Ensemble planning – or lack of

Ensemble Planning Failure Ensemble planning   or lack ofWe 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.

We talk a lot at How To Practice about how to prepare and plan for practice.

Why then do leaders and conductors of ensembles insist on keeping rehearsal plans to themselves?

How can they possibly expect group members to turn up prepared for rehearsal when they have not explained what is required?

What’s the big secret?

I’ve very rarely seen detailed rehearsal plans provided for players. Imagine the difference that could be made if players knew exactly which specific sections, techniques and musical elements the leader was going to focus on at the next rehearsal?

It’s a MASSIVE failing on the part of band leaders and directors. Send your group away with no knowledge of what they will do at the next rehearsal and you set them up to fail.

What do you do with your group? Do you tell them what’s expected? Replies in the comments below.

Kids Guide to Practice on the way

Kids Guide To Music Practice Cover1 253x300 Kids Guide to Practice on the wayWe 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.

Following the fantastic success of the Complete Beginners Guide to Practice we are very excited to announce the Kids Guide to Practice. This new guide will be aimed at younger learners as we believe it is perhaps even more important to learn good practice techniques at an early age.

Based upon content from the Complete Beginners Guide, the Kids Guide will present the ideas in a simple, easy to follow format. It will be bright, colourful, engaging and fun.

Back to School – Get the most from lessons

Back To School Lessons Back to School   Get the most from lessonsWe 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.

Music lessons are important when you first start to learn an instrument. Be aware however that you need to do more than turn up once a week. If you just go through the motions then you will most likely not improve.

Specific to you

If you have the chance to select your own teacher then try to speak to people that they already teach. Find out if they teach all their students the same things in the same way. If they do you might want to think about looking elsewhere.

Your lessons need to be focused on the things that you need to improve and also take you towards your ambitions, not your teachers.

This is one of the biggest drawbacks of group or band teaching. It is not individual. Whilst you can get started in this way it is always preferable to get individual instruction.

Two way

You need to be ready to take an active part in all your lessons. If you sit passively and let the teacher tell you what to do and how then you are not making the most of your lesson. Worse still your teacher will believe that you have understood everything they have said.

Instead, get involved with your lesson. Ask for clarification when needed, discuss elements that interest you, talk about music that you like, ask why you are doing something, try your own ideas out. Your teacher will be overjoyed at your interest and you will learn faster because you will be part of the learning process.

Be Prepared

Being prepared for lessons applies to the obvious things like having your instrument, music, correct time and location and anything else you need to take to the lesson.

It also means making sure that you have attempted the practice that your teacher has set for you. Teachers do not expect you to be note perfect by the time you go to the next lesson. But they do ask that you have tried.

If there are things that didn’t go well in practice, that’s fantastic. It gives your teacher some great clues as to how to set your practice for the next week. The trick is to make sure you tell your teacher what you did, what went wrong and why you think it didn’t work. With these clues your teacher can work out how to fix things. Without them they will be guessing.

So be prepared to tell your teacher in detail about your practice and also to ask any questions that you’ve had over the week.

Fleeting

Lessons are over very quickly. Your teacher will have tried to pass onto you lots of information. It is then up to you. You are now your own teacher for the rest of the week. Think about it. Your lesson may last 30 minutes. That leaves 165 other hours each week when your teacher isn’t there.

Make sure that your brief lessons give you the information you need to teach yourself for the rest of the week.

Back to School – Listening

Back To School Listening Back to School   ListeningWe 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 best thing you can do when starting out on learning an instrument is to understand the importance of listening. More than anything else your ability to listen will affect if you succeed or fail.

LEARN TO LISTEN!

OK, so not very subtle but it is that important. The more you can develop your listening the more you can tell which areas of your playing need improving. Think of it like this: You go to a lesson once a week with your teacher. You pay them a fee for this. This fee is essentially rent for their ears. You use their ears for 30 minutes so that they can listen and suggest improvements. Imagine if you could listen as well as your teacher . . .

Here are some areas that you should concentrate on when listening:

Own Sound

Make sure to really listen to the sound you are making. Is it the sound you want? If not why not? Is it consistent?

Teacher

You should of course listen when your teacher plays. More importantly you should pay very close attention to what they say. When you get out of the lesson you need to be able to remember the things they said and try to improve your playing yourself.

Other Players

During the early stages of playing you might not know how your instrument should or could sound. Try to listen to other people playing. Go to concerts and listen to recordings. Try to figure out why they sound like they do. Is it the sound they make? Rhythm? The way the notes start?

Other Music

If you want to become a well rounded musician you should know a bit about lots of different music. Make sure to listen to lots of different things. The radio can be good for this but only if you change stations regularly!

