Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 17

December-January 2010-11

As 2011 begins in earnest, I wish all subscribers old and new a great 2011. December and January have both been incredibly busy months for me, with many projects and presentations on the burner.

Site Stats: Newsletter membership has climbed to just under 1100. The site had nearly 9000 unique visitors in January, totaling over 5 days of time spent on the site. Thank you to everyone who continues to read and share what I have to offer.

Another Award Nomination: I am honored and humbled to report that the review staff at has nominated my website for their Top Music & Arts Enthusiasts Award. The Music & Arts Enthusiasts award recognizes the websites they feel best promote the voice of music and arts in culture and education. This award will gather the top music and arts resources onto eCollegeFinder’s Resources page, which is a useful source of information for students as they seek to make informed decisions about their present college life and their future. The winner will be announced on February 7th.

My Blog Is Now On FeedBurner: Being rather dissatisfied with the lack of flexibility of the RSS feed that comes with my web hosting, I am now hosting my blog on a Feedburner feed. The native RSS for my blog can still be used for those who have subscribed there, but I highly recommend following my blog on Feedburner for increased readability and flexability.





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New Review - Sheer Piano Books: I completed a new review article for some very out-of-the box piano books. Jazz pianist and composer Dror Perl shared with me his very innovative series of "color" piano books. Dror wrote original pieces for his students to get them even more interested in music, making a more intimate connection with the works they were studying. Read the review here.

Projects in the Works: Upcoming reviews of the Alfred Sound Innovations method book series, ThetaMusic ear-training software, and JoyTunes music education gaming software. Additionally, I'll be interviewing folk musician John McCutcheon for a furture podcast. I also have plans to redesign my home page and compositions page as well as begin a new regular format for my podcast.

Recommendation of the Month

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin is a very engaging book by one of the most widely read bloggers in the English language. Godin attempts to persuade each and every one of us to stop making excuses, take a risk, and become the genius that we all are. Godin will get you evaluating your own effectiveness in your career and personal time in a series of short, compelling anecdotes. Difficult to put this book down, yet easy to find your place again when you do. Pick up a copy here.

January Most Visited Pages

Online Music Jobs Project Board: Back in November, I added a service to my website that links freelance music composers, audio engineers,  and other creative folk. The page has become the most visited page right behind my home page and my blog. Make money from home using your own musical creativity! Visit the page for details.

Airline Travel And New Orleans: At the beginning of January, I took a trip to New Orleans to participate in a panel discussion at the Jazz Education Network Conference. Here are my insights on the current state of airline travel and the sights and sounds of the Big Easy. Read more.


10 Tips for Including a Metronome in Students' Practice

The modern metronome is an indispensable practice tool for musicians of any level of experience. Digital metronomes are readily available from any music retailer, as an app for your iPhone, or other online metronome websites. Most student musicians and...  Read more

Teaching Jazz Improvisation to the Absolute Beginner: One of the things that many music teachers struggle with is a way to teach jazz improvisation to beginners. In some cases, this is because the teacher themself has limited experience with jazz improvisation themself. Jazz improvisation, or improvisation of any kind, is an important facet of performing music that should be experienced by every performer. It is not, however, something that a beginner o.... Read more

Online Webcam Music Lessons: As onine learning continues to gain legitimacy in America, my webcam music lessons service continues to attract attention. I offer a free trial lesson to see if online music lessons are right for you. You can also earn a free lesson by referring a student who signs up as a new student. Visit this page for details.

The Jazz Education Netwok Convention 2011, New Orleans, LA: Several links from this blog article to my live blog coverage of the conference and more. Read more.

How To Memorize Music For A PerformanceMemorizing music is just like memorizing any other piece of information - you have to repeat the data over and over again until you can successfully recall it from long-term memory. One thing that is unique about music memorization as opposed to memorizing text is that the performers actually memorize not only the correct pitches and rhythms of their melody, but they also memorize portions of the enitre performance so that they know how their part fits with the other elements of the music performance. Read more

The Hard Sell - Convincing Your Administration and IT Department: The benefits of connecting online with colleagues and students far outweigh the risks. If you act with integrity online and you "unfriend" those who do not have the same sense of morality, there is little reason to turn your back on these resources. In a world where, more and more, people are connecting and collaborating for mutual benefit, educators can not afford to ignore these possibilities any longer.  Read more




This Month's Practice Tip: Keep Track Of Repetitions, Not Time

In a recent article, I revealed that I am conducting an experiment with my students this spring. We have taken the time over the past two years to learn what it means to practice their instruments effectively. However, I am still underwhelmed by the lack of mastery the majority of the students exhibited on our last concert. I took a long, hard look at what we were doing and not doing both in class and outside of class, and I came to one clear conclusion:

My students do not see the connection between successful repetitions and total mastery of a musical task.

In order to master a skill, we literally repeat it thousands, if not tens of thousands of times. Consider how many repetitions each of us has completed to do things we take for granted, such as sitting in a chair without falling out of it or tying a pair of shoelaces. It became clear to me that I needed to structure my class time to accentuate the concept and experience of completing multiple successful repetitions of small musical tasks.

I have also provided my students with a weekly successful repetition practice quota. For each musical piece they are working on, including major scales, they have a specific number of successful repetitions they must complete over the course of the week outside of class time.

By bringing their attention to the amount of successful repetitions (i.e. repetitions of the correct fingerings, pitches, rhythms, and intonation at whatever tempo is necessary to be successful), the students are learning how to become extremely efficient, self-regulated practicing musicians. The goal, of course, is for them to reach a point where they get so good at completing a series of successful repetitions that they no longer require to keep a tally in order to meet a quota.

Try bringing your or your students' attention to the very thing that causes improvement - the physical and mental act of repeating the correct skills.

Until next time,



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