Ok, it’s that time of year again, when things get a little bit crazy and all routine seems to fly out the window.
But what’s going to happen with your music?
While some of you will be looking forward to a break, others will be looking forward to having more time to practice.
This Article is for all of you and contains links and suggestions suited to your practice ideals for this holiday season.
Taking A Break?
Of course that’s fine and for some those of you who have been working very hard on your music it could be the best thing for your progress.
However, for others, the decision to take a break may be forced by circumstances – either you are going away and won’t have your instrument or space to practice and/or you have to meet many social engagements and just won’t have the time.
It’s always a good idea to acknowledge your reasons or circumstances for not being able to practice and to be honest and real about it. (Reflective writing is always good for this.)
If you won’t be practicing but want to stay in touch with your music, I suggest you read this article which is full of recommendations for inspiring music reading, dvd’s and listening.
If you can’t take your instrument with you but still desire to keep your music learning going, this article has suggestions of how you can accomplish that.
Keeping The Routine Going?
If keeping your regular practice routine during the holidays is what you wish to do, the only advice I would give you is to cut yourself a bit of slack.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, especially if you are out of your ordinary work or day-to-day routine.
I am sure there will be at least one or two social engagements and you just may feel different as those around you begin to wind down.
Use your Practice Diary to keep track of your learning and perhaps set yourself some achievable goals for this short period and if you’re having trouble keeping up the routine, this article is sure to help you.
Practicing Like Mad?
Some of you may have a lot of music work commitments to meet and will have to put in some extra hours of rehearsal and practice.
Others of you will just want to take this opportunity of having more time, to practice more.
Again, don’t be disappointed if you don’t meet your expectations of learning. We can only learn as fast as our brains and bodies allow us to.
Also, (and this may seem obvious) try not to get sucked into any excessive partying.
Everybody’s experience of learning music is different, however, many of these experiences will have similar qualities.
This Article will take a look at what these qualities are, just so you know and just so you’re a little more prepared.
The Teaching And Learning Experience
We can learn so much from our students and also, the act of teaching music can enhance our own learning.
The key to being able to teach well is to draw on your own experience as a learner.
I also feel that it is important to keep learning as you teach. This way, the two experiences become almost one inseparable process, helping you to inspire your students and make your teaching more meaningful.
When starting out in music, you will likely have more than one teacher and some will be better than others. (This Article can give you some advice on choosing a music teacher).
Remembering what was inspiring about the teachers you loved and why other teachers made music seem difficult will also inform your best teaching practice.
If you can take some time to reflect on your learning experiences to this point, you may find out more about what you need as a student of music and/or how you would like to teach.
One of the most interesting and best exercises I’ve had to do, as part of putting this blog together, was to write out my own story in music so far. You can read it here.
Whether you are new to music or have been doing it for a while, I do suggest you take a trip down memory lane.
It is not only great for your students to read it (if you want them to) to get a better understanding of where you are coming from and what your experience has been so far, but also for you to remember what inspired you in music in the first place, what your most embarrassing moments were (if you’ve had any – I most definitely have) and to see on paper how much you have put in to work towards your dream of making music a part of your life.
Going It Alone
We never ever stop learning music and that is what is so great about the Art – there is always more to learn and always ways you can become better at it.
However, there will inevitably be times in your learning where you have no teacher at all and all you have to rely on is yourself.
This is true for most professional musicians. (Although, by that time they have had so much experience as students, and some will be teachers, that they know how to best pursue their progress.)
What can be difficult is if you are new to music and want to teach yourself.
There are many “how to” books on the market as well as online tutorials but there is so much more to going it alone than simply having the information.
Again, this is one of the reasons this blog is in existence and why I have put together the Practice Diary – because the “going it alone” requires you to:
If you are starting out in music and are serious about it, I do suggest you find a teacher but if that is not possible, check out some of the above articles and try to implement the use of the Practice Diary, which you can download free by signing up to the Newsletter.
The Ups – The Downs
Something I am always telling my students is that their development won’t happen like this:
But more like this:
If you know that when you sometimes feel really down about music and you feel you are going nowhere and actually feel like giving up is an indication of an impending breakthrough, maybe you will be able to relax with the process a lot more.
It doesn’t matter how long you have been playing, the highs and lows are always going to be a part of your musical experience.
