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Addendum to Malden PorchFest 2024: More student performances

Last Saturday, MAP Family Learning Center students and teachers performed for Malden PorchFest. We had an hour slot from 1-2pm at Malden City Hall Plaza. Everything went well, and the kids and their families all seemed to have a great time.

Some of the students, however, were not able to participate in the live event, either because of schedule conflicts or because they are taking their lessons online. (Yes, we continue to provide remote lessons.) For those students who couldn’t make it, we asked them to send us recordings of them performing at home so that they could still showcase their work.

The following playlist includes performances by students who are taking remote lessons, footage from a rehearsal of our advanced guitar ensemble with a student who wasn’t able to participate the day of PorchFest because of a volley ball game, as well as recording from the Plaza so that those who couldn’t make it can watch what the others did. We hope you like it as much as we do!

Ananya performs Partita VIII: Gigue (Movement IV) by Giuseppe Antonio Brestianello

Drop your praise and encouragement for our students in a comment below

How did the students do? Please drop a comment into the field below to encourage our students.

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“Twinkle Twinkle” on the Kite Guitar

[NOTE: This article has been edited on 8/30 for minor corrections and improvements.]

At MAP Family Learning Center, we are always looking for new, innovative ways to explore musical concepts. The Kite Guitar, invented in 2019 by Kite Giedraitis, is a great way to explore Just Intonation (music) as well as fractions (math). This article tells how we worked with our intermediate students to figure out “Twinkle Twinkle” on the Kite Guitar and what we learned along the way.

What is the Kite Guitar?

The Kite Guitar is a microtonal guitar, meaning it has a different division of the octave than the prevailing “12 equal divisions of the octave”. Musicians and music educators reading this will recognize that microtonality is not something typically taught to young students. In fact, a musician could go through prep school, undergraduate studies, and graduate studies at a university or conservatory and never once be required to study–or even be exposed to–microtonality!!

Various Kite Guitars
Various Kite Guitars

What is Microtonality?

Microtonality is presumed to be “esoteric”, “niche”, and “advanced”. In fact, I had some of these same presumptions myself. However, the folks of the Kite Guitar have been generous with their knowledge and time and have shown me that microtonality can–and, arguably should–be simple and accessible!

How did the Kite Guitar and its Knowledge come to MAP?

After learning a few things by going to weekly meetings, creating fretboard simulations with Music Blocks, reading their very insightful documentation, and receiving a Kite Guitar myself, I decided to share the fruits of my explorations with my guitar students.

In late June, Kite Guitar creator, Kite Giedraitis, visited Malden MAP, bringing two Kite Guitars, and giving an in-person workshop to a few of our lucky students.

Kite Giedraitis visits Malden MAP
Kite Giedraitis visits Malden MAP

A Simple Start — “Twinkle, Twinkle” on the Kite Guitar

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, I thought, would be a great start for two of my guitar students at MAP. These two students are fairly advanced on a standard (i.e. non-microtonal) guitar and can play intermediate-level music. However, since the Kite Guitar is quite different conceptually than a standard guitar, I decided to start simple.

We chose “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” which is entirely diatonic (i.e. can be played without black keys on a keyboard), uses just 6 pitches in the melody, and has a simple ABBA form. Moreover, since the melody is so familiar students can be quick to error-detect and correct if and when they make a mistake. (We all make mistakes — That is how we learn!)

Below is a video of the first lesson of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the Kite Guitar. In many ways, it was a historic moment as Kite Guitar, only having been discovered a few years prior (one of which was during a global pandemic) is still a pioneering effort.

Video of Mr. Devin teaching a student how to play “Twinkle Twinkle” on the Kite Guitar.

First Lesson of "Twinkle Twinkle" on the Kite Guitar

Editorial Note: In the video, I say “third kite”, which would be way higher up on the neck. The correct term, consistent with the Kite Guitar terminology, would be “triple dot”.

Why Kite Guitar?

A melody like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” can be played on a standard guitar, of course. However, by challenging oneself to figure out the same melody on the Kite Guitar we can begin a journey into learning about Just Intonation (music), of which is made accessible by the Kite Guitar, as well as acoustics (physics) and fractions (math).

The musical result of this challenge is a more in-tune, sonorous “Twinkle, Twinkle”. These concepts cannot be explored on a standard guitar. Also, a standard guitar will be more out-of-tune to Just Intonation.

In order to bring to surface some of these concepts, the students and I created lattices to determine which “D” (or “Re”, 2nd Scale Degree) to use. Below is an image of our work.

Image of lattices for "Twinkle Twinkle" on Kite Guitar.
Image of lattices for “Twinkle Twinkle” on Kite Guitar.