Musical Elements

A piece of music is not just made up of notes. There are things like the speed of notes, how loud or soft the music is, how long or short the notes are, how far apart notes are and many, many others. Try to listen to all of these, not at once as that is very difficult! Take them individually and listen carefully to see what makes each element the way it is.

Detail

Listening in fine detail is perhaps the most useful thing you can do. Most practising musicians do not do this. They therefore miss opportunities to make improvements.

Listen as closely as you can and ask yourself lots of questions. What that correct? Too much? Too little? To loud? Long enough? The more questioning you are of your listening the better it will become.

Make sure you also focus your listening. If you want to play more musically you might focus on a phrase. If you are working on pitches you might focus on individual notes. When working on technique you will want to go to even greater detail, listening to the start of the note, it’s tone and then how it ends.

These suggestions are only a start on the subject of listening. Give some time over to getting better at listening and you will be very glad that you did.

Scale Anagrams – Answers

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.

How did you all get on with last weeks scale anagrams?

Answers are in the attached file below. We’re not providing the answers up front as we don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t tried the anagrams yet  :smile:

document Scale Anagrams   Answers
Title : How To Practice Music Scales Anagrams Answers
Size : 64 kB
Type : pdf

How To Practice Music Scales Anagrams Answers

 

Back to School – Experimenting

Back To School Experiment Back to School   Experimenting 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.

So you’ve made a commitmentchosen an instrument and are now itching to get started on the fantastic journey that is learning an instrument.

This is a great time to experiment. Explore your instrument and find out what it can do. Don’t worry at this stage about wrong or right just try to spend as much time as you can enjoying and exploring your instrument.

Here are some ideas of the types of experiments you can do:

Dynamics

Dynamics is the word musicians use to refer to how loud music is. There are other terms such as piano and forte but you don’t need to worry about these at the moment. Instead try seeing how quietly you can play and then see how loudly you can play. Can you make a really big difference between the two?

Pitch

Notes have different pitches. This is how high or low the note sounds. Imagine a small squeaky mouse as a high note and a big elephnat as a low note. What is the highest note you can find on your instrument? Which is the lowest? Can you make the gap between these any bigger?

Style

Music can have lots of different moods. Fun, spikey, cool, smooth and many others. Try playing notes in these different ways. How many different ways can you think of to play?

Copying

One of the best ways to learn is to copy things that you hear. Try playing tunes that you have already heard. Don’t worry about what notes you are playing just try to make it sound like you imagined.

The more time you can spend with your instrument trying things the better. There is no right or wrong, just experiments!

Good luck and enjoy your practice!

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Not Pulling Strings

Not Pulling Strings Not Pulling StringsWe 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.

They say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. That’s a hard thing to do. As soon as we see a cover we form in our minds a picture of what the book is likely to be like.

From the outside Joseph O’Connor’s Not Pulling Strings looks to be quite a dry, academic description of his subject. The subtitle: ‘Application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to Teaching and Learning Music’ merely confirms that this is what the book will be like.

If you thought this you would, like me, be very, very wrong.

Contained inside is a collection of some of the most pertinent and useful thoughts around practice that I have come across. There is admittedly some discussion of wider NLP issues but these are always done with care and made clear, straightforward and relevant for musicians.

As an example, there is a lot of content about left brain/right brain. That might be interesting in and of itself. What takes this book above others on the subject is the relevance for musicians. O’Connor explains how we can identify our own predilection and adapt our language and teaching styles to suit.

Memorisation and mental rehearsal is given extensive coverage. O’Connor is obviously and supporter of using the mind on it’s own without an instrument to aid our musical development. He goes on to discuss visualisation but interestingly does not put as much weight on this as others have done. Instead he comes down more on the side of thinking and awareness. This could just be a question of semantics but given the focus devoted previously in the book to language usage it probably isn’t. It does however serve as a reminder to other authors to be careful and clear in choice of language.

I was pleased to see lots of information specifically related to practice. Especially gratifying to read were the sections on overteaching, negative practice and, especially, permission to be wrong. O’Connor concurs with my own held beliefs that practice should be enjoyable and that fear of mistakes is detrimental to this.

Thoughts on student knowledge and understanding also shed some new light on the teaching process. Students like to please their teacher and so will ‘guess’ answers more often than they should. Sometimes they guess right and the teacher believes the student understands. O’Connor argues that guesses are of no value as they cover up true understanding – I’m inclined to agree.

Overall this is an excellent book, clearly written and directly applicable to the practice that you do everyday. It has definitely found it’s way into my top 10 books on practice and I would thoroughly recommend it to all musicians.

