Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 11

April-May 2010
DOUBLE ISSUE!

April and May have been by far the busiest and most successful months in the history of my website. Welcome to all of the new subscribers, especially Beth Varela from Make Music and Jim Frankel from SoundTree. Look at all the great things that happened the past six weeks!

Live Blog - The PMEA In-Service Convention 2010: This year's annual music educators conference in my home state of Pennsylvania afforded me two new experiences - using Cover It Live to share "pearls of wisdom" from the conference from multiple users via Twitter, and serving as a chaperone for the All-State Ensembles Festival. Check out the instant replay here.

Life is What You Make It - A Concert and Conversation with Peter Buffett: At the beginning of April, I had a unique opportunity to attend a concert event presented by musician/composer/author/activist Peter Buffett. The evening was quite interesting, and not exactly what I expected. Read more

Youth Education in the Arts Seeks a Director of Operations: I received an email from George Hopkins, Executive Director of Youth Education in the Arts earlier today with the following pdf job description for a Director of Operations for YEA. He stated, "Perhaps with your caliber of contacts, you could refer this job description to those who might be interested and fit the bill." I'm flattered, really. So here, all you folks with a business degree who marched in a band or drum corps, here's your dream job!

The Antithesis of Flash Mobs - How Professional Learning Communities are Changing Education: If you live in the United States, you've undoubtedly heard in the media recently about the phenomena of flash mobs. As a resident of the greater Philadelphia area, flash mobs are in the news regularly as teens in the city have already vandalized houses and businesses by organizing the events on Facebook and other social media. Not only is it criminal, it is incredibly easy for law enforcement to track these exchanges as evidence for conviction. Despite being an abuse of a social network, flash mobs do demonstrate the power of online collaboration.With the ease that misguided youth can organize themselves into a mob, professionals can organize themselves into supportive learning communities. Read more

 


Recommendation of the Month

product picture

The Suzuki Piano School, Volume 1 is the perfect start for a pre-schooler or early primary student who has shown some interest and facility while "just plunking around the keyboard" at home. Students listen to the enclosed CD recording of each piece and learn them by rote repetition rather than reading the notation. In this fashion, they learn music the way we learn our native tongue. The Suzuki Method requires parents to be actively involved in every practice session, guiding their child to use the correct fingerings and reinforce key concepts. I work with parents and students on Suzuki training as part of my webcam lessons service, and the early development does amazing things for building neural connections in the brain that benfit the child for a lifetime. Pick up a copy here.





February Blog Highlights

The Importance of Role-Modeling in Musical Instruction: Role models are an indispensible part of any music performance instruction. Having good role models, from students, to guests, to the teacher himself, is one of the most powerful tools for instruction in any kind of music learning scenario. Read more


Repertoire Selection - The Fluff Ratio Philosophy: When it comes to programming for a concert, I invented for my student teachers something I call the "Fluff Ratio" Theory. Summarized, the theory states "The percentage of a concert's repertoire that can be considered "fluff" is inversely proportional to the age and experience level of the student performers." Read more


The Antithesis of Flash Mobs - How Professional Learning Communities are Changing Education: If you live in the United States, you've undoubtedly heard in the media recently about the phenomena of flash mobs. As a resident of the greater Philadelphia area, flash mobs are in the news regularly as teens in the city have already vandalized houses and businesses by organizing the events on Facebook and other social media. Not only is it criminal, it is incredibly easy for law enforcement to track these exchanges as evidence for conviction. Despite being an abuse of a social network, flash mobs do demonstrate the power of online collaboration.With the ease that misguided youth can organize themselves into a mob, professionals can organize themselves into supportive learning communities. Read more

 

This Month's Practice Tip: Planning Your Practice Arc

It is possible for elemetary music students to perform professional-level pieces. Don't believe me? Check out this video. So the question, of course, is "how?"


In a recent blog article, Mark Burke of ViaAcademies discussed the importance of what happens in between music lessons - the reason that the amazing students in this Japanese video are able to achieve so much is that they receive guidance from an instructor at a very young age and virtually every time they pick up the instrument.


Another important part of this success is the notion that younger students are given the preparation time necessary to master more complex musical tasks. This brings into play what I refer to as a practice arc.


How Much Prep Time Do You REALLY Have?


Is it possible for an elementary student to play all twelve major scales on their instrument? Sure. They will need a longer period to develop those skills than older students. The more complex the motor skill demands, the longer the prep time necessary (for any age student). The more complex the polyphony, the more prep time is needed. The more tempo changes, dynamic layers, and other transitions are present, the more prep time is needed.


In many cases, especially in American culture, we are used to instant gratification and lose interest with things that "take too long." Music repertoire is no exception. For a student to understand and be able to perform deeper, more complex music, they must be nutured through the preparation process. In most cases, the amount of prep time we have to prepare a performance is more than sufficient, but we do not use the time effectively. If you can find ways of increasing your effectiveness (I've blogged about many practice tips) you can learn more complex music in a shorter amount of time.


Suggestions for Planning a Practice Arc


Here are some practical tips for planning a practice arc given the amount of prep time you have before a performance:

Performing impressive pieces of music is possible for any musician at any age - provided that there is some smart decision-making and efficient practicing going on.


Until next time,

Tom

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