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...]

why the way we practice makes us think we're better prepared than we really are

Why the Way We Usually Practice Makes Us Think We’re Better Prepared than We Really Are

When I was in high school, "studying" meant reviewing my textbook and notes into the wee hours of the night. I thought I was being pretty hard-core, and it seemed to work pretty well, so I stuck with it. Then I went to college, and quickly discovered that just because everything in the readings made sense and seemed increasingly familiar the more I re-read it, didn't mean I could actually … [Read more...]

why trying to make practice fun may be the wrong approach

Why Trying to Make Practice Fun Might Be the Wrong Approach

If you've read any articles or books on deliberate practice, you may recall that one of its defining characteristics is that such practice is "not inherently enjoyable." Some have even taken this to mean that deliberate practice is actively unpleasant. That it is "hard" or "painful" and "hurts." Urgh. So does that mean that practicing the "right way" is supposed to feel like a chore? That … [Read more...]

what does it mean if we have a bad dream about an upcoming performance

What Does It Mean When We Have a Bad Dream about an Upcoming Performance?

You know that dream? The one where you wake up late and miss your audition? Or get there and realize you've prepared all the wrong excerpts? Or arrive only to discover that your instrument case is empty (which actually happened to me once at a master class - in real life)? What does it all mean? Should we be worried? Especially if we have one of those dreams the night before a big … [Read more...]

do you need a pre-warmup routine?

Do You Need a Pre-Warmup Ritual?

It was the last week of the school year, and all of us parents were invited to attend a play that the entire 2nd grade class had been working on all semester. So, an auditorium full of busy parents were gathered together at 9am, chatting amongst themselves, checking their cell phones, and antsy to get off to meetings, classes, and morning yoga sessions. The director welcomed us, explained … [Read more...]

five best tuner apps

Five Best Tuner Apps

Intonation is a tricky thing, and sometimes a matter of great debate. But out of tune is out of tune, and a tuner app can come in handy when we need to make sure our ears are not playing tricks on us. But with a wide variety of apps to choose from, which is best? Earlier this week I asked which tuner apps you found most helpful, and you nominated 23 of your favorites. Based on your feedback, … [Read more...]