 40” in height
  • Console – 40” to 43” in height
  • Studio – 44” to 48” in height
  • Upright – 45” and above

The larger piano, the larger soundboard, and it’s the soundboard that create tone quality. Therefore, Console and Studio pianos are the most common types of pianos found in homes. They are extremely durable so they can be a good choice around children.

Rarely manufactured today,  upright pianos are the tallest of the vertical pianos, with a typical height ranging from four to five feet tall. This piano was very popular at the turn of the century and is what you usually see in older homes and long lineages of families.

 

Grand Pianos

grand piano

Horizontal pianos also referred to as grand pianos. They got their name because of their large size and the fact that their strings are placed horizontally. Grand pianos range in size from four feet long all the way up to nine feet long and produce a very fine tone. Many professional pianists or performers enjoy them for their responsive key action and their spectacular sound.

There Are Six Kinds of Grand Pianos:

  • Petite Grand – under 5’ in length
  • Baby Grand – 5’ to 5’5” in length
  • Medium Grand – 5’ 6” to 5’ 9” in length
  • Parlor / Living Grand – 5’ 10” to 6’ 9” in length
  • Semi-Concert / Ballroom Grand – 6’ 10” to 7’ 10” in length
  • Concert Grand - 8’ 11” and longer

If you are looking for a grand piano for your home, a popular choice is the baby grand. These pianos have amazing sound quality, are extremely aesthetically pleasing, and don't take up a ton of space. Some baby grands are meticulously hand-crafted and can take up to 12 months to produce. They are also affordable but still have the rich sound you want from a grand piano.

 

Digital Pianos

digital

A compact and cost-efficient type of piano is the digital piano. Digital pianos have only been around for the past 30 years or so, but they have come a long way from when they were first introduced. Today, they have excellent sound and can even have gravity-based, spring-free action to feel like a grand piano.

Digital pianos are very versatile and can be a good choice for beginners or professionals. They cost less, weigh less, and do not have to be tuned. They also can be plugged into headphones, which can be very convenient in small houses or apartments.

 

Contact West Music Piano Division

Whether you are just starting to learn how to play the piano, or have been performing for years, having the correct type of piano that fits your needs can make all the difference in playing. Choosing the right piano is a complex and important decision that should not be rushed.

Feel free to stop by your local West Music store to test out your options personally. We offer a wide variety of pianos - vertical, grand, digital, and even used models - and have knowledgeable and helpful piano associates to assist you. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to see all our different available models, please call West Music at 800-373-2000 or head to our piano website at pianos.westmusic.com.

 




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Categories: West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery
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