Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm back...

Dropping offline for weeks on end seems to come naturally to me... Sorry.

What was my excuse, you ask? Well, this time it was a CRAZY teaching schedule leading up to my cousin's BEAUTIFUL wedding in Destin, Florida. (I will post pictures later.)

Excited to be be jumping back into the teach/practice/learn routine, I thought I'd share this insightful article with you all. It spells out the difference between the habits of the above-average versus the elite musician. Check it out!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Got rhythm?

Here is Hunter's Chorus from Suzuki 2 as performed by Amelia just a FEW SHORT HOURS ago. She and I spent some time talking and working rhythm today. It shows. Well done, Amelia!

Below I have bulleted some problems and solutions we discovered in today's lesson. You will notice that they are all in the RHYTHM family.  That, in fact, is no coincidence - rhythm is the first on any good musician's checklist. (Thanks for drilling it into me, Odin!) I'll maybe get into practice hierarchy in another late night Monday post, but for now, here are some problems and solutions.
  • Problem: Keeping a steady pulse
  • Solution: I started by counting out loud and/or singing/playing along (for smaller chunks of the piece) and eventually transitioned into a barely audible tapping of quarter notes as Amelia became more in tune with the rhythm and her own natural tendencies
  • Problem: Double-timing when switching from eighths+sixteenths to quarters+eighths
  • Solution: Counting aloud and encouraging Amelia to WAIT for the next beat (particularly when she wanted to rush the quarter notes) - waiting for the beat can really help a student who struggles with rushing
  • Problem: Quarter notes are the same length(ish) as eighth notes
  • Solution: Use words like "long" "stick" "dune" for quarters and "short-short" "ta-ble" "buggy" for eighth pairs

Monday, July 7, 2014

Am I too old to play violin?

Be inspired by Sonya (featured above) who's just one of my 20-to-60-year-old beginner students. So many adults fall for the myth, I'm too old to start an instrument. Nonsense!

Here are a few of the pros (I know you're already telling yourself all the cons):
  • You'll impress all your friends with your bravery and seeming sense of adventure
  • You'll start to feel younger as the majority of people in your teacher's studio are probably younger than your children (possibly grandchildren)
  • You'll wow yourself and gain confidence as you learn a NEW skill from scratch later in life
  • You'll make your teacher thrilled to teach you, a student who 1) actually practices and 2) is possibly more aware of national news than Minecraft techniques (yay)
  • You'll stop kicking yourself for never giving it a shot
  • You'll find an outlet and a new way to express yourself
Now that I've thoroughly convinced you, all you have to do is 1) find a good teacher and 2) rent that fiddle!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Teaching Good Violin

Commuting... If you forget for a moment about the price of gas, the thrill of mis-judging a traffic light, the overwhelming sense of doom as you speed past a (hidden) cop, and, of course, the various breeches of driver etiquette (varying from the moving roadblock routine to the used-a-turning-lane-to-cut-you-off experience)... If you forget all these things, you might momentarily learn to enjoy commuting.

Today I used my three-state-commute to ponder good violin teaching. Or what it means to teach good violin. Here are a few ideas in the context of my personal teaching goals.

In every lesson, I want to:
  • make the student feel valued regardless of their present musical skill
  • note improvements the student has made since the last lesson or over a longer period of time
  • note lack of progress in specific areas and suggest potential solutions, but NOT BEFORE guiding the student through their own self-assessment and trouble-shooting
  • model sound technique and beautiful musicianship
  • clearly articulate goals for the next lesson and clarify questions with the student and/or parents
There is the possibility to accomplish all of this in one half hour. Note, I use and emphasize possibility. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Violin's Inner Game, Part 1

Guess who's gearing up for grad school auditions?!!

Sorry it's been so long - I have no good excuse - none at all - but I hope to share Mondays with you all over the next few months as I teach and practice through the sunshine, humidity, and watermelon that is summer. Yes, watermelon is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, as I prepare for grad school recordings this fall, I'm thinking a lot about rep prep, technique building, and the marriage of discipline&creativity in every piece that I play. However, even more on my mind is, well, my mind. How I think really influences how I play - this is HEIGHTENED in a stressful audition situation where bad mental habits come to the fore and sabotage every little chance of success. I hate to say it, but I've come to the conclusion that metal prep is more important for me than rep prep, mainly because my strong musical instincts and good technical background easily take over when my mind is at ease.

Does this make any sense?

A friend recently loaned me Timothy Gallwey's book called The Inner Game of Tennis. I've gotten into it and decided to take some notes for further implementation in my fiddle practice. Here's the word chart I created with random phrases from the beginning of the book. Check it out. (If you want to make one like it, it's easy-peasy at!)

1. If it doesn't make any sense, you should probably read the book. 
2. Some of you might think this word chart construction is counter-intuitive, especially considering "uncluttered mind" is one of the phrases included. Maybe you're right, but I do think there's growth to be had in absorbing this cloud of ideas. And reading the book.

Here's to uncluttered minds, relaxed concentration, and great music!