Is Music Really Beneficial For Kids?

Is Music Really Beneficial For Kids?

Kids and music are a natural fit. Whether you’re singing a lullaby to your child or they are trying to make music of their own by using their toys, kids are hooked on music at a young age.

That’s one addiction you should do everything you can to encourage because music isn’t just fun for kids — it’s good for them too.

Beyond improving their sleep, relieving stress, and just having fun – music also has powerful (more…)

Tell Me On a Sunday – Interview

Tell Me On a Sunday – Interview

Below is a sneak peak of the delightfully charismatic Jodie Prenger’s question and answer session that took place in Act Two:

Jodie: Thank you so much for having me back in Bristol! I have to say I am in shock. I never get invited the same place twice! Last year I embarked on a tour of Calamity Jane, and I tell you after fourteen months of being on tour those buckskins could walk on their own!

Do you have a dream role and/or roles that you would like to play and why?

I could do with a sausage roll right now, I’m starving! Because I’m just wasting away! Dream role, dream role, dream role? I’ve got two actually, my first dream role would be to play Mama Rose in Gypsy; it’s the music, it’s the overture, it gives me tingles! And the second one, I’d love to play Dolly Levi, because of the feather hat, but it’s the music again! And it would be nice to play such strong, outspoken women because it’s nothing like me. At all. Moving on…

If the girl in Tell me on a Sunday was you, would you travel that far for a man? 

Of course! Mind you, I wouldn’t travel far for the fella I’ve got right now, he’s only from down the road! No, but I think the part of Emma, what she did, I just love the fact that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black set it back into the late seventies and early eighties, I mean it’s a great era, and the fact that she went all the way out there showed how much courage she had. And I don’t think she ever found love, but I think she found herself.

Do you have any pre show rituals or routines that you like to do? 

Ooh, I do! That’s a good question that. When I walk on, I’m holding a book and it has to be on chapter six. If it’s not on chapter six, the world will end. It’s really weird, but theatre is very superstitious, it’s like you’re not really allowed to whistle back stage and you have to turn around and swear, that’s what I blame it on anyway!

If you hadn’t gone into musical theatre, what would you be doing?

I did work in a curtain shop, but I was never very good at my times table so when they used to come to pick up the curtains I’d calculated, they were either too short or too full. I’m also a fully qualified nail technician. If you want a full set, it’s twenty quid at the stage door. But really, I think I would have my ultimate dream, and it’s the same as Doris Day’s; she’s got an animal sanctuary. And I have, ladies and gentlemen, just bought myself a farm. I arrived here early today and I went to the most wonderful place, and I’m welling up now, but I went to this dog rescue centre called Happy Ever After. They do such amazing work, so if I have a day off I’m going to do a few days work there!

What’s your favourite song from the show?

Do you know, Don Black was telling us that it was his first ever collaboration with The Lord, and I just think it’s some of their greatest stuff. I came in already loving the song Tell me on a Sunday, but then found little gems. I think my favourite’s ‘Capped teeth and Caesar Salad’ it always makes me chuckle! And I love ‘Nothing like you’ve ever known’, I’ve never known a song that is just so raw. He’s not too bad at writing a couple of tunes, is he?!

Music a Universal Language?

Music a Universal Language?

When we talk to each other, a huge amount of the meaning in those noises is learnt.

Language is picked up from an early age through listening to our parents,

then schooling – where one has access to it – teaches us more: vocab tests, spelling tests, grammar tests.

We learn the connotations and different usage of words through conversation and reading.

And all other spoken languages are incomprehensible to us.

But there are signs and symbols that carry meaning no matter what your language.

Facial expressions, for example, have been shown by the work of Paul Ekman to be the same in people who were raised in isolated parts of New Guinea without contact with other cultures.

When New Guineans were happy they smiled, when sad they frowned, and when angry they furrowed their brows, and they recognised the facial expressions made by people from other cultures. It seems that no matter what language you speak, you can convey an emotion to any other human being through your expression. Smiling is a language we all understand.

But what about music? Music is similar to facial expressions in that it produces an emotional response but contains no other inherent meaning. And while you have to take music lessons to learn to read sheet music, you do not need to be taught to understand the emotional content of your record collection.

In the Western tradition, minor keys are associated with sadness or fear. Major keys tend to be positive, associated with excitement or happiness. A fact used by the composers of film scores to amplify the emotions of the drama as you watch it.

But is this emotional language of music universal? Is the major key as international as a smile?

