Tuesday, May 4, 2010

STL Ocarina Review

As parents begin to finalize plans for their children's summer activities, I have a music expert who can provide insight into why either learning to play a musical instrument or continuing to practice over the summer provides key benefits for kids.

Laura Yeh, director of the St. Louis School of Music who designs ocarinas for STL Ocarina, says there are practical benefits kids realize by learning to play a musical instrument and with parents still paying close attention to costs, she says it is possible to learn to play a musical instrument without breaking the bank.

"In this economy, music lessons and musical instrument purchases and rentals might be out of reach, but there are alternatives," she says. 

STL Ocarina is offering two summer enrichment packages:

The Art of Ocarina for Young Children: This method book is specially designed for children and those of who are young at heart. Through ten step-by-step lessons, you can learn how to read music and how to play songs on your six-hole ocarina. No prior musical knowledge is required. A demonstration CD is included so you can play along with us! This book also includes: 10 Step-by-step lessons; Colorful fingering chart; Over 30 well known songs; Tips on how to practice each song; and a free 6-hole plastic ocarina. SRP: $30 Available at http://stlocarina.com/method3.html

The Art of Ocarina for Older Kids (ages 10+): This method book is designed to help older children learn to play the ocarina. No prior musical knowledge is required. In addition to presenting various rhythms and the fingerings for the notes, our lessons provide instruction on how to read standard musical notation on the ocarina. The repertoire chapter includes 12 famous songs with detailed information on how to practice each song. A demonstration CD of all the songs in the book is provided to help you learn to play beautifully. This method book includes: 12 Step-by-Step lessons; How to play each note; Tips on how to practice; Breathing techniques; How to play various rhythms; How to play in different keys; Scales and exercises for daily practice; Over 50 well known songs; and a demonstration CD. Also included in this custom package is a 12-hole Plastic Tenor Ocarina in C Major. SRP: $39. Available at http://www.stlocarina.com

Yeh has also put together nine benefits kids realize by learning to play a musical instrument.

Nine Benefits of Music Education for Kids
By Laura Yeh

Kids who learn to play a musical instrument gain an outlet for their creativity that can bring them a joy for a lifetime. They also reap tangible benefits that can help them as students and throughout their lives.

Through musical instruction, children learn discipline, patience, problem-solving skills, confidence and responsibility, to name just a few benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages your child can gain from learning to play an instrument:

Precision, discipline and focus: In addition to fostering the development of discipline, music enables children to learn precision and accuracy. I know of no other form of education that can help students learn this kind of focused precision at a young age. Students learn to pay close attention to exactly how a particular skill looks, sounds and feels. The brain learns to notice more detail.

Patience: Students gain the valuable quality of patience, especially with a more complex instrument like violin or piano. Each skill requires hundreds of repetitions to become easy. Students must have the confidence that they will get it if they just keep practicing.

Problem-solving and persistence: Practicing is always about problem-solving. Why do I make a mistake here or why does it sound squeaky? What solutions can I come up with to fix the mistake? Good practice techniques require creativity and patience to identify and solve the problem. From this, students learn persistence. No passage is impossible to play correctly. It’s just a matter of finding the right way of practicing.

Fine motor skills: I have seen the development of fine motor skills in my violin students, particularly the ability to isolate certain muscles and joints as well as the independent use of each finger.

Healthy habits: Learning a musical instrument requires good posture and the ability to keep muscles relaxed even while doing something challenging. Students also strengthen muscles and gain flexibility, both of which contribute to overall health.

Memory: As music is memorized, the capabilities of memory are greatly enhanced. Education then becomes a matter of drawing conclusions and making connections between concepts rather than an exertion to merely memorize all the material. The younger a child can begin learning music, the greater the benefit for their short- and long-term memory.

Creativity: The wonderful thing about music is that, although it requires precision and accuracy in terms of rhythms, notes and playing technique, when it comes to interpretation, there is so much room for individuality. The skill of improvisation allows even greater creativity. Students learn to think for themselves and make their own artistic choices rather than being told how to do everything.

Cultural Understanding: Students are introduced to music of different cultures and from different times. This exposure is useful for kids to learn about and appreciate the differences and individuality of all people.

Confidence and work ethic: Students learn that if they apply themselves intelligently, efficiently, and persistently they achieve the desired result.

So what is the best way to introduce children to music? Many children with encouragement can learn challenging instruments such as the violin and piano. But not all families can invest the money and time required for instruments and lessons. A wonderful instrument that I have found to help spur children’s interest in music is the ocarina.

These ancient little wind instruments were played by the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas of South and Central America and in ancient India and China. The ocarina was well known in the United States in the early part of the last century after being issued to troops in the two World Wars.

In 2004, I bought several ocarinas while on a visit to Taiwan. I was impressed by how easy the ocarina was to pick up and play. So we began teaching it at the St. Louis School of Music. It turned out to be a perfect fit.

The ocarina is pocket-sized, fun and intriguing to play. It’s portable, economical and has a pleasant sound even in the hands of a beginner. It offers a great way to teach children the lifelong joys of music and introduce them to skills that will help them excel in everything they do.


About the Author:

Laura Yeh is a performer and music educator trained in the Suzuki methods of instruction who teaches violin and ocarina at the St. Louis School of Music to children as young as 3 and adults. Laura and her husband Dennis have collaborated with ocarina makers around the world to produce new models of the ocarina. They have designed and produced many unique and innovative ocarinas sold by STL Ocarina (http://www.stlocarina.com).

-Courtesy of STL Ocarina & Laura Yeh 

I was impressed when I received two STL Ocarinas for review! There are two sizes, one for children younger than age 10 and a larger Ocarina for children and adults 10 and over. The Ocarinas I received are made of durable, thick, hard plastic. The smaller Ocarina is blue and the larger is green. Simple but awesome! 

I also received two Guide Books for learning to play the Ocarinas. I actually tried playing the smaller Ocarina for children first, because it looked easier. But the larger Ocarina makes such a beautiful sound when you play it.

I love that these Ocarinas are of such high quality but come at a great value. The smaller Ocarina is $30 and the larger Ocarina is $39. These are real instruments that everyone can afford! 

Even renting instruments can be very expensive, not to mention purchasing them. With STL Ocarinas your child can learn to play a real wind instrument this summer. And you won't break the bank.

My daughter loves the child's Ocarina and is in the kitchen practicing as I write this. We personally have a small painted terracotta frog Ocarina that a friend brought us from her travels. 

Thanks to STL Ocarina for the samples!

*I received two Ocarinas and two Guide book samples to facilitate my candid and honest review. No other form of compensation was or will be given. All personal views are my own!


Anonymous said...

I've never heard of an ocarina before. Just learned something new today, :)

Stopping by from your blogfrog discussion and now your new follower.


Mary512 said...

Glad you could learn something new. Thanks for following!


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