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The Benefits of Music Education in Childhood Development
By West Music Company
4/13/2017 3:50:00 PM  
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 up 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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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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Des Moines March 2017 Musician of the Month: Lucas Clark
By West Music Company
3/29/2017 1:17:00 PM  

Lucas ClarkLucas Clark is in the 3rd grade in West Des Moines. He has studied guitar with Mark Willie for six months. Mark Willie believes Lucas deserves recognition because “Lucas has consistently shown hard work and dedication since day one. He always comes into lessons prepared and can demonstrate his knowledge of the material. His talent and ambition combined leave no doubt that he has great potential to go far in music.” Lucas’ main musical goal is to master his instrument. His advice to other musicians: “Always try your hardest and never give up. Be prepared. Practice and listen!”

Lucas loves learning new songs and new chords. He enjoys performing songs for people and loves playing with his family. His dad plays multiple instruments and his sister sings and is a great jazz drummer. Sometimes Lucas performs songs for his class. Last year he played The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” for a crowd at a ski resort. One of Lucas’ favorite music genres to play is surf rock, but he’s a fan of different types of music including: The Strokes, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures.

Lucas’ other interests include playing lots of sports. He loves soccer, tennis, and golf. He enjoys snowboarding while in the mountains, and at home he loves playing with his dogs and being outside.

One surprising fact is that Lucas’ great-grandfather was best friends with Lawrence Welk, and played with him before he became famous. Lawrence even asked his great-grandfather to go on the road with him, but had to turn him down. That’s awesome! 


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Cedar Rapids March 2017 Musician of the Month: Isaac Peterson
By West Music Company
3/29/2017 1:16:00 PM  
Isaac musician of the month

Isaac is a brass instrument student of Matt Driscoll here at the West Music Cedar Rapids. He currently plays trumpet and tuba but has recently begun piano lessons. Isaac is in 10th grade and is homeschooled. He has studied music with his teach Matt Driscoll for five years!

Isaac participates in the Marion Homeschool Assistance program concert and symphonic bands. His musical goal is to play in band at college and possibly after graduation. His advice to other musicians is to, “work hard, but have fun playing music.”

Some of Isaac’s other interests include: robotics and cyber defense with Cedar Rapids Area Homeschools IT club, karate, and golf. His favorite kinds of music include classical, Sousa marches, and movie themes.

You may be surprised to learn that Isaac does NOT like modern music.

Congratulations Isaac! 


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Categories: Conservatory, West Music Marion
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Extraordinary Associate of the Month February 2017: John Williams
By West Music Company
3/14/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Think of a West Music associate who creates lasting customer relationships, is always ready to help fellow associates in need of support, and consistently offers valuable product knowledge. Does the name John Williams come to mind?

John always has a “can do” attitude! He does a fantastic job addressing all customer questions and will find a path through any obstacle that may prevent them from achieving their musical needs and desires.

John is eager to offer support to our associates and will do everything possible to help them be successful within their West Music careers. Prior to my tenure at West Music, I personally had the opportunity to work with John Williams in a sales setting. John’s relaxed sales approach, vast product knowledge, and great sense of humor made it extremely easy for me to ask, “why would I not buy this?!”

A customer recently commented “He set aside some parts that came into the West Music Cedar Rapids store for me that I found out are no longer made, but fit my very old Clavinova perfectly!” This is just one of many examples of John’s commitment to customer service.

John’s leadership and customer focus are just a few of his strengths. He is an inspiration for all of us here at West Music!

Congratulations, John, and thanks for all you do!

As told by Jim Midcalf,
Director of Regional Sales

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Categories: Company Culture, Extraordinary Associate of the Month
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Urbandale February 2017 Musican of the Month: Mitchell Logan
By West Music Company
3/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Mitchell Logan is a 4th grader within the West Des Moines School District. He has been a piano student at West Music studying under Janet Winship for 2 years. Along with the piano, Mitchell plays the recorder, as well as the viola in the West Des Moines beginning orchestra program.

Janet Winship believes Mitchell deserves recognition because “Mitchell is an active participant in class and highly motivated. He pays attention to the details and memorizes his music quickly and carefully. Time flies in class and always makes us wish we had more time to play piano.” Mitchell loves playing music because “It’s very satisfying to learn a new song and completely get it.” One of his musical goals is to become a better viola and recorder player.

