Category Archives: TUTTI TIPS

5 Music Practice Tips for the Summer

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smart goal setting conceptIn the summer months, routines lapse and schedules get interrupted. This is especially true for student musicians, who are on vacation from June until September. Many music teachers, too, move to a lighter schedule in the summer while the bulk of their students are away or taking a break. Keeping up your practice routine is important, though; taking a three-month break from your instrument is practically guaranteed to set you back when you do return to it. What’s more, the summer is a great time to focus on developing your practice habits, leaping from one plateau to the next, and getting out of ruts. If your new schedule leaves you with more time to practice, here are some ways to take advantage of it.

1.     Set a goal for the end of the summer. Is there a particular piece of music you’ve always wanted to learn? Is there a technique you want to master? Have you been meaning to write, record, or perform something new, or in some new way? Do you want to put together a new ensemble? With three months of lazy days in front of you, the summer is a great time to set your sights high. Consult with your teacher, if you have one, and pick an exciting goal that you can reasonably expect to achieve. Think of it as a summer-long project.

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Ten New Music Education Technologies

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Tutti_Player_PC_Windows_The wave of new educational technology is drastically changing the way that we teach, learn, and practice music. New music classroom tools are available to make music education more efficient and sometimes more fun. Here are ten new tools for music teachers and students: from instruments and playing aids to interactive lessons, we can help to bring music education into the digital age.

1.     Artiphon: The Artiphon Instrument 1 is a new musical instrument that integrates an iPhone or iPod touch into its hardwood body. It has a six-string “virtual fretboard” like a guitar’s, but the user can convert it to mimic a wide variety of string instruments—or create his or her own. Smartphone integration allows access to a variety of synthesizer, studio, and recording apps, and new ones are always in development. Available for preorder on the website, the Instrument 1 is an exciting, brand new way to play.

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How to Practice Music: Practice Smart

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practicepianoA recent blog post by Noa Kageyama, entitled “How Many Hours A Day Should You Practice,” has received a lot of attention in music education communities. Its thesis is that there’s no single right answer; that the quality of your practice time trumps its quantity. That might seem obvious, but it contradicts all we’ve heard about 10,000 hours, about marathon “woodshed” sessions, about practicing until fingers or lips start to bleed, about playing the same phrase of music over and over, until we get it right or, as one of my teachers used to say, until we can’t get it wrong.

Rock star fantasies, aside, music can be a lonely pursuit: musicians, as a general rule, spend more time alone in the practice room than onstage in front of adoring crowds. Practice is our homework. In addition, practice time tends to be private: anyone who’s spent time in a building (usually a Music Department basement) filled with halfway-soundproofed practice rooms has surely noticed how many of her peers tape sheets of paper over the glass windows in the thick doors, so that passersby in the hallway won’t know who’s inside, making mistakes and trying to fix them. Some musicians have teachers and performance deadlines to dictate what to practice, and our schedules determine when, how often, and how long, but we’re mostly on our own to decide how to practice it. How should we do the everyday work of actually learning to play? How do we know when we’re ready to leave the practice room and perform?

Of course, there are advantages to that privacy: alone, music students can hear themselves, and they can repeat phrases, passages, or pieces however many times and at whatever tempo may suit their needs. Hearing ourselves only helps when we know what to listen for, though, and repetition can reinforce errors in our muscle memory as well as it can help us learn to avoid them. Instead of focusing on hours or repetitions, we should focus on practicing deliberately and thoughtfully: Practice smart.

To practice smart, we have to learn to listen to ourselves. Smart practice is focused and deliberate: it has problems and goals, and strategies to address and meet them. It can be time-consuming, difficult, and, yes, lonely.

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