Learning how to deal with these feelings and understand how you are developing is important.
This is where a good teacher can really help by way of support, mentoring and giving direction.
In order to really understand your development and see what has past and what is coming up for you, I suggest you regularly reflect and keep a Practice Diary (sign up to Newsletter).
That way you can look back, read your reflections and see how far you have come – especially when you feel you are getting nowhere.
This can really help you get through the lows and provide motivation to keep you practicing.
Eventually, you will share your music, whether casually with family or other musicians or professionally.
These experiences can again be full of highs and lows but there is really no better way to gauge how you are going with music than to do some performing or recording.
These Articles should help you to be better informed about how to tackle some of the issues performing brings up:
If you are not performing or recording, try to change this and make it part of your music experience.
The above articles should give you some ideas on how to do this, or if you are not sure, please leave me a comment explaining your situation and I’ll try to suggest how you can incorporate this into your work.
I enjoyed working on the rap for the choir and can see that there is even more to explore here.
It’s fascinating and complex as much as it’s simple. So now I have a new appreciation for writing rap lyrics.
Choir was good and I realized that it’s so important to be able to hear ones part and to pitch your notes.
It helps to listen to my part each day and will need to do that each day this week because we are recording next week – that will be interesting indeed.
I have found a nursing home to do a short jazz set, so now just need to find a date that I can do, most likely after Christmas.
I finally caught up with my harp teacher who I haven’t seen in over a year, and it’s such a beautiful instrument.
At first I was thinking that I wouldn’t remember anything, but I was surprised at how much came back so quickly.
I must say I feel a bit guilty that my guitar has fallen to the side, so will try to make an effort to practice this weekend.
I’ve been busy on design and construction and the house is a demolition site and inbetween I’m wrapping presents!
Sometimes I marvel at the things I take on!
Signing out for a good nights sleep.
It was good to work on the lyrics for your rap last week and here is a recording of them…
Of course, we wrote the lyrics and recorded them in the same session, so they do need work in delivery but I really like them because they have a message and it’s a message that strongly comes from you – that’s authenticity and you know how much I think that is an important quality in music!
I know you will have no problem with the recording if you do the practice you intend to do.
You are so right. You need to know your part so well, it becomes a part of you too! With music, you will get out as much as you put in. Do the work and you’ll be fine.
I’m excited about working on the Jazz gig and delivering it at the nursing home. They will love it and it’s a great way to get performance confidence. So yes, let’s do it after Christmas.
I love the fact that you are picking up your harp again. If you have worked on music it does seem to stay in your body memory, so I’m not surprised you remember as much as you did. It must have felt good to play it again.
As far as guitar goes, just keep chipping away. You’re doing great and learning a lot of instruments at the moment anyway, so go easy on yourself!
You also seem happy to be doing the building work. I think we can all take on a bit more if we love the things we are doing.
That’s why I think that if you can follow and do the things that make you feel happy, life is more than a pleasure!
If you’re looking for some new music I absolutely can’t go past recommending this website.
www.jango.com offers a range of services but by far the best one is their radio stations.
If you like a particular artist, it will put together a special playlist for you with that artist as well as similar music from that genre.
This is a great way to find new music.
Go there and give it a go. I guarantee you’ll love it!
FoxTab MP3 Converter is a free downloadable program. It converts all popular audio formats including (converted from MP3): *.mp2, *.mp3, *.aac, *.au, *.ogg, *.ape, *.flac, *.aiff, *.m4a, *.mpc, *.ac3, *.wav, *.wma1, *.wma2
Free YouTube Download allows you to download YouTube videos, single videos as well as whole collections. I’ll definitely be using this one!
Adobe Audition and Audio Performance is a try before you buy audio program, which allows you to do post-production work on tunes you record or lets you restore sound quality to music and video. Very handy for those old files you have converted, such as my 20+ year old demo tapes!
Virtual DJ is a music mixing application for Mac Computers. It allows you to use your laptop as like a traditional vinyl mixing deck and the Home edition is completely free to use for no commercial usage. So good for practice!
In order to get the best results, it is important to realise how the Diary can help you, acknowledge ways it doesn’t help you, and adjust it to fit your needs.
In this Article I will outline the different ways teachers and students can use the Practice Diary.
The most important thing to remember is that the Diary is a flexible resource and that you can, and should, improve upon it so that it serves you in the best possible way.
