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...]


Best Tuner App?

I still remember my first tuner. The Seiko Tolv ST-369 - a gigantic brick of a device which probably has the equivalent mass of about 10 iPhones stacked together. Aside from using it to generate an A to tune my violin to, and for the occasional round of the scintillating "Name That A" game (i.e. is that a 440? a 442? a 441?), I have to admit that I didn't use it for much else. My laziness … [Read more...]

cranky, tired, and not in the mood to practice?

Cranky, Tired, and Not in the Mood to Practice?

Have you ever timed how long it takes to go to the bathroom? Just FYI, it takes at least 2 minutes to take a leak, assuming close proximity of the restroom and that you wash and dry your hands. Two minutes may not sound like much, but it can seem like an eternity if you're in the middle of an intense practice session, rehearsal, or even if you're trying to cram a ton of errands and chores into … [Read more...]

The impact of exercise and physical fitness on performance under pressure

The Impact of Exercise and Physical Fitness on Performance under Pressure

Freshman year, one of my roommates was the starting center on the basketball team and went to the gym every day to work out. Intrigued, I began tagging along and started learning how to work out properly. I found that I rather enjoyed it. I liked that there was a direct relationship between the effort I put in and the results I got. Unlike the practice room, where the effort I was putting in … [Read more...]

how to deal with practice guilt

3 Ways to Deal with Practice Guilt (Aside From the Obvious)

I was never particularly enthusiastic about practicing. Even into my grad school years, I probably spent more time every day creatively procrastinating and avoiding practicing than I spent actually practicing. Case in point, one of the reasons why I was so well-read as a kid, was that reading was a parent-endorsed activity (vs. watching TV). I learned that being in the middle of a book seemed … [Read more...]