Not Pulling Strings: Application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to Teaching and Learning Music by Joseph O’Connor, (1987, Kahn & Averill, ISBN: 978-0951215507) is available from:[amazon asin=0951215507&template=htp price]

Back to School – Choosing an Instrument

Back To School Choosing Instrument Back to School   Choosing an InstrumentWe 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.

You’ve decided you want to play. There’s an instrument you like the sound and look of. Just jump right in and get one. Right?

Well, actually no.

Assuming you’re aware of the commitment required to learn an instrument there are a few other considerations before choosing.

Instrument Size

You might love the thought of playing the Sousaphone but if you are very young or petite this might not be the best choice.

In the early stages of learning an instrument you want to have as few distractions from learning as possible. If the size of the instrument is causing you concern you will likely not progress as quickly as you might otherwise.

Limitations of breath, fingers ability to stretch, weight and other things will have an impact on what you choose. Fortunately there are smaller sizes available for most instruments which can help to reduce some of these issues.

Cost

The cost of a musical instrument is a complete minefield.

You might see a very cheap instrument at your local shop or on eBay. However very often the quality of these is not good so not only will it hinder your progress but you will also end up upgrading sooner than you might otherwise.

If you buy an instrument that is a smaller size (i.e. 3/4 guitar) you will need at some stage to upgrade this to a full sized instrument. This needs to be factored into the overall cost.

You also need to consider the cost of accesories such as stands, music, oils, reeds etc

Some very general guidelines on instrument cost:
Guitars – range from very cheap to very expensive. Those at the bottom end of the range are OK for beginners but you should get them setup by a guitar technician so that the action is suitable. Straight out of the box the action can hinder your playing. You should also allow money for purchase of an amp.

Drums
Drummers tend to be collectors of gear. Complete kits can be had for little money. However it’s best to buy fewer high quality items and then add to these over time as your requirements and playing improves.

Piano/Keyboard
If you already have a piano then chances are you don’t have much choice in an instrument. If you are looking to buy one then I would recommend getting a good second hand instrument over a new one. Try to play it and get a piano technician to look at it before you buy.

There are a bewildering variety of keyboards to choose from. At the cheaper end these will be poor and not at all good for learning on. Try to pay a little more and go for something with full sized, pressure sensitive keys. If you can stretch to it then go for weighted keys as well. Above all, avoid being swayed by numbers of buttons, often fewer buttons is a sign of better quality.

Strings
Beginner instruments can be very cheap but you will need to upgrade. At the other end they can be very, very expensive. More than your car!

Woodwind
These will start at a few hundred pounds or dollars. Saxophones and Bassoons can be considerably more expensive than this. Beginner and student instruments tend to be made from plastic and cheaper metals to keep the price down. Professional quality instruments are made from selected wood and metals and can run to many thousands of ££$$.

Brass
Small brass are often a good choice for the beginner as they are cheap. Larger instruments like the tuba cost more but in most cases are not really suited to the very young. A typical scenario is to start on cornet and move to a larger instrument when you are bigger and more certain that you want to continue. At the top end brass instruments can cost around £5000/$8000 which is cheap relative to other families of instruments. Expect to pay a premium for French Horns

Voice
Free!! 3 Back to School   Choosing an Instrument

Physique

The rate at which children/people develop does have an impact on the instrument chosen.

Strings
The stretches required by fingers on larger instruments such as cello and bass are often not possible by very small children. If these are your chosen instruments perhaps begin with a small violin with a view to moving at a later stage.

Woodwind
Most people can manage something on the recorder and this is in fact an excellent starting point for other woodwind. Stretches between keys can be a problem on saxophones and bassoons. Also breath control on the double reeds (oboe, bassoon) can be tricky. For these reasons most children will move from recorder to other winds around the ages of 8-10.

Brass
Short arms can be a problem in learning the trombone and weight impacts ability to play tuba. The less obvious issue is that of orthodontics. Size/development of teeth can have a serious impact on brass playing. Typically students start on small brass around 8 years old and move onto larger instruments around 10-12 years old.

Voice
Although singing can and should begin at any age our voices mature relatively late on in life – perhaps as late as our 30’s. You can begin to sing but expect your voice to change over time as it matures.

Personality

Are you confident, outgoing and vivacious? Perfectionist? More introvert?

Your personality can have a big impact on the instrument you choose. This is a good thing. When you play you want it to show through your music.

Some instruments require lots of attention to detail (violin) whilst other require lots of energy (drums). Brass players tend to be outgoing whilst wind players have a softer side.

Which is right for me?

If, after reading the above, you are still set on playing the kazoo then you should go for it. The thoughts and suggestions offered above are only guidelines to help in making your choice. There are no right or wrong choices, just one that suits you.