The main purpose of the Diary is to teach students how to practice music so that when the time comes for them to be independent from a teacher they know how to keep pursuing learning and playing by themselves.
The most important aspects of the Diary are that of reflective learning and making sure all aspects of music are getting the right amount of attention.
You will find that some students love using the Diary and they fill it in religiously while others barely look at it.
Whether your student fills in the Diary or not, it is still a useful resource in the lesson and just by keeping track of exercises and writing in it, your students will eventually come to see how it can support their learning… the information you give is better absorbed because they are hearing it and seeing it.
For some students, that’s all they need and they will remember what has been covered and find a rhythm in their practice that suits them.
What is important is that you use the Practice Diary to keep track of your students’ progress.
If they are reluctant to do the reflective work, spend the first part of the lesson discussing similar questions to the following:
How do you feel about what you have or haven’t achieved?
Are you excited about learning? Do you feel demotivated? Do you feel you are moving at a steady pace?
What activities did you enjoy most this week?
Which exercises were difficult or frustrating?
Do you have any questions for your teacher regarding these?
Are you experiencing any barriers toward playing music?
If so, are they environmental or emotional or do they have something to do with your timetable?
What could you do to overcome these barriers?
and simply write a paragraph for them in the space provided. When you revise these reflections at the end of the Diary, they will see the benefit doing regular reflective work.
Another tactic is to get them to write in the reflective space, spending 5 – 10 minutes of the first part of the lesson doing this.
Just be sensitive to the literacy level of your student and always offer to help them.
It can be quite embarrassing for adults to have literacy problems, many do and many don’t admit it, so please bear this in mind when using the Diary with your students and support them as much as you can.
If your student simply doesn’t want to use the Diary, you use it to keep track of what you are currently doing in your lessons with them.
Circle exercises and write down comments during the lesson, so that in the next lesson it is easy to pick up where you left off.
This saves a lot of time trying to recall where you are with a certain student and if you have many students, using the Diary really makes teaching a lot easier and efficient.
Explain to your students that the more information they can provide for you (i.e. how much time they spent on exercises, how often they practiced, what they practiced, reflective work etc) the more you can guide and help them and the faster they will be able to learn and the more value-for-money they get.
This may encourage them to use the Diary.
You can also experiment with pre-planned practice schedules or discuss with them ideas they think would work best for them and keep track of these in the Diary.
Don’t be disheartened if this resource doesn’t get used the way you intend it to be. Everyone is different and everyone has their own way of doing things.
Use the Diary to illustrate how each of your students learn and help them to realise what works best for them.
That way, they will have a lot more chance of success.
I am a list kind of person, so the Diary works well for me. I have used it for about five years now and will probably always use it because it helps me to:
Understand how I best learn music.
Keep track of ideas, practice times and pages of books or scales I am up to.
Calculate how much time I have spent on my own music during the week.
Reflect upon my progress and much more.
I know that a lot of people are not “list” people and never will be and that’s fine.
You can use the Diary any way you wish and it’s just really helpful for your teacher and you to work together using this resource, writing down goals, achievements and keeping track of what you are focusing on.
Just remember the more you guide your own learning, through reflective practice, the better your relationship to music and your teacher will be and the easier it will be for you to eventually become and independent learner.
The Diary isn’t meant to be a resource you have to use forever.
By using the Practice Diary for a period of time you will eventually develop the mindset you need to ensure your future learning encompasses all the aspects of music necessary for you to succeed.
Many people fail to continue with music because they don’t understand their own processes and have false expectations of themselves and the learning process.
This is why I developed the Diary.
It tracks your motivation levels,
Teaches you how you learn, and
Gives you a realistic picture of what is happening for you in terms of your goals and what needs further work.
Don’t worry if the Diary in its current format doesn’t work for you, instead, think about what will help you to learn and try to put that into a useful format.
You may come up with a more brilliant version than what has been offered!
Remember, if you have any questions, please leave your comment below.
Comments don’t automatically go onto the blog, so if you are worried about confidentiality, you can just let me know that you would like me to answer your query personally.
We need our bodies to play music and we train our bodies to play music, the same way athletes do.
Doesn’t it therefore make sense that the fitter our bodies, the easier, better and more enjoyable it will be to play music?
