When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique

When Mistakes Are Good: A Counterintuitive Strategy for Rapidly Fixing Bad Habits in Our Technique

We all have habits. Some good - like eating healthily, exercising regularly, and squeezing toothpaste from the bottom of the tube. And others not so good - like skipping breakfast, "text neck", and leaving wet bath towels on the floor. It's no different when it comes to music - we all have various good and bad technique habits as well. Those bugaboos we keep struggling to rid ourselves of, but … [Read more...]

the impact of self-selected repertoire on practice behavior

What Changes When a Student Selects Their Own Repertoire? (A Case Study)

I loved Alvin and the Chipmunks as a little kid. I thought their voices were awesome, and particularly liked their singing voices - the was a favorite. So when my mom tried to get me to take voice lessons (figuring it'd be good for my overall musical development), I agreed thinking I'd learn how to sing like the chipmunks did. I had visions of performing the Christmas song, and remember being … [Read more...]

A Simple Way to Keep Music in Your Fingers When Practicing More Isn't an Option

A Simple Way to Keep Music in Your Fingers When Practicing More Isn’t an Option

Nowadays, listening to music is easy. For one, it's everywhere. We have access to pretty much anything, anytime, and anywhere we want - on our computers, our phones, heck, even some of our TV's. It's also super easy to fast-forward, rewind, and repeat music, so we can listen to sections or entire tracks over and over and over. It's easy to forget that there was a time not so long ago when … [Read more...]

coffee vs. sleep. which is better for the sleep-deprived musician?

Naps vs. Coffee. Which Is a Better Choice for the Sleep-Deprived Musician?

Naps were a way of life for me in college (though it's debatable whether a 4-hour "nap" still qualifies as such), and there are indications that napping is becoming a more culturally accepted practice as companies like Google, The Huffington Post, Zappos, and Nike are encouraging employees to nap instead of insisting that they try to simply power through the mental fog of a mid-day lull. Indeed, … [Read more...]

Why a Little Reflection Should Be a Regular Part of Your Practice Routine

Why a Little Reflection Should Be a Regular Part of Your Practice Routine

A part of me has always been rather fond of the "no pain, no gain" mentality. The giving "110% percent" mindset, and the idea that if you're not actively engaged in effortful activity, nothing is happening. But I've come to appreciate that gains don't always happen when we're in the midst of an activity. I've learned, for instance, that muscle growth doesn't happen during a workout, but between … [Read more...]

are great sight readers born or made?

Are Great Sight-Readers Born or Made?

I grew up learning music by ear, so when I first began playing in an orchestra and saw how some of my friends could simply look at a new piece of music and play it in real-time, I was totally impressed (and more than a little intimidated). I did get better at it over time, but always thought of myself as a relatively poor sight reader. Of course I shouldn't complain since I never really made a … [Read more...]

why practicing practicing from an early age is so important

Why Practicing Practicing from an Early Age Is so Important

A few years ago, I heard Robert Duke (who was once a band teacher) tell a story about how he flipped practicing, and got his students to beg him to be allowed to practice more. Essentially, he told his students that they were not allowed to take their instruments home, until he had heard them play individually and gauged whether they could practice effectively and avoid developing bad … [Read more...]

what is more effective - praise or criticism?

What Is More Effective – Praise or Criticism?

In 1948, the UCLA men's basketball team finished with a 12-13 record. Hoping to turn things around, they hired a young coach named John Wooden, who had spent the last two years coaching at Indiana State University. He made an immediate impact at UCLA, coaching the team to a division title and a 22-7 record - more wins than they had ever had in a season. He did even better the next year, … [Read more...]

8 things top practicers do differently

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently

As my kids were (begrudgingly) practicing their Tae Kwon Do patterns the other night, I caught myself telling my oldest that he had to do his pattern five times before returning to his video game. My goal, of course, was not for him to go through the motions of his pattern five times like a pouty zombie, but to do it one time with good form and authority. But the parent in me finds it very … [Read more...]

why improvisation should be part of every musician's training

Why Improvisation Should Be Part of Every Young Musician’s Training

Much is often made of the Suzuki method as being a system of learning that fails to nurture creativity. I don't know if this was part of Dr. Suzuki's original philosophy, or if I had liberal Suzuki teachers, or just a forward-thinking mom, but I actually remember being asked to do a lot of free improvisation as a Suzuki kid. Almost on a daily basis, I'd have to pick up the violin and create … [Read more...]