Professional Development

How has your New Year been now that we’ve wrapped up January 2018? Are your New Year’s resolutions still going strong?

  • Have you changed your eating?
  • Are you getting more exercise in?
  • Are you practicing your instrument more?

Or are you thinking, “Oh wait… I did have resolutions.  What are those again?”

So far, for me, one of the most helpful habits I’ve done is to do what’s called a 100 Day Gong. If you’re like me, you’re imagining someone banging a gong like crazy for 100 days.  Um, no…

Gong is a Chinese Taoist tradition — it’s a set amount of days one devotes to a particular task.  It is a promise to one’s self to stay focused and on path towards a designated goal. Here’s a good article on it.

So, for example, you could choose something simple like — practicing an instrument 20 minutes a day, taking a 30 minute walk, doing 20 minutes of writing for a book you’ve always wanted to write — and you do what you choose for those 100 days without fail.

Why 100 days?

Well, because science shows us that it takes about 90 days for any habit to get wired in your brain. You can read a great article on How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)

You can start anytime, there’s no magic in starting on January 1st in the New Year. (Whew!)  But, the trick is, that if you miss even one day, you must start over from day one. So, if you get to day 92, and miss… start over. You’ll find out real quick how committed you are to taking some area of your life to the next level.

If you’re just starting, choose something relatively easy. Maybe 1 or 2 tasks that you can do without fail in about 20-30 minutes. I tried putting on 8 or so of the top things I had wanted to try.  Bad idea — I didn’t make it far.  Life happens, and you get busy, or sick sometimes.  It’s ok if it’s an easier list. Don’t worry, you can add one from the list to the next gong after you get through this one.

Oh, and the payoff is… you get results.

When I did this for exercise, I found myself in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Plus there’s a psychological boost of being committed to the process. Imagine what you’d like to finally make headway in, and go for it.

Good luck. I hope that helps.

Let me know if you’re going to try something for 100 days — reply in the comments below.

Take care,

Rock

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Now to choose a method–my first private piano student just signed up. Wait. There are HOW MANY piano methods out there???

How in the world will you decide which to use?

Last month I wrote about starting a private music teaching studio. Five questions I’m most often asked, and one question no one asks, but probably should. Future articles will explore guitar and vocal methods, lesson supplements and business aspects of starting a private music teaching studio.

PIANO METHODS

You could simply start out using the books you learned from as a kid. But you might find others that fit you or your student better.

Ask These Questions about Each Method

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In this modern age, there is an app for everything. As you trudge through the endless offerings in your app store, it does make you wonder which apps, if any, are of practical use.

Having said that, there are a few golden apps that can add real value to our music lessons and our students home practice.

Recently, ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) released a new app called “Sight-Reading Trainer” Knowing how some of my younger students love using music apps, I decided to investigate! I am very pleased to report that the app is not a disappointment but a genuinely useful tool to train the upcoming musician to read music at sight.

Several of my students have been using the app now and the results have been excellent. All have commented on how they have learnt to look more carefully at new music before starting to play. The most amazing thing is that some who used to hate sight-reading have now had a change of heart and love it! Yes, I know!!!

Features

• “Streak” page. When you open the app you are greeted with the number of days that you have been practicing sight-reading with the app continuously. This has really encouraged my pupils to practice daily so that they can maintain and increases their “streak.”

• Grades 1-5: in effect, 5 apps in one!

• A generous 31 sight-reading projects per grade

• Every project starts with three engaging “games” that teach awareness of rhythm, pitch, and other musical features

• Each game comes with a three-star rating, encouraging students to revisit to improve if they scored less than three stars

• After completing the three games, the student then plays the piece on which the games were based

• Useful tips about effective sight-reading are given for each piece

• Available for Apple & Android

Conclusion

Lots of students are now using this app. None of them have abandoned using it but are very motivated, systematically working their way through the projects. The fact that previous sight-reading “haters” have been converted to enjoy this activity is nothing short of miraculous. Several older students have also been enjoying it, coping admirably with the simple design. Those students at higher grades have enjoyed going back over the early grades to gain further confidence. This app has become a welcome addition to my music teaching toolkit. To learn more, click here.

 

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