Unfortunately, fitness is something that many musicians don’t take into account.
It is understandable that practice and gigs take priority in a busy musician’s life and sometimes there may not be room for thinking about exercise.
But let’s have a look at the benefits to be gained if physical fitness becomes part of your music-training regime. They include:
Reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (high risk for those who don’t exercise)
Increased muscle fibre
Increased blood vessels
Increased endurance and
Long hours of sitting or standing in the practice room can cause injury, especially through incorrect posture.
In this article we looked at the importance of maintaining good posture.
A big part of this is core strength. For it is the abdominal muscles that have a big part to play in supporting weight so that stress isn’t transferred to the skeleton, particularly the spine, which can be injured as a result.
When you think about what kind of exercise to do in order to prevent injury, it’s best to concentrate on the muscles you use least.
“most musicians do not use the shoulder muscles that squeeze their shoulder blades together much, but in contrast use their arms in front of them for many hours, so eventually the shoulders can become rounded forwards and risk pinching the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder joint itself.” http://musiced.about.com
It’s therefore best to choose exercises that will concentrate on strengthening the muscles between the shoulder blades rather than focussing on the chest muscles.
Heart disease and diabetes
These are two illnesses are becoming ever more prevalent in our society as we move around less and consume food which is not nutritionally balanced.
Heart disease is actually caused by a build up of fatty deposits in the arteries of the heart. These deposits calcify and can eventually constrict the flow of blood to the heart and deprive it from oxygen.
This can cause at least, shortness of breath and at worst, death.
Please watch this short video in order to gain more insight into this problem and how to prevent it.
Diabetes is a disease we have all heard about but some of you may not really understand what it is.
This short video explains this disease, how to detect it, treat it and prevent it.
Exercise that increases the heart rate is great for preventing both of these diseases.
Strengthening exercise such as push ups, sit ups (especially beneficial for wind players and singers) and exercises using weights increases the size of the muscle fibres which in turn helps them to store products such as glycogen and oxygen which is an important fuel for muscles.
When we perform cardio exercise together with endurance and strengthening exercises it also increases blood vessels in the forearms and hands.
This increase of blood vessels helps to transport fuels such as glycogen to the muscles we use to play our instrument and results in better performance.
“As part of my PhD studies, I ran exercise classes for university level music students.
There were two groups of students, one doing training with higher weights and less repeats of each exercise, while the other group did lower weights and higher repeats of each exercise.
Exercises were focused on ‘core’ strength muscles including spinal postural muscles, abdominal muscles, shoulder blade and specific shoulder muscles that are generally under-worked in the musician population.
The exercise classes were run twice weekly for 6 weeks, and even in this short time frame results showed clear reduction in injury severity and frequency, and reduced exertion in terms of how long they could play for.
Many of these musicians felt that their playing performance also improved substantially as a result.” Bronwen Ackermann, www.musicphysio.com.au
What Kind Of Exercise Should I Do and How Often Should I Do It?
The most important thing about exercise is that you enjoy it. Obviously, if you don’t, you will lack motivation, which can be difficult at the best of time.
When you do begin exercising, it’s a good idea to consult with a physiotherapist or trained exercise physiologist to discuss what would be best for you.
However, exercise programmes such as pilates, yoga, body balance and stretch are a popular choice because they are designed to work a number of muscles in the body and not overwork any particular muscle group.
Choosing to do one of these exercise classes a week is a good idea.
For cardio exercise you could take a long walk, run, ride your bike or do a class at the gym.
You could consider a team sport such as soccer or basket ball, however, I am always weary of these because of risk of injury to hands or fingers!
If you are a social person, the gym can be a great place to meet new people and have fun with others.
If you prefer to do things solo, kill two birds with one stone, put on your headphones and go running. Investing in some good shoes and learning about running technique is something you should do if this is your desired path.
Swimming is a fantastic way to gain cardio fitness while working the shoulders and there is little risk of injury.
There are of course many more options and you should try to mix up the kinds of exercises you do.
Bronwen Ackermann recommends“that you should try and exercise at least twice a week, and each of these sessions should last at least 45 minutes.
If you are recovering from an injury, or working on a specific problem (such as muscle imbalances), you will usually need to increase the frequency of exercise, but may need to do shorter sessions.”
I hope you enjoyed this Article and it has inspired you to add to you quality of life and music.