Go Play! by Catherine Shefski

Go Play Piano Practice eBook Go Play! by Catherine ShefskiWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Another week. Another piano blog. Another eBook.

This one’s different though.

In her eBook Go Play! Catherine Shefski issues a call for teachers to better understand the current generation of students. The ‘digital natives’ are a group of learners who have never known a world without computers, the internet or social networks.

Shefski clearly illustrates why traditional teaching methods (otherwise known as ‘teach the way you were taught‘) are no longer relevant, useful or interesting for today’s generation of students. This generation is used to instant sharing of information, a fast pace of learning and being a part of the process that creates new works.

To address these issues Go Play! suggests putting some of the more traditional techniques and books to one side in favour of materials chosen and of interest to the student. Incorporating technology into lessons is also strongly recommended.

Information on practice is sparse in this book, not a complaint, merely an observation as the book has no pretensions of discussing practice. Suggestions include allowing students to focus on material they like and also the use of technology – perhaps allowing students to learn a piece they’ve heard on youtube.

I’m a really big fan of this eBook. It’s short, just 14 pages. It addresses a topic not considered by many teachers and does so in a clear manner. Those teachers not familiar with the Web 2.0 generation need to read this book. If you are tech savvy then be sure to pick up a few more tips.

Best of all the book is free.

Highly recommended.

Go Play! by Catherine Shefski, (2010) is available from: All Piano

Level Best

Level Best Repertoire Practice Method Level BestWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Having a good range of dynamics can make your performances much more interesting for the listener. There’s nothing duller than listening to music that is the same volume or intensity all the way through. Use this method to improve the range of dynamics in your pieces.

Follow these steps to improve the dynamics in a section or piece of music:

  1. Work out what the middle dynamic is in your piece – it’s quite often around mf (or medium loud)
  2. Play a few notes at this volume making sure you are really comfortable with the sound and feeling of playing that you have.
  3. Ignore the pitches and rhythms of the notes in your piece. Play through the dynamics only. On one note play the louds, softs, crescendos and dims. Try to get some good variety in your dynamics and also make sure the changes can be heard.
  4. Next add the rhythm back in. Still play on one pitch but try to keep the dynamics you had in the previous step.
  5. Finally add the pitches of notes and keep the dynamics you have learnt.

Practiceopedia by Philip Johnston

Practiceopedia Philip Johnston Practiceopedia by Philip JohnstonWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

‘The complete illustrated guide to mastering music’s greatest challenge . . . ‘

‘An A-Z of everything students and parents need to know about practicing’

Let’s find out shall we.

When this volume fell on my desk I have to admit that I was itching to get inside and read it. I’ve previously read Promoting your teaching studioPractice Revolution Practice Planner and Not Until You’ve Done You’re Practice all by Philip Johnston and all, it has to be said, excellent books on practice.

This is a much larger volume than those previously released by Practice Spot – both in terms of it’s size (it’s not going to fit in any instrument cases!) and also number of pages, running to over 300.

We move now to my first issue with the book. The overall layout and design are not good in my opinion. The front cover for example is a mis-match of fonts and drop shadow effects and the images on both front and back are poorly composited. Unfortunately this continues inside. On any given page there are numerous changes in typography, italics, bold, different font faces, numbering, indentation styles. . . . . I could go on. This is a real shame, these details are important and do detract from the reading of the book. I’m also unsure as to why a 3 column newspaper type layout was chosen??

The cover proclaims this to be a complete ‘illustrated’ guide. Whilst true it again suffers from the poor design choices of the rest of the book. These illustrations are in fact ‘clip art’ drawings so popular with word processing applications ten or fifteen years ago. They’re not all the same style and seem to have been shoehorned in for the sake of it.

Looking past these issues and moving onto the contents it does look as though this is a very comprehensive guide to practice. There are hundred and hundreds of ideas on how you can practice more effectively. All you need to do is find the advice that is right for you. But here we come onto another problem. Do you use the Chapter Guide? Or perhaps the Practiceopedia Usher? Maybe the cross references? You can have too many choices! I’ve tried to put myself in the position of a young learner aged between 7 & 16. How would I find the information I need? I would probably end up very, very confused.

In terms of content the books covers all areas of practice in a clear thorough manner as we have come to expect from Johnston. Some of the issues covered are not wanting to practice, learning new pieces, saving time, staying focused, managing deadlines and dealing with problem passages.

If you’ve read this far you probably think that I’m not a fan of this book. Quite the opposite is in fact true. I think this is a truly excellent book. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone and everyone. I’m just very dissapointed that the issues I’ve highlighted above detract from the excellent content of the book. Were the book to be re-formatted, re-designed and re-issued in a way that made the content clearer and easier to find then this would truly be the best book on practice out there at the moment.

Practiceopedia by Philip Johnston, (2007, Practice Spot Press, ISBN: 978-0958190534) is available from:[amazon asin=0958190534&template=htp price]

25 Music Practice Links 17th September

We want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

It seems that discussion of practice is blossoming on the web, either that or we’re getting better at finding it 3 25 Music Practice Links 17th September

Anyway, here is our regular round up of music practice links.

