A 30-second Technique to Prevent Choking under Pressure That Sounds Too Good to Be True

A Simple Technique to Prevent Choking under Pressure (Which Sounds Like it Couldn’t Possibly Work)

One of my favorite violin concertos - the - begins with a 10th in 5th position. That’s enough of a challenge as it is, not to mention when you’re nervous and your hand is cold and stiff and claw-like. But in his infinite wisdom, the composer decided to craft a lengthy intro (about 20% of the length of the entire movement) which is a nice enough bit of music, but forces the performer to just … [Read more...]

Observational practice: Not just better than nothing

Watching Videos of Experts Can Help Us Learn More Effectively – If We Do It Right

Most kids seem to love watching themselves on video - whether they’re singing, dancing, or just being their goofy selves. Weird how things change as we get older though, no? I remember thinking it was a blast to watch old 8mm film of myself as a kid, but by the time camcorders came out, I totally resisted watching any video of myself playing. It was bad enough to have to listen to my … [Read more...]

Autonomy in the Practice Room: How Choice Can Help You Learn Better

Autonomy in the Practice Room: How Choice Can Enhance Learning

24 hours sounds like a lot, but once you take out time for sleeping, eating, school, homework, Tae Kwon Do practice, etc., there’s frustratingly little left over. And everyone just seems to get busier with each passing year. So when it comes to homework, sometimes I really just want my kids to get it done in the most expeditious way possible. But this sentiment seems to transform me into … [Read more...]

The Value of Eschewing Tradition and Going out on a Limb

Why Tradition Isn’t Always What It’s Cracked up to Be

Whether it’s a treasured family recipe for chocolate fudge or a technique for doing long division, our daily activities are peppered with traditions of one kind or another - customs or ways of doing things that have been passed on from one generation to the next. We have a lot of musical traditions as well. Some are related to technique and how we play our instrument, while many are related to … [Read more...]

Are Today's Artists More Uniform and Less Musically Adventurous than Those of Yesteryear?

Are Today’s Artists More Uniform and Less Musically Adventurous than Those of Yesteryear?

Do you remember those not-so-long-ago times when soda came in glass bottles, drive-in-movies were still a thing, and tomatoes actually tasted like tomatoes? Even though in most ways we are generally better off now than we used to be, it’s easy to look back and romanticize the “good old days.” Whether we call it declinism (bad) or nostalgia (not so bad), it’s pretty common to gripe about the … [Read more...]

Reward vs. punishment - which leads to better learning? The answer is not what you think.

Reward vs. Punishment – Which Results in Better Learning?

In the world of college and professional sports, some coaches are notorious for having a short fuse, and for utilizing what some would consider a punitive (or abusive) style of coaching. Legendary Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight comes to mind, whose controversial dismissal in 2000 was in response to allegations of abusive behavior (such as the 1997 ). The recent movie … [Read more...]

4 signs your quartet may be headed for divorce

4 Signs Your Quartet May Be Headed for Divorce

Except for the time in 3rd grade when I lost my cool during an impassioned game of keep-away, I’ve only had a few really heated arguments in my life. And with a pretty small number of people - basically just family...and chamber music partners. Indeed, many have compared the dynamics and relationships amongst those in serious ensembles with that of marriages (for instance, The NY Times on the … [Read more...]

pre-performance apathy (or the importance of disengaging from work and practice)

Pre-Performance Apathy (or the Importance of Mentally Disengaging From Work and Practice)

I spent most of my life as a chronic under-practicer. So the experience of practicing too much was uncharted territory…until the time in grad school when I crammed for a competition. There was plenty of time for me to learn and polish all the rep, but it was several rounds of music, and I waited far too long to get serious about my preparation. Several months out, I knew I was in a bit … [Read more...]

how talking to yourself could help you become a more effective practicer

Why Thinking Out Loud Could Help You Become a More Effective Practicer & Problem-Solver

I once studied with a teacher who had this amusing habit of talking out loud to himself. Essentially offering a running play-by-play of whatever he was doing at the moment, whether he was sharpening a pencil, typing an email, or packing the trunk of a car. I thought it was a personal quirk, but as the years have gone by, I’ve caught myself talking out loud on occasion. And it seems I’m not … [Read more...]


Metacognitive Instruction: How to Foster Smarter, More Independent Learners

.6% That’s the percentage of time in each week that students and teachers get to spend together. Not very much, huh? Heck, many students probably spend a greater percentage of the week driving to and from each lesson… The opportunity to receive direct feedback and guidance on how best to improve one’s skills is essential to a student's learning, but if they are going to make meaningful gains … [Read more...]