Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 4

November 2008

I am pleased to present a newsletter for you after a month hiatus. I intend to invest some time on the website now through the winter, so please pass this newsletter on to anyone who might benefit.

Recommendation of the Month

book cover
The Art of Practicing: A Guide to Making Music from the Heart by Madeline Bruser offers practical techniques for cultivating free and natural movement, a keen enjoyment of sounds and sensations, a clear and relaxed mind, and an open heart and she explains how to prepare the body and mind to practice with ease, understand the effect of posture on flexibility and expressiveness, make efficient use of the hands and arms, employ listening techniques to improve coordination, increase the range of color and dynamics by using less effort, cultivate rhythmic vitality, and perform with confidence, warmth, and freedom.

September Highlights

The following articles were the most widely-read on %site% in the month of September:

Pitch Development: Exercising your "inner ear": "I can't carry a tune in a bucket" is a common expression of those who consider themselves unmusical. Having a "tin ear" is another common description. It is certainly true that individuals possess varying levels of aptitude in regards to their musical intelligence, however, just like mathematic or linguistic intelligence, every person can take their aptitude level as a starting point and work to build stronger skills in that area... Read more

The Carnival of Eduaction, Week 189: This was my first time hosting a blog carnival, and I really enjoyed it. In reviewing these articles for inclusion in the carnival, I actually learned a few things, too! Read more

Are First Act Musical Instruments Worth the Low Price? - An Investigative Report: At this time of year, many families are renting musical instruments for their child to begin study in their school band or orchestra. Because First Act instruments are sold in bulk retail and toy stores, they naturally get the label of being "toy instruments" and not for serious music students. Most music teachers I know scoff at them, calling them "instrument-shaped objects". But, is this really the case? Are these quality instruments that are just marketed differently? Read more

Today's Practice Tip: Get Lost in the Flow

As I have discussed in many articles, including this most recent one, the key to success with any acquired skill is repeating the skill enough times to master the skill, wiring it into your sub-conscious mind. The great barrier for most students is the monotony inherent in repeating something until that point of mastery is reached.

As a seasoned musician, I find that the best way to get a lot of successful repetitions in a short time is to "get lost in the flow". Analyzing your errors on a passage of music is important, but not when it produces "paralysis by analysis." As the Nike sportswear company reminds us in its advertising, "Just do it!" Get into a repetition cycle on a passage of music where you get a dozen or more repetitions without a break, making only minor adjustments on each repetition like changing the tempo. Get "in the moment" with your repetition, not allowing outside stimuli to distract you. Make the goal of the session with that passage to be multiple successful repetitions of the passage.

When one gets lost in the flow 10 or 15 minutes on one passage can fly by, as our perception of the passage of time melts into the act of being and doing. As you succesfully repeat the skills you are mastering, you are literally becoming the person who can successfully execute those skills. An Olympic figure skater or gymnist did not suddenly get up one morning and perform all of the intricate acrobatics we see during the competitions. Hours, days, weeks, months, and years of repetition of skills in a progression from basic to advanced are all a part of the final product we see when we watch the Olympics.

Until next time,


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