Professional Development

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

 [···]

Read More

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.

 

Read More

Vacations are just to get away from myself.

I love to travel and explore new places, but I’ve begun to notice something: each time I go away, I gain something.  It’s not just the usual rest, relaxation, and renewal.  That’s vitally important,  but it’s beyond that.  I gain some mental space,  I can think clearer, see my best options, and make better decisions.  I become my best self.

But it doesn’t have to be a big trip.  

Coffee shops, libraries, and hotel lobbies are some of my favorite places to write, plan, and get work done.  Why?  I started wondering about this.  Is it just the beautiful furniture?  The ambiance of the space?  The people?  What I’ve begun to realize is that I’m running away from my stuff!  

Have you ever rearranged the furniture in your home or studio?

I tend to do this a lot.  I feel better immediately with some arrangements.  

Wind and Water

When I lived in Hong Kong, I had a friend who was a feng shui master.  This is the ancient art of harmonizing with the physical environment.   Feng shui literally means wind and water.  As a musician, I have no trouble understanding harmonization!   Who wouldn’t want to be in harmony with their surroundings?   It works, but over time, I forgot about it.

This summer, I was sitting in a state park reading,  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying:  the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  You may have heard of this book as it has been a NY Times best-seller.   

Metaphysically Speaking

As I read, I was intrigued.  Kondo is a bit wacky, and I like that.  She speaks metaphysically about objects and clothes.  If you’ve ever seen any films by the Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, then you will feel right at home.  Musicians are metaphysical too!  We believe in the power of sound and waves of energy even if we don’t fully understand it.

So here’s what I realized: you can access your best self from the outside in.  By decluttering and purging unnecessary stuff, you clear space physically, emotionally, and mentally.  It allows you to be the best you can be.

Each and every possession takes a little bit of our mental quota.  Have you heard of decision fatigue?  (I wrote an article about it here.)  It’s why they don’t allow presidents to order their own meals.  There’s a finite amount of decisions a human being can make each day.  It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day.  It’s also the reason car salesmen wear you down with an overwhelm of options!

A 3-Step Process To Your Best Self

1) Purge your unnecessary stuff.  

Donate, sell, or throw it away.  If it doesn’t, in Marie Kondo’s words, “spark joy,” get rid of it.  “Letting go is more important than tidying…Being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”

2) Digitize papers and/or sheet music.  

Use a scanner or even your smartphone.

3) Organize.  

Don’t buy all the fancy bins and organizing tools, use your closets, shelves, and cabinets.  Kondo has a rule about storing everything