Tag Archives: practice

How to Keep Students Motivated Between Lessons

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By Amy Barlowe

Weekly or bi-weekly lessons generally build a healthy rapport and often begin a lifelong mentoring relationship between serious students and their teachers. However, concurrently, it is also easy for students to assume a sense of dependency stemming not only from the weekly assignment/check-up routine, but simply from the need for approval. What can we, as teachers, do to help our students find a path to independence? The summer and holiday seasons are the perfect time for students to take short forays into new realms of self-enlightenment.

By cultivating an interest in discovery, and encouraging them to surround themselves with curiosity and wonder, not only can we keep fanned the joyful fires we’ve kindled throughout the first semester, but also, we can attain a sense of personal peace knowing that even while away from our students, they will continue to enjoy the rewards derived from effective practice.

Having taught young people since I was a teenager myself, I have found that “imagination” is the key component of meaningful teaching and learning at all levels. It is unfortunate, however, that although stimulated by the most compelling teachers, imagination often remains behind in the studio. Instead, boredom, its evil twin, invades the practice rooms of even the most gifted students. How then, can we teach students to bring home the enthusiasm that fuels productivity even at the most distracting of times? We need to teach them to be their own teachers.

Keen observation, imagination, a constructive internal monologue, patience, and passion are at the core of successful self-teaching. With guidance, these essential components of learning can be fostered at any level, becoming habitual by the time students must be left on their own. Removing the “drudgery” from practice will keep it challenging and fun!

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Amy Barlowe, violinist and composer, received her B.M. and M.M. degrees from the Juilliard School after studies with Ivan Galamian and Margaret Pardee. Formerly Associate Professor of Violin at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, Ms. Barlowe has held teaching positions at the Juilliard Pre-College and New York’s School for Strings. Ms. Barlowe’s biography has been listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Women, and the 2010 edition of Who’s Who in the World.


 

Our Top 7 Music Goals for 2017

Music Goals for 2017 Picture

As we close the curtains on 2016, and 2017 makes its debut (it’s starting on a high note, wouldn’t you say?), we took a moment to list our top musical goals for the next progression around the sun. What do you plan to work on over the next 365 days? Here are some ideas . . .

  1. Step outside of your musical comfort zone—learn to play a new style. Listen to some New Age, Metal, Classical, Jazz, R&B, Bluegrass, or whatever you listen to least. Pick up a new instrument. Momentarily abandon what you find to be safe—what you’re good at—and feel what it’s like to be new at something again. You’ll be rewarded with an expanded musical palette and a bigger musical mind for new ideas. Warning: this may result in ultimate personal growth.
  2. Experience more live music—FYI, your studio and/or classroom don’t count as live music venues. And if you’re digesting the same scales, exercises, and songs day after day, week after week, season after season, then it’s time to refresh your ears! Maintained inspiration = maintained motivation.
  3. Create more—there’s no such thing as too much music, and we’ve just begun another year to make some more! Try to set some time aside to compose a new song, score, melody, lyric, or even a lesson plan for the classroom. Get those ideas on paper, and share them with the world. Not a fan of performing? See goal #1.
  4. Practice, then practice some more—this is a musician’s equivalent to the-rest-of-the-world’s “exercise more” New Year’s resolution. Simply put, it’s the most obvious and necessary evil element to being a successful musician. Don’t just fit it into your routine—make it a habit, and find ways to make practice fun, efficient, and enjoyable. List your specific practice goals, and consistently track your progress over time.
  5. Take breaks—while this may sound contradictory to everything else on the list, we often get caught up in adding so much to our plates and we don’t consider the consequences. Fatigue can lead to loss of motivation and a drop in performance—every musician’s absolute nightmare! As important as each note on the page may be, the space in between is equally as important. Take time in your routine to turn it all off, step back, breathe, and be silent.
  6. Collaborate—take it from us, this is a big part of what makes music fun. Get out and join a band, orchestra, or choir. Accompany someone, or find a new writing partner. Expand your network, make new friends, and connect with others over the joy of making music.
  7. Continue to share the joy—our personal favorite. As students, keep learning. As teachers, keep teaching. And as musicians, keep playing. It’s all of our duties to spread the joy of making music with the rest of the world, and there are so many ways to do so. It’s contagious!

While the New Year is certainly a great opportunity for self-reflection and goal-setting, realistically we should constantly be evaluating our goals and refining the roadmap to being our best musical selves—for the next 365 days, and beyond. What are some of your biggest musical goals?

Encourage Students: Scale to New Heights

Chris M. BernotasBy: Chris M. Bernotas Why do we place so much emphasis on scales as band directors?  Well, that’s a silly question – to help prepare students for the challenges that arise in their music!  Specifically, we help our students learn their scales to help prepare them for technical passages and to help them attain the muscle memory skills necessary for performing music.  Scales aren’t just for learning fast music, but that could be a whole other article topic. I could continue to list the wonderful benefits of learning scales; they are so exciting and fun! Well, they are fun once you have them mastered.  There is one thing that does bother me about scales though.  You know the scale pattern we are all familiar with?  Think about it; sing it in your head.  It goes like this:

Major Scale

If you are really fancy you can double the speed, or triple it to show off at parties.  I love this scale rhythm; it is nice, neat and fits in a box.  It is such a great rhythm for teaching the skills associated with learning scales.  What, then, is my problem?  Glad you asked.  My experience with students has been that once they learn and memorize their scales with this pattern, they have trouble deviating from it.  Ask students to play a scale from the top note down and then back up, in a dotted eighth and sixteenth pattern.  Can they do it?  How about a pattern like this for some variety:

Scale Pattern

Or what about a “non” pattern, just to keep things interesting:

Changing Scale Rhythm

One of the beautiful things about music, both in performance and in composition, is that it is limitless.  There are an infinite number of possibilities of what can be written or how a single piece can be performed.  Learning scales is simply a gateway for opening up the creative and interpretive power in music. Practicing scales in a common pattern is a fantastic idea; it provides stability for the learner and a common vocabulary for teachers. I will continue to use this well established pattern with my students as well as incorporate different and innovative patterns to challenge them. I believe it is not only important for us to encourage students to accept the wisdom that mastering scales can provide, but to also encourage them to try new things with their new scale friends.  Play them backwards, start in the middle and go up then down, swing them!  Most of all encourage students to have fun!