Posts in category “Musicianship”

November 15, 2018

Planning breaths

When learning a new étude or repertoire piece, it’s common to practice at first with focus on the notes, often playing them at a slow tempo and/or divided into chunks. This is a good approach for mastering the needed finger technique, but it may neglect one of the crucial parts of a performance: breathing. In ...

November 7, 2018

Using sticky notes to focus my performance thinking

I might put in weeks or months preparing for a high-pressure performance. But all of that can fall apart pretty quickly if my head isn't in the right place.

August 7, 2018

Buying more instruments, or making do with what you have

I get asked every so often whether it’s a good idea for a woodwind doubler to try to have a fairly “complete” set of instruments, or whether it’s better to make do with a few and make substitutions as needed. For example, do you need a B-flat clarinet and an A clarinet, or can you just transpose? ...

July 28, 2018

How to write boring program notes

Things to include in your program notes for maximum boredom: More than a sentence (two, tops) of general biography on the composer. Unremarkable facts about the piece’s structure (sonata form! key of F!). A blow-by-blow description (first there is a kind of sad theme! it starts out low and soft but then it gets higher ...

May 24, 2018

Q&A: The big picture

Answers to questions submitted for the blog's 10th anniversary.

January 27, 2018

Prepping the dumb guy

In the practice room, I'm smart, organized, and focused. But sometimes the smart guy from the practice room fails to show up, and instead a much dumber version of me ends up on the stage.

December 13, 2017

What I listen for in scholarship auditions

It’s scholarship audition season again, which means I get to meet and listen to some very nervous high school seniors (and community college sophomores). My university is a small regional one, so our audition process probably isn’t as intense as some of the big name-brand music schools. If you’re preparing for an audition, you should definitely ...

October 9, 2017

Getting past frustration and burnout

Every musician (and music student) goes through periods of frustration and burnout. But there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

September 19, 2017

Preventing accidents with pencil marks

Why spend practice hours trying to remember a flat here or a trill key there when I can solve the problem permanently and in a matter of seconds with a quick marking? Why risk getting momentarily distracted and missing an entrance when a few judicious cue notes can provide a helpful reminder?

August 15, 2017

Please lose the music binder

For some reason a high percentage of my incoming students each year like to make a 3-ring binder for their sheet music and lesson materials. I don't know why.
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