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Today was another beautiful day.

Even in late summer, the trees just outside my studio here in South Yarra are so green and full of leaves.

In the middle of an intensive training for an ABRSM exam (ABRSM Piano 2017-2018 Grade 4 A:3) Vanhal’s Allegretto (2nd movt from Sonatina in A, Op. 41 No. 12) with my talented student Chloe, there was a series of magical sounds that interrupted us...

They emanated from the window opposite the grand piano, so we paused practice for a minute to listen and to our delight realized it was the birds singing to us!

That put a truly big smile on both Chloe and my own face, and I’m still thinking about it hours later, like a scene out of Snow White.

Whilst we often think of bird sounds as being bird calls, there are actually fascinating differences between calls and songs.

A call is a vocalisation typically of a short duration that is quite basic in structure and often uttered by a female. In contrast, a bird song tends to be more complicated in composition as well as being longer - with long and often melodious series of notes usually ‘sung’ by a breeding-age male. And each bird species has their own wonderful types of calls and songs. It’s a fascinating topic.

And just as Chloe and I enjoyed the song, recent studies have shown that birds have developed the same type of neural reward system as humans listening to sounds they like. Thus, birds are attracted to beautiful music (certain pitches and frequencies)

This “piece” we here was akin to an allegretto which is an Italian musical term meaning light, graceful, and moderately fast in tempo. This piece was in A major (songs with major keys tend to be brighter and happier, but minor keys seem to be darker and sadder).

Nature is truly beautiful, and it appears that appreciating good music is universal!

Grace Newstead is a qualified piano teacher based in South Yarra, tutoring in English, Cantonese or Mandarin. To get in touch please click

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