learn quicker by focusing less on what your body is doing

Learn Quicker by Thinking Less about What Your Body Is Doing

I'm not much of a tennis player, but I wanted to give my kids an introduction to the sport last summer, so we picked up some kid-sized rackets and headed out to do some hitting. Naturally, I started by walking them through the basic grip, stance, and swing...and managed to overwhelm them with instructions and paralyze them with too many things to think about. I also totally sucked all the fun out … [Read more...]

3 reasons why you may be stuck on a plateau

3 Reasons Why You May Be Stuck on a Plateau

As a child, I always loved getting new pieces to learn. It was all fresh, new, exciting stuff - and I sounded like garbage. So I'd happily set about learning notes, figuring out bowings and fingerings, and working at things until it sounded better. Progress was usually pretty quick and very satisfying. But then I'd reach a point where everything seemed to progress more slowly. Where getting to … [Read more...]

which is better - playing to win or playing not to lose?

Playing to Win vs. Playing Not to Lose – Which Leads to Choking Under Pressure?

I remember my dad showing me this picture when I was a little kid, asking me - "What is this a picture of?" A duck, I said. He asked if I saw anything else - which didn't make sense to me, because all there was to see was a duck. But when I could finally see that it wasn't just a duck, I wanted to know which one was the "true" image. Was it really a duck that also happened to look like a … [Read more...]

Evidence That Pianists Might Have It Tougher than the Rest of Us When It Comes to Performing from Memory

Evidence That Pianists Might Have It Tougher than the Rest of Us When It Comes to Performing from Memory

Back in college, my wife and I would good-naturedly debate which was the more difficult instrument - violin (my instrument) or piano (her instrument). I would always throw out the intonation card, while she would fire back with the claim that the sheer number of notes pianists have to play (and memorize) trumped intonation. When it comes to discussions about memorization, and whether … [Read more...]

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...]