Every exercise and song you play today, do with metronome.
Try different speeds too and note what was challenging or easy.
Every exercise and song you play today, do with metronome.
Try different speeds too and note what was challenging or easy.
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.
Today, take a piece of music you know very well and play it in a different key.
For example, if you know how to play a blues very well in C, try playing it in G.
If you are a singer, take a song up a couple of semitones so you work the transition area of your voice.
Remember, this is just an exercise. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it pushes you out of your comfort zone.
That can be a stressful situation.
Whether you have an impending music exam or performance, there are times when there is a lot of pressure to learn.
So, how are you going to deal with that?
Even if you have whole days in which to practice, you can only learn as fast as your brain and muscle processes allow you to learn.
So here’s a few tips which can help you get through (and hopefully succeed) in those times of high pressure.
My situation at the moment is that I have about five new songs to learn for the Band (rehearsing tonight) and a gig on Saturday night which I need to be in top shape for.
I therefore, have to prioritise the learning for the gig because it’s important to me that every public performance I do, I do my best. However, there is an impending gig for the Band and there’s a lot of learning to do there as well!
Your priorities may be different to mine in the same situation. What is important is that you are honest about what is most important to you (not anybody else) and focus on preparing your work in accordance with that.
Sometimes it will be a close call but the work you do for one performance will invariably benefit the other performances too.
2. Practice Other Skills
Yes, you need to practice the pieces you will be playing but it’s also very wise to keep up the technical work, even if you are pressed for time.
This article outlines all the other exercises that are good to practice in order to support a successful performance.
3. Break It Down
When you look at all the activities you have to accomplish in a week, it can seem daunting. You may even feel like you don’t even know where to start, or have the feeling that all those tasks will be impossible to get through.
But when you look at what you have to do day by day, and just try to accomplish those tasks, those tasks seem much more manageable.
The same is true for a stressful music workload.
If you can, look at what you need to accomplish by the end of the week and plan out, day-by-day, using your Practice Diary, what you are going to do to meet those tasks.
Think about how much practice time you will have and plan what you will do in those practice sessions to get the maximum benefit.
A lot of time can be wasted with unplanned and unfocused practice. However, with knowledge and planning on how to practice, you have much more of a chance of meeting your goals.
This article on time management has a great tip in the last video which I use all the time now and it works!
If there is really too much on your plate, there are several ways you can handle it:
In other words, try to avoid getting yourself into a situation where you are going to let yourself and/or others down. It’s just much simpler and better to be honest and let others know where you are at.
For example, shortening the form, or taking out some movements, or playing songs you already know.
In performance, always take the options you are most confident with.
Ok, well now I’m going to take my own advice and it’s off to the practice room!
This week has been interesting indeed.
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!
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:
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:
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.
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.
That’s great, but is that all you need to prepare for that exam or big music performance?
Many times my students and myself have thought they were ready for that all-important gig, only to find that despite their best efforts in the practice room, their performance was only average.
So, what do you have to do to really get results?
There is so much more to a successful performance than just knowing the music, although this is probably the most important aspect.
When you perform, especially if you are not used to it, you are going to have to deal with:
• Nervousness (maybe even performance anxiety)
• Distraction, and
• Unfamiliar surroundings.
Your practice regime should therefore include exercises to help you with all the above.
Here are some tips on how you might go about that.
I often refer to the exercises on breathing to begin your practice session.
What you may not realise is the importance of these in order to train yourself to pay attention to, and be able to tune into your breathing.
When you are nervous, often the first thing to be affected is your breath.
Holding the breath is one way you can be affected or not taking deep enough breaths is another.
This in turn causes your body to become tense and when your body is tense, it is a lot harder to make music.
Once you find it difficult to make music, your thoughts can become negative and again, impact even more on your music.
It doesn’t sound fun, does it?
By practicing your breathing exercises as well as some other kind of meditation, if you are so inclined, will help you to:
1. Become aware when your breathing is not natural, and
2. Help you to bring your breathing back to normal.
If you can do this, you will find your nerves will dissipate, you will become more present and your body will not suffer all the other affects like shaking or sweating which can be a result of tension and negative thinking.
Unless you are a seasoned performer (and even then sometimes), you can become distracted while playing.
The source of such distractions can be either internal (like self-conscious or negative thoughts) or external and it is important to learn how to bring yourself back to the music if you do become distracted.