The Math and Music Behind the Lattice

An in-depth explanation of lattices is outside of the scope of this article. However, basically we had a choice between two different types of “D”. One of which is tuned by 3:2 perfect fifths from C ( C <–> G <–> D). This results in 3/2 * 3/2 = 9/4. The other is tuned by 5:4 to E from C, then down by 4:3 perfect fourths. This results in 5/4 * 4/3 * 4/3 = 80/36 = 20/9. The former results in 9/4 = 2.25 and the latter results in 20/9 = 2.2223. The difference seems small as a number, but is perceptible to the ear. Moreover, the Kite Guitar allows us to play either type of “D” to test the difference.

On a standard guitar, there is only one type of “D” making the exercise impossible. The Kite Guitar makes such a study possible, as well as practical. (The fretboard layout for the Kite Guitar is surprisingly easy to learn.)

Implications for Education

As I hope is evident by this article, what may seem like a simple lesson of a simple children’s song actually has many other things going on. Yes, we learned “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Yes, we used very simple fractions, which are presumably thoroughly taught in every school. However, we did many things that are unique to an integrated approach to music education. For example, we used math to calculate the expected outcome of the music, and then we tested our hypothesis (i.e. scientific method). We also tried something that most music schools for children wouldn’t even think of trying — we taught our students how to figure out a familiar melody on a new and novel instrument (i.e. breaking new ground, innovation, research, and problem solving).

Conclusions and Next Steps

The students who participated in learning music and theory on the Kite Guitar reacted very positively. They participated very well and were able to figure out a lot of the math on their own. They were also able to identify the differences of the various types of pitches by ear (e.g. which “D” sounds good within which context.) Therefore, we have continued the curriculum and plan to develop it further.

As a start, I have begun to write some of the exercises and music on my Github page, which may be downloaded, shared, remixed, and redistributed. I encourage my students and colleagues to do so.

What I expect to come from such an exploration is that my students have a better awareness of the inherent issues that arise with tuning and temperament. Unfortunately (but please correct me in the comments below if I am wrong), there is not a lot of research into “microtonality pedagogy”. However, given the mathematical and musical basis for microtonality and the Kite Guitar, I expect that exposing young students early in their education would improve their understanding of tuning and temperament. This understanding should result in students who are better equipped to avoid the most common pitfalls of, for example, tuning a guitar (or other instrument) or leading a choir.

Moreover, at MAP, we expect our students to create, discover, and to explore ideas in more than one way. Bravo!

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Online Classes

Amid the recent changes to daily living due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MAP has temporarily suspended in-person classes.

Currently, we are doing all online classes. These classes entail doing a lesson over a video conference, regular communications with families with instructional media, and regular group meetings over video conference. Please see the pictures to see what online instruction looks like from our office.

Connect Online

How to connect?

It is simple. If you want to try out our system and speak with an instructor (during hours), you can connect to a room via Jitsi at

Contact us to reserve a trial lesson. This visit is absolutely free and no commitment.

You must schedule a time by contacting us beforehand in order to receive the room name and reserve a time.

(1) Connect with a Desktop Computer

Connect via Laptop/Desktop

…or Connect with your Android or iPhone device, and…

Jitsi for Android

Jitsi for Android with F-Droid

…and (2) join us in your assinged room.

If you have any questions, please reply to this message and/or call us at 781-605-3711. Thanks!

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About us

“MAP Family Learning Center” in Malden, MA is an after school programming for students to supplement their education with high-quality Music, Art, and Programming (MAP) classes. We offer classical guitar instruction from level 0 (family guitar for ages 5-6) to level 7 (advanced ensemble), drop-in art classes from 2:30-3:45, and a unique “Music+Code” curriculum that explores math, music, and computation in an integrated and fun way.

Guitar instructor, “Mr. Devin” has taught students in the Malden area for more than 5 years and more than a decade of experience teaching young children. Two of his students have placed in the Boston GuitarFest Youth Competition, and he is very proud of all his students who have grown into fine individuals over the years. Mr. Devin holds his Masters in Music (M.M.) from New England Conservatory with a concentration in Music-in-Education.

Leading the Saturday “Music+Code” classes is former MIT Media Lab director (yes, you heard that right!), Walter Bender and Mr. Devin. Walter Bender and Mr. Devin co-created “Music Blocks”, a visual programming language for music, which is the tool they use for teaching the Music+Code curriculum at MAP Family Learning Center.

For Art, we have Ms. Chie, a Boston-based visual artist. She is offering fun classes in “toddler sensory play” on Tuesday and Thursday mornings as well as “Arts and Crafts” and “Origami” classes after school.

MAP Family Learning Center is located directly across from the Beebe school. Click here for location details.

Discounts are offered to families who book multiple classes, so it is possible for students to spend an afternoon taking enriching classes and be picked up at 5 or 6pm (TIP: This can be counted as “Child Care” on your taxes for a tax break). Sibling discounts are also available. Families interested in private lessons can receive discounts (up to 30%) for “scheduling in advance”. Memberships with special access and rates are also available.