While away from the piano bench, Mitchell participates in Taekwondo Team JETT and an awesome light saber club! Some of his other interests include playing with nerf guns, LEGOs, and traveling. Mitchell’s favorite musician is Lindsey Stirling who is known for her Dubstep violin original song “Crystallize”. One surprising fact we learned about Mitchell is that he had surgery on his stomach when he was a baby. Whoa!

Congrats, Mitchell!!

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Categories: Conservatory, West Music Piano Gallery
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Coralville February 2017 Musician of the Month: Josie Fullenkamp
By West Music Company
3/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Dog Music Note DrawingJosie Fullenkamp is 10 years old and has been taking violin lessons with Gayla Drake at West Music Coralville for almost three years. She plays in the school orchestra, also plays flute in her school band and loves all music!

Her teacher has this to say about Josie:

Josie is a very inspiring person to work with. She loves the violin so much that she once said, upon entering the String Shop, "Ahh, the smell of my people!" She has really helped to shape my studio into a community through her introduction of Notey the Naughty Dog cartoon and fan club. I feel so lucky to spend time with her every week.

Josie’s musical goal is to play the violin fast and with fluency.  She loves music because of “the vibe and how you react. It is like the wind is music and you are a willow tree.” Her advice to other musicians is to never stop doing what you love most. Her favorite music is from Les Misérables, Hamilton, Lindsey Sterling plus other pop, classics and hip hop hits. 

A busy 5th grader - Josie also enjoys skiing, drawing, dancing, kickball and reading “The Warrior” series. She is a fan of wolves (and huskies), mountains and loves spending time with friends and family (including her dog, Jake). She often draws her cartoon characters and music lessons on the studio white-board at lessons. “I enjoy drawing the musical sensation of West Music, Notey the Dog!”

Great job, Josie!

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Categories: Conservatory, West Music Coralville
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String Instrument Care Tips
By West Music Company
2/10/2017 9:48:00 AM  

Caring for your string instrument isn’t hard if you understand a few basics! Read what our orchestra instrument experts have to say, or download this handy PDF.

String Care Tips

Remember that your instrument is made of wood and can easily be damaged if not handled with care. Bumping the instrument against another object may damage the wood, cause the bridge to slide out of alignment, or cause the sound post (found inside instrument) to fall down. Bridges and sound posts are not glued in place, but are held by the pressure of the strings, which allows them to be replaced and adjusted as needed. If an accident should happen, bring your instrument to a West Music Repair Shop for service.

The Fittings

Pegs may stick in humid weather and not hold well in dry conditions. Pegs that won’t hold may need to be pushed in gently while tuning
it to the proper pitch. Pegs may slightly back out and loosen if turned without applying this gentle inward pressure.

The Chinrest

Changes in humidity may cause shrinking and swelling of the instrument and may cause the chinrest to become loose. In this event, please take care to tighten the arms of the chinrest in a clockwise motion, to secure the chinrest tighter to the instrument. A little goes a long way, only tighten enough to reduce movement.

Tailpiece/Fine Tuners

Check the fine tuners very closely to ensure there is plenty of screw space height to adjust the pitch. Be aware that the tuning arms located behind the tailpiece are not pushing into the top of your instrument. The tailpiece’s tail gut or wrap should be centered and fastened very securely to the end-pin or end-button of your instrument.

Fingerboard

During play, rosin can make its way onto your fingerboard as well as your instruments top. After each practice session, take care to wipe down the fingerboard and strings to remove rosin and dust to prolong the life of your strings.

The Wood

Wood may expand in humid weather and contract as it dries which can affect how your instrument functions. Do not leave your instrument in a car during extreme hot or cold weather as this can damage the instrument and the finish.

The Case

Don’t try to force the case lid shut!Most instrument cases are only large enough to hold the instrument, bow, rosin, and small accessories such as a mute or pitch pipe. Only store objects such as pens and pencil in the accessory compartment of your case, otherwise they may damage the instrument when the case is closed. Shoulder rests are best carried separately unless there is ample room in the case or the case has a compartment to hold it. Papers or music stored in the case may squeeze against the instrument causing the bridge to break or the instrument to crack.

The Bow

Rosin is applied to the bow hair to create friction on the strings and make them vibrate. The bow hair should not be touched because rosin will not stick if oils from your skin get on the bow. Not getting enough rosin on the bow will result in faint and squeaky sounds. If too much rosin is used it will come off the bow and stick to the instrument. Wipe excess rosin off the instrument with a soft cloth.