Not long ago I was doing a performance after a long break and my daughter was running around the dance floor.
She tripped and started crying and boy, it was a huge dilemma for me as my impulse was to get up straight away and go to her aide, even though her Dad was close by to rescue her.
Needless to say, I became hugely distracted.
Fortunately, it was a solo gig so no-one was depending on me to keep it together.
I did keep it together but screwed up the form and some chords, however, I don’t think anyone noticed.
This is one of the most crucial aspects to develop in performance – being able to keep going and make something of your “mistakes”.
Besides getting a lot of experience in performance, the exercises that can best prepare you for this are:
1. Practicing your pieces with metronome. If you make a mistake, just keep going and keep in time!
2. Practice free improvisation. By doing this you will learn to accept any sound that eminates from your music and won’t be horrified when you hit a “wrong” note.
Again, learning to bring yourself back from a distracting thought or presence of someone or something needs to be practiced.
You can do this by bringing your focus back to your breath and becoming aware of your thoughts, choosing not to follow them but rather focusing on your senses, what you are feeling, seeing and hearing.
I’m going to include this video again on this blog because I think it is so helpful for what has been mentioned above.
For some people unfamiliar surroundings can be off-putting and distracting, however, it is often the case that you will have to perform either on an unfamiliar instrument and/or in a place you have not been to before.
If possible, always try to visit the venue and play the instrument you will be using for your performance so you can become familiar with the equipment and the room.
It will help you to feel a lot more relaxed.
If you can do this, then you can also better visualise a successful performance in that space.
If you haven’t already, please read the article on visualisation, to gain an understanding of how this can help you prepare for success.
What Else Do I Need To Practice?
There are two last elements that will give you the edge on your performance.
The first is dedicating time to practicing technique.
All too often we can spend a lot of time on the pieces we need to play because there is a feeling of running out of practice time.
But if you make time to focus on technique you will be a lot better able to play your pieces and feel a lot more confident in your body’s ability and muscle memory to get around the music.
Lastly, being able to relax is really important.
There are many ways to practice this and you can choose these methods for yourself but if you are really finding performing difficult, you could try using a hypnosis method which helps you to be more relaxed and positive. There are plenty you can look up on the internet.
Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this little vid.
Without it, we can’t make it.
Therefore, the better our body functions, the better we will be able to practice music.
This first Article about your health and music will be investigating posture, what it is, why it is important to your health and music making, as well as some techniques to help you maintain it.
What is Posture?
“…posture refers to the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity.
Whether we are standing, sitting or lying down gravity exerts a force on our joints, ligaments and muscles.
Good posture entails distributing the force of gravity through our body so no one structure is overstressed.” http://www.scoi.com/posture.htm
When our body alignment is not in place, symptoms can be experienced as:
Each of these symptoms by themselves is enough to stop you from wanting to practice but there is even more to it than that.
Ensuring you have a healthy skeleton (which includes maintaining good posture especially when you are sitting or standing) ensures that your body functions with less fatigue and strain on ligaments and muscles.
This is especially important if you are practicing for long periods of time, as this often includes sitting or standing.
Also, for wind players and singers, it is important to remember that posture affects your breathing, so paying attention to maintaining good posture helps to produce a better tone.
Humans really do have an amazing structure and, as in the song, everything is connected.
Your skeleton and its alignment affects your nervous system.
The nervous system controls the function of every cell, tissue and muscle in the body and, like your heart, never stops working.
Your miraculous brain is surrounded and protected by your skull.
Your skull is composed of 29 small, moveable bones. As these bones move, they pump your cerebral spinal fluid through and around your brain and spinal cord.
Your brain runs your body. If any of the bones of your skull shift or move out of place, problems can be created almost anywhere in your body (see above list).
Bones called vertebra protect your spinal cord. Sandwiched between each vertebra is your disc. Your discs act as cushions or shock absorbers to give resilient motion to your spine. Also sandwiched between each vertebra is a nerve that exits and separates. One portion of this nerve goes to a muscle; the other goes to an organ or organ system. http://www.freehealthadvice.net/Page%204.htm
So, now we are getting a clearer picture of why posture is so important but there is something else to consider.
When we practice music there is lots of repetitive motion required and that can cause repetitive stress injuries.
