Perfection as a Way of Life

After the post last week about recovering from bad performances, several folks have asked for more information and specifics in regards to the approaches I mentioned. This post will be part of a series on methods we can use to treat each practice session and/or rehearsal as a performance – hopefully making each performance less tense and more rewarding in the process.

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Always Be the Substitute Playing the Role of the New Teacher

The first time I hosted a masterclass for my students where they worked with a guest artist, I remember feeling a little confused and disappointed. There were several times during the event when the guest would point out the most obvious things a student needed to do to improve their performance. Because these areas discussed were so obvious, it wasn’t the first time the students had heard about them. However, the students reacted to this instruction in the masterclass way differently than when I had I brought them up in the lessons. It was if they had never realized that these things needed work and they were suddenly eager to improve.

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Going Big Memorizing Large Pieces and Programs More Efficiently

The final post in this memorization series is about learning large chunks of music or big pieces/programs quickly and efficiently – without needing the printed music. If you have been following the last few posts on the topic and trying them out, this post should feel like a logical extension.

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There is No Joy in Repetition Getting the Most Out of Each Repetition

Repetition has long been a staple of music pedagogy. As students we were always asked to play the same section a certain number of times in a row to obtain “mastery” (whatever that is). When most of us became teachers, we just continued the tradition. When I broke from that tradition I noticed that my students started to improve much faster and their playing became more personal and lively.

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Take a Picture Part 2 in the "Playing from Memory" Series

While a student at University of Miami, I wrote an original jazz tune for one of our ensembles that I was very excited about. I felt the tune captured the vibe of the famous Miles Davis quintet from the ‘60’s… That was the theme of the ensemble. The tune had unpredictable harmonic rhythm, harmony based on modes of melodic minor and a lot of suspended chords, and romantic-influenced melodies. It wasn’t extremely complicated but it wasn’t simple either.

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If I Only Had a Brain Alternatives to Memorizing Music

For many students of music, performing without the printed music in front of them can be a stressful venture. Over the years I’ve eliminated the word “memorized” from my teaching vocabulary – at it has helped my students tremendously. However, for the sake of honoring the tradition I’ve included the word “memorize” from time to time in the post – this is the first of a series of posts on playing without the printed page.

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The Struggle is Real Teaching lulls and some remedies

The teaching calendar between the new year and the end of the school year is a long one. Even those of us who teach private lesson typically follow some sort of “school” calendar. Over the past few weeks I’ve observed both teachers and students starting to show the signs of being caught in the Spring lull. Maybe as teachers we get a little short and agitated because the students are spinning their wheels a little (or a lot). Students tune out the teachers because all the lessons are starting to run together. And this just scratches the surface of possible feelings and emotions happening.

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The Unassigned Assignments

There’s an assignment that we often miss as teachers. And it’s one that always makes our jobs way easier – maybe easier than anything we could have students do. Over time it simply transforms our students’ musical experiences and their abilities.

Students should be asked to listen to music each time we see them. It can be done in casual conversations about what they’ve been listening to (or what we’ve been listening to), to more precise assignments based on what you’re working on in lessons.

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The Repertoire Dilemma Creating More Hours in the Day

There are allegedly only so many hours in a day that students can set aside time to learn repertoire. Many teachers I speak with get flustered by the amount of time they spend trying to get one to a few pieces up to a student’s potential, knowing all along that the student needs to know far more repertoire than what they ever have time for in the lessons and in their practice.

Painting by Jeff Laibson

Painting by Jeff Laibson

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