Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 7

August 2009

Lots going on during the months of July and August on the website. First, I was selected as one of eight finalists in the Smart Music "Share Your Story" Contest. The winner will be chosen by online voting in September, and first prize is $2500 cash and a $500 gift certificate to J.W. Pepper! I will be sure to let everyone know when and where to vote for me!

Secondly, I joined Twitter about a week ago and am amazed at how easily I am building a following of new people interested in music and instrumental music performance! I'm contributing regular 140 character practice tips as well as lots of valuable links to my followers. If you're on Twitter, follow me @thomasjwest.

Third, I have become a Skype Prime Service Provider. Skype Prime is Skype's directory of service providers for just about any call-in service you can imagine - from homework help to psychic readings. The first call is free, and after that service providers receive a flat rate fee per minute for each call. Callers pay for calls by purchasing Skype Credit using a credit card or PayPal account. Check out my listing HERE.

Fourth, I have a Facebook Fan Page! If you use Facebook, be sure to become a fan. I send more regular updates about my website to the fan page than I do in this newsletter.

Recommendation of the Month

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Boss TU-80C Chromatic Tuner & Metronome is an inexpensive yet versitile tool that can help individuals develop both better pitch control and consistency of technique using the tone generation and time-keeping features. If you are looking for a basic tuner and metronome combination to put on your music stand while practicing, something as simple as this will do the trick.

August Highlights

The following articles were the most widely-read on in the month of August:

Talent is a Four-Letter Word: What You and Michael Jackson Have In Common: What do you and I have in common with MJ? He loved music and performing. Our society has scared us away from our birthright to enjoy music firsthand. We have accepted a life where we experience music second-hand, performed by "talented people" in a music consumership. Why did we ever stop making music and start buying it from a supplier?... Read more

Neurology Applied: How Science is Bringing Music Instruction Back to Expressive Development: You have between your ears the most advanced processor ever seen. With the advent of MRI, CaT scans, and now PET scans, neurologists have made amazing discoveries in just how amazing the human brain really is. Their research gives us clearer and clearer pictures of how the human brain assimilates new knowledge, practices that knowledge, and is amazingly flexible and pliable in its application. Read more

A Brass Player's Primary Tool for Tone Production - the B.E.R.P.: Any brass player worth their salt knows that the instrument itself is basically a channeler and amplifier for the thing that really produces the instrument's vibration, which happens to be the human lips. A brass player spends the majority of their practice time developing control, range, flexibility, and tone quality of the brass embouchure in much the same way a vocalist works for control and ease of use of the vocal folds. Read more

iSchoolBand - a safe Facebook for the Band Room and More: At the end of June, I was invited by the developers of iSchoolBand to participate in their Alpha launch and provide some feedback. The "about" page on their website describes iSchoolBand as "social music technology" containing "a private social network, a dynamic media and document library, and several group management tools for parents, boosters, instruments, and bands." Read more

Today's Practice Tip: Set Up a "Practice Playdate"

For parents of young children, a "playdate" is a scheduled meeting between two or more children while under the supervision of their parents. This is usually done for small children who can not schedule their own time and/or are not mature enough to play without supervsion. Scheduling a "practice playdate" can be a great change of pace in a normal practice routine and can even be an event to look forward to.

A practice playdate is when two or more musicians of similar ability schedule a time to get together and help eachother. There are many benefits to such a session: friendly competition, working on ensemble playing skills, practicing improvisational skills, and more.

Suggestions for Playdate Activities

The following are just a few examples of effective activites for a practice playdate (or practice session, or jam session, whatever you prefer to call it):

  • Play duets: Nothing develops independence, sight-reading ability, and musicianship better than playing duets with another person. I highly recommend the Voxman Selected Duets Series for band instruments.
  • Work on Abersold Books: For the jazzers out there, nothing beats soloing over one of Jamie Abersold's books. I personally like to use this one for beginning students.
  • Compete Against eachother using Smart Music
  • Team up on an audition piece. For students auditioning for admission to a youth symphony, state band festival, seating audition at school, etc., teaming up and practicing together can be a nice change of pace from hacking away at it on your own.
  • Sight-read: One of the skills a lot of musicians neglect is sight-reading. Reading through music together can make it less of a chore.

Use Your Imagination

Practicing with a friend or friends can be a great motivator, a mutually beneficial arrangement, and a heck of a lot of fun. Using playdates as a motivator works well too. Having that meeting to look forward to or work towards can make regular practicing more effective. Besides, there's nothing like being social and sharing experiences with fellow musicians.

Until next time,


This newsletter (c) 2009 Thomas J. West. If you wish to reprint this article on another website or offline, please contact the copyright holder before using.

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