To avoid this kind of injury and ensure that you:
If you feel that you need to work on your posture to ensure better health and better practice of music, you might like to consider the following therapies as well as explore other options:
Often cranial work, along with specific exercises and dietary recommendations assist in improving the function of your brain, your cerebral spinal fluid flow, your spine, your body, as well as your entire nervous system.
Just a word on choosing a chiropractor as you really want to ensure you get the best.
You should question your chiropractor and make sure their adjustments are gentle and take place over a course of treatments.
Ask around and get recommendations.
Don’t be afraid to try some different practitioners if you’re not happy with the first one you try.
I’ve included this video to give you a feel of what a good session is like.
But here’s the good news… it’s only as difficult as you think it is – even for the busiest houseparent.
There are only three things to consider when trying to find the time for your music practice.
We all know that priorities make a difference to how we spend our time. Often work and family take the first priority on the list, and they have to.
But have you considered the way you spend your leisure time – even if you have a small amount?
Most of that can be taken up with pursuits that don’t offer you any return benefits such as watching television, playing computer games, surfing the internet or playing with your i-device.
And it’s these activities that can take up much more time than we intended to give them.
They are time stealers.
The protest around taking time away from these activities is that many people think of them as things they do to relax or switch off, which brings me to the next point…
Practicing your music is not work.
It is not another thing that has to be done.
It is not an effort.
Practicing music is:
If you know how to practice music – and this is what this site is dedicated to helping you with – your practice will be all of the above and more. It will be something you look forward to doing as often as you possibly can.
If you are able to frame your practice as this, you will then find that…
Once you know how to enjoy your music practice and feel how it improves your well-being (it may be worth checking out this article to make sure you are on the right track), your practice will not be something you need to make time for, but something which you simply have to do in order to sustain a good quality of life.
Having something like music in your life is as important for the mind, body and spirit as exercise and healthy eating, as long as you know how to do it.
If you are not good at managing your time, even with the best intentions of practice it will be hard for you to get around to it.
Here are two short videos with some simple points for you to consider about how you spend your time each day.
Why not subscribe to this site via the RSS and/or Newsletter to receive inspirational articles and practice activities every day that will support your music?
One of the greatest mentors in my musical life has been Kenny Werner.
You may, or may not have heard of him but a lot of what I write in this blog supports his teaching style.
For those of you who haven’t heard of him, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you because I believe you can truly benefit from his resources.
I was first introduced to Kenny Werner’s work when I read “Effortless Mastery”.
What I gained from reading that book was an understanding that I already had the ability to play music, and all I had to do was know that and allow myself the freedom discover that music.
Of course, technique still needs to be practice along with everything else that goes with the study of music, but it was the way I studied it which would give me results.
Here is an example of Kenny Werner’s teaching:
Inspirational message from Kenny Werner
“The joy of playing is liberation.
The joy of practicing is concentration.”
Separating these two functions in our minds
solves the age-old problem of freedom versus discipline.
Instead of them being opposed to each other,
they can support each other.
Freedom is a great thing.
But freedom alone can be boring.
I once heard a great Rabbi say that the problem
with the 1960′s is that
people sought “freedom from, not freedom to . . . “
Isn’t that an amazing realization?
Do you get it?
Freedom without mastering form and technique
leads to stagnation and ultimately, boredom.
The true joy of life, the game, if you will,
is learning to find freedom in form,
mastering the forms and techniques involved in one’s art
until they are performed effortlessly,
until the body and mind can perform automatically.
Once those moves are committed to mental and muscular memory,
one may play with absolute joy and freedom.
Mastery attracts us because we have
the possibility of mastery inside us.
Study is the act that supports us.
Study is the preparation so the performance can be free and joyful.
But study with the assumption that greatness
is already present within you.
Imagine you are allowing that greatness to emerge
more and more by practicing your art or sport.
Every time I read Kenny Werner’s work I am inspired to practice, but practice with great love and concentration.
This has allowed me to continue enjoying my music at what ever level I am at.
And I think this is the most important thing to remember… It is no use believing you will be happy with your music “when you reach a certain stage”, because you won’t. You have to be happy in your music NOW, even if you are the most basic of beginners.
Here is the link to a great teacher who is sure to inspire your music and turn your world around.
Although his lessons are simple, they are in depth and some will take you a lifetime to accomplish… but there’s no harm in that!