When putting the bow away, loosen the hair a little so it is not as tight as when you are playing. Leave slight tension to help keep the hair from getting caught on something, but not warp the bow. Cleaning your hands before and after use will help the bow hair last longer.

The Strings

Every time you play and sometimes in the middle of practices and performances your instrument may need to be tuned. Over time the strings will stretch, wear out, and
sometimes break. Strings have a limited lifespan and need to be replaced when they get frayed, damaged, corroded, or have lost their tone. Replace with the same brand for consistent sound. Keeping your hands clean before and during use will help the strings last.

If you should notice a problem with your instrument, bring it in as soon as possible to be serviced. Repairs to string instruments can take just a few minutes, several hours or sometimes several weeks, so don’t wait until it is too late! Contact your local West Music store to schedule a repair or complete our online Instrument Repair Form.


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Jeremy Jacobs - Cedar Rapids' New Luthier Extraordinaire
By West Music Company
2/10/2017 9:14:00 AM  
Jeremy JacobsWest Music is proud to introduce its newest luthier, Jeremy Jacobs!  Jeremy has set up shop at West Music Cedar Rapids and has already gotten to work fixing guitars and other stringed instruments from around the community. Along with Bruce Vanderschel and Kevin Halbrooks in Coralville and Tony Carducci in Quad Cities, Jeremy is a key player in our fretted instrument repair team!

Jeremy is a Marion, IA native who describes music as his passion.  He has been fixing guitars since his days at Linn-Mar High School, and kicked off his professional career almost a decade ago as a guitar repair tech at Guitar Center. He is Expert Level Certified in many types of fretted instrument repair including restrings/setups, basic and advanced wiring, structural repair, and fret work.  While Jeremy will admit the guitar is his favorite instrument (he owns several Les Pauls, Explorers and Flying Vs), he can repair or setup almost anything with strings, including orchestral instruments such as violins and cellos. 

Jeremys GuitarsJeremy is also a professional musician in his own right. He has performed on electric guitar alongside some of the greatest musicians in the Cedar Rapids area and has recorded with several local bands. The two main guitars he uses on stage are ones he built himself! He started off with just a blank body and neck, and assembled them using spare parts he was able to find. He even drew his own designs on them using a Sharpie.
When asked what made him excited about being at West Music, he answered getting to be on the same team as people like Bruce, Kevin and Tony. Bruce is known for his incredible ability to fix and refinish older, more delicate guitars, and Kevin and Tony have both created one-of-kind instruments for professional musicians.

Jeremy gives the following instrument care tips to any string player out there. First, it’s important to humidify your stringed instrument in dry weather.  Second, if you are bringing your instrument in from the cold, let it warm up before playing.  Finally, bring your guitar and other stringed instruments to him for regular maintenance!

If you’re interested in getting your strings fixed by Jeremy or any of our luthiers, please give us a call or complete our Fetted Instrument Repair Form.


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Extraordinary Associate of the Month January 2017: Shivan Dohse Morton
By West Music Company
2/3/2017 4:15:00 PM  
Whether on the phone, electronically, or face-to-face, Shivhan provides EXCEPTIONAL customer service to flutists everywhere. Her product knowledge, skill as a professional player, and experience contribute to her amazing ability to turn customers’ words about what they are looking for into a tangible item. Want a dark sound with chocolaty harmonics, substantial resistance, flexibility, and a fluid mechanism? Poof! Shivhan has the perfect flute for you.

We frequently hear how much customers and our dealers appreciate her thoroughness and care. Those of us who have the privilege of working with her feel the same way. Not only does Shivhan do a great job of serving each and every customer, but she backs this up with a high level of attention to detail. She has most of our inventory serial numbers memorized to the point where we are considering renaming her Shivision. Ok, I might be going too far with the nickname, but it’s true that she memorizes serial numbers! Quiz her sometime and prepare to be amazed.

Shivhan loves what she does, which is clearly demonstrated through her actions. Thanks for your positivity, your enthusiasm, and your commitment to bringing your A-game every day, Shivhan!

Congratulations, Shivhan, and thanks for all you do!

As told by Cathy Miller,
Vice President

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The Benefits of Music Education in Childhood Development
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Piano Types for The Home
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Des Moines March 2017 Musician of the Month: Lucas Clark
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