Don’t forget if you run a piano blog, guitar tab resource or any other site that has some practice related information then we’d love to hear about it..

  1. Practicing Your Scales Effectively from Getting There
  2. The Definitive Guide to Building and Maintaining a Repertoire List – Collaborative Piano Blog
  3. 5 Tips For Helping Students Fix Persistent Mistakes – Music Matters Blog
  4. Pony Over the Rainbow Practice Aid – Susan Paradis’ Piano Teacher Resources
  5. Real Discipline – The Classical Guitar Blog
  6. Making the most of music lessons – The Musician’s Way
  7. Aristotle “We Are What We Repeatedly Do” – Thomas J West
  8. Charting Songs – Jazz Ed Magazine
  9. When is it time to say goodbye to a piano student? – Sfrack’s Weblog
  10. Building Practice Habits That Work – Music Teacher’s Helper Blog
  11. How To Practice Guitar – Guitar Blog Online
  12. “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams on practicing
  13. Over The Edge – Jen’s Piano Studio
  14. Incentive Program 2010-11 – It’s A Mystery! – Lowe Piano Studio
  15. Why Music? – Micek Music Blog
  16. The Jazz Improviser’s Mind – Teaching Music in the 21st Century
  17. Award winning excuses for not practising
  18. Real Time, Really Real – Stark Raving Cello Blog
  19. Useful chord progression tool
  20. Practice Makes Perfect – Piano Lessons
  21. How to Practice Drumming for Fast Results – Mike Veny
  22. Nap your way to excellence – The Practice of Practice
  23. Resource suggestions – Jen’s Piano Studio Blog
  24. How to practice guitar scales – Anja’s Blog
  25. Outstanding Performers – Created Not Born? – David Shanks

The 10,000 hour rule – a self evaluation

We want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Have you heard about the 10,000 hour rule? It is based on an original study by Ericsson et al which found that on average it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a given field. The research has been further expanded by others (Sloboda etc) to show that ability is largely based on effort and not on any preconceived notion of talent.

 

Personal Evaluation

This got me thinking – Surely I’ve done 10,000 hours practice? I achieved a standard necessary to play professionally at the top level. Over the years I’ve been diligent about my practice and assumed that I’d met 10,000 hours. However upon further investigation the reality proved to be a little different.

I did some calculations from memory on the practice and playing that I did between the ages of 11 (when I started playing) and 22 when I was playing at a professional level regularly – around a 10 year time span. I’ve estimated how many hours I spent practising, playing in groups, having lessons and other associated activities and learning over the given time period.

The Results

10000 Hour Rule Self Evaluation The 10,000 hour rule   a self evaluation

You’ll notice that I’ve made a distinction between ‘practice’ and ‘deliberate practice’. The 10,000 hour rule requires deliberate practice, the type that has aims, concentration and results. You’ll notice as a beginner I did equal amounts of unproductive and productive practice. As I developed I did increasing amounts of deliberate practice.

It may not be obvious from the graph but my total amount of deliberate practice over the period was in fact only around 5,000 hours – half of what is required to become an ‘expert’. Whilst I’m probably over the 10,000 hour mark now I was very surprised to find that I’d done so little.

That’s not to say I did not do a lot of playing. If you add in other playing, rehearsals and the like the total becomes nearly 13,000 hours over the 10 year period. Some of these other activities undoubtedly contributed towards my development, despite not being deliberate practice.

Another factor which may not have been considered is the impact of directed learning – lessons. Over the same time period I received 2,500 hours of instrumental and musical tuition. I shall need to re-read the Ericsson study to see if it takes account of external factors such as lessons and group activities.

What does it mean?

So my total musical hours over the 10 years is around 15,500. To put that in some context; the majority of these were during college/university years. During these 6 years I was, on average, musically engaged for 5 hours every single day. 365 days a year for 6 years. This doesn’t account for holidays, breaks, illness etc.

It makes you think doesn’t it. To get to 10,000 hours is a huge commitment which you’ll need to make over probably 15 or more years, day in day out. That’s tough. It’s also why most people don’t make it to expert status.
What’s your story? How many hours did you do? Did you make it to ‘expert’ status? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Goal-oriented Practice

Goal Oriented Practice Goal oriented PracticeWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Have you seen those adverts on the internet which proclaim ‘Learn Scales Fast!’ or ‘Master Guitar in a Week’ or ‘Speedy Piano’? Perhaps like me you also feel that these kind of adverts miss the point and are about sales and marketing rather than education.

Most of these ‘publications’ come in an e-Book/PDF format for download. It’s an easy format to produce and therefore anyone can (and frequently do) write books with wide variations in the quality of the content.

I’m pleased to report that Goal-Oriented Practice is an e-Book that is written and produced in the right way. There is no spin or hype. Just straightforward advice from an experienced music teacher.

