Music Mastery Practice Tips Newsletter, Issue 3

September 2008

As today is October 2nd, I apologize for the September newsletter being a bit late. Starting a new full-time teaching job in a new school combined with both of my boys starting in new schools and a busy judging schedule has made website time at a premium.

Recommendation of the Month

book cover
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating read about the connections between music, neurology, creativity, and the artistic savant. Sacks is best known for a book entitle "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." His work is devoted to exploring the neurology of mental disorders, whehter they result from genetics or accidental injury. He disusses the pheonmenon of the "musical child prodigy" as well as people who woke up from comas and suddenly were compulsed to play the piano with virtuosic expertise.

September Highlights

The following articles were the most widely-read on 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: Revisit an Old Song to See How Far You've Come

Much of the time, music directors are demanding that students stay focused on practicing the stuff they can't do. Many students would rather play something that already sounds good than do the "hard work" of playing something they haven't mastered yet. Because of this, practice sessions are usually exercises in either total frustration (because they can't do it) or total boredom (because having to repeat something over and over is not much fun).

I always encourage my students to save the last five minutes of their practice session as a designated fun time! There are many ways of spending that five minutes, but whatever you play, make sure it is something enjoyable. Sight-reading something new, playing an old favorite, or even making something up can be quite enjoyable.

Another way to use fun time is to turn back in your method book to an old song that you played a long time ago. Make sure it is something that you haven't played in at least a month. In fact, the further back you can go, the better. Try playing that tune again today. Most students find that they can still play it fairly well. Some even find that they play it better now than they did when they learned it in the first place!

I often do this with my students in May as the school year is winding to a close. We will get out something we learned back in September. In many cases, the students end up with big smiles on their faces, because they realize how much they've matured as a musician in one school year. So much time in music practice is spent on what we can't do that sometimes it is a nice boost to the self-esteem to reflect on how far we have come and especially what we can do.

Until next time,


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