It would seem so. For example, in the case of one study: Canadians and Pygmies were played the same music – some from the Western canon and some from the Pygmy’s – and the researchers compared the emotional responses of each person to each track. The responses for both the Canadians and the Pygmies were the same.

Similarly a study comparing different languages’s preferences for seeing certain rhythms (ref) found that although the Italian participants differed from the Turkish and Persian participants in how they sorted linguistic noises, all three groups treated he musical rhythms the same way.

The signs point towards there being something in all of us that responds to music in much the same way (ref). Of course this is a general point and there are exceptions, something like Steve Reich’s ‘Pendulum Music’ will probably get very different responses from different people, but most likely everyone everywhere will tear up at the first few chords of ‘Hallelujah’.


Tell Me on a Sunday – Review

Tell Me on a Sunday – Review

From the age of nine, I have had a real love for the show Tell Me On a Sunday, after singing the title song at a showcase way back when. Since then I have watched four different performances of it, the most recent production starring Jodie Prenger at The Hipprodrome, Bristol.

The one woman show follows the love life of Emma, a twenty-something British girl, who moves to New York in hopes of finding ‘the one’.   (more…)

Eurovision 2016

Eurovision 2016

Eurovision 2016


After a long day at work, it was a wonderful revelation to remember that Eurovision was about to start on TV just as I got home. I have to admit I have never missed a year of it since I can remember and I absolutely love every element of it, particularly the late great Terry Wogan’s commentary, and Graham Norton’s equally hilarious commentary in recent years.


Of course we all know Eurovision is only partially about the songs. What it really is, is a chance for all the countries to express their political standings and alliances for their surrounding (and usually neighbouring) countries. I can just imagine David Cameron taking note of every vote, whilst tucking into a Chinese in his pj’s (that’s what we all do when Eurovision is on, right?) planning which country to show his allegiance to in order to get some brownie points from its acquaintances, it’s all very revealing.


But, my issue with this years Eurovision in particular was the lack of culture represented with each song.


Only one country’s entry sang in a foreign language, Austria, and they sang in French! Now, I understand that some entries sang partly in their language and partly in English, but I simply don’t get why they aren’t singing in their native tongue. This competition should celebrate all things European, with Israel and Australia subtly falling under that bracket too as it appears. Even the French, whom in previous years have sung in their language with pride, chose to sing in English this year!


Not only did I feel robbed of the cultural experience that is Eurovision, I also felt that vocally those singers would have benefited from singing in their own language. What with the difference in vowel placement and shaping of the voice depending on where you are from in the world, I really believe that the songs would have been much more beautiful sung in the singers’ natural language. This is a song competition, and regardless of it’s other motives, I really think this year Eurovision failed to celebrate it’s thriving difference of culture and exciting musical variety. Be proud of your language and be proud of where you come from!

Image: Copyright


The Benefits of Singing Lessons for Children

The Benefits of Singing Lessons for Children

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests developing a child’s musical ability does have an impact on their more general intellectual development. Especially in their ability to handle language. This short article provides some background research which points towards the benefits of singing lessons for children.

The link between learning an instrument and language skills is most commonly tested in what are known as longitudinal studies, where groups of mostly similar people are observed over months or years to see what effect their differences have over the long term. For example one study took a group of 24 children and split them into two groups, giving one group music lessons and one group painting lessons. The two groups were then tested over a period of several years on their the ability to recognise the separations between words in continuous speech. The two groups were then compared, finding that the musicians were far better at recognising the separations.

If studies like this seems overly specific it is because they are. Each study proves little on its own and its purpose isn’t to confirm or disprove the idea that music and language learning are connected. Instead these studies isolate aspects of how music and language are linked, and what effect they have on each other. Cumulatively these studies add up to a picture of how the two skills are interwoven.

Increasingly this picture suggests that music lessons have definite benefits for a child’s linguistic development ref.

This stands somewhat to reason. Learning to play an instrument involves regularly practicing a skill that combines concentration, memory, fine motor skills, interpreting sheet music, and close-listening. These skills have crossover with those involved in speaking ability and literacy. As one paper puts it: “From an early age, musicians learn complex motor and auditory skills… which they practice extensively from childhood throughout their entire careers.” ref

There is a caveat to all this though, the benefits come from the active playing of an instrument, not from just listening to music or passive involvement in group lessons ref.


It is in the doing of music rather than in just learning it, that makes the difference.

Image: Copyright StasB