The book is primarily aimed at pianists. The first section on practice environment for example, discusses how to be comfortable at the piano and various other examples in the book discuss hand placement, keyboard and piano music. This does not mean however that players of other instruments will not benefit from reading it.

Practice is discussed in general terms and several approaches are mentioned: warm ups, notation, practice logs, listening and use of senses are all touched upon. Saathoff uses real world examples from Rostropovich, Glenn Gould and Jimminy Cricket to add perspective and authority to the points being raised.

There are many useful points contained in the books 35 pages which will make great music practice quotations. One of my favourites is “practicing is mostly about getting to the piano and paying attention while you’re there!”

I do have one critisicm to make and that is of the chosen title. In a book called ‘Goal’ oriented practice I was expecting to see much coverage of goal setting in relation to practice. Discussion of goals is fleeting, just a few paragraphs relating to immediate goals for the next session or repeat. Given the title maybe a longer term view should have been taken on goals?

This is a good book with lots of tips on how to practice more effectively. Does it deliver what I expected? Not really, for me a change in title would turn this into a really good book that doesn’t dissappoint.

Goal-oriented Practice by Gretchen Saathoff, (2010) is available from: Gretchen’s Pianos

Music Practice Lessons

Music Practice Lessons Music Practice LessonsDo you need to give your practice a kick start? Are you dedicated but don’t know where to turn next? Not getting the practice help you need from your current teacher?

With the practice lessons service from howtopractice you can now receive individually tailored lessons to take your practice to the next level. We will not confuse you with technical discussions nor will we get involved in deep musical analysis. We will however help you get the most out of each and every practice session, allow you to get more done in less time and progress faster towards your musical dreams.

Our lessons are not intended to replace instrumental lessons. Your teacher is a specialist on your instrument (or should be) and is therefore best placed to guide you on the finer detail of it’s technique. However, in the vast majority of cases they are not experts in practice. Our lessons are like theory, aural and history in that they complement your other lessons and make you a more rounded musician.

Music Practice Lesson Assessment Music Practice LessonsMusic Practice Review

Our service will always begin with an in depth review of you, your playing and your ambitions. We will assess you as a musician. Where are you now? What do you want to do? What do you know? How do you currently use your practice time?
We will then progress into an observation session where we can see what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why you are doing it. This together with a review discussion is an important part of the recommendations we will make for you going forwards.

Based upon this session, our discussions and the information you provide at the start we will make some clear written feedback on how you can improve your practice. This will not be generic advice. It will be specific to you, your current ability and your goals. We will tell you what needs to improve, we’ll also discuss what you’re good at and how those areas also might improve.

If you need clarity on our recommendations we’ll provide that too.

Find out more about our music practice review.

Music Practice Follow On Lesson Music Practice LessonsFollow on lessons

As your practice needs evolve we can provide regular lessons in how to approach all aspects of music in the practice room be it scalesmemorisationrepertoireperformance or theory. Having been through an initial review lesson we will have the background on your playing needed to give you the best advice. Bad practice habits form quickly and we can help ensure that doesn’t happen.

The benefit of follow on lessons is that we can continuously evolve your practice techniques to suit you. As your playing and technique develops so do the number of options around practice.

These lessons will be held in person wherever possible so that we can provide instant, direct feedback about your practice. This will be in addition to the written feedback that we will always provide.

Again there is also the option for us to visit larger groups or to hold the lessons via video conference.

Availability

Practice lessons are available in person in the UK and the Cayman Islands. If you are not based in either of these locations you can still have lessons either via a video conference service such as skype or by sharing video recordings of your practice with us. In these cases we will still speak with you in person over the phone.

We are also able to attend in person in other countries if you are booking lessons for larger groups of people. If you would like us to attend your school/college/country then please contact us for more details.

All lessons will be held in English.

Booking

To book a practice lesson complete this form and submit payment. We will then be in touch to confirm dates and times and also to start getting the detail we need on you as a musician.

Prices

Music Practice Review Lesson – £80/$120
Follow on lessons – £40/$60

Facebook Music Practice Clinic

Facebook Logo Practice Clinic Facebook Music Practice ClinicWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Are you a member of the How To Practice Facebook group?

You are?

Great! You’re in with a chance of being selected for the Practice Clinic we have there. Every week we are selecting a member of the group at random. This member will be invited to either receive some personal help with their practice or to offer tips and advice to others.

If you’re not already a member simply go to the group and click fbfanpage like1 Facebook Music Practice Clinic .

See you there!

Facebook Music Practice Clinic

Facebook Logo Practice Clinic Facebook Music Practice ClinicWe want to help you practice better. Our newsfeed will keep you up to date with regular advice. Free personal help is available in our practice clinic and new news and offers can be found in our newsletter.

Are you a member of the How To Practice Facebook group?

You are?

Great! You’re in with a chance of being selected for the Practice Clinic we have there. Every week we are selecting a member of the group at random. This member will be invited to either receive some personal help with their practice or to offer tips and advice to others.

If you’re not already a member simply go to the group and click fbfanpage like Facebook Music Practice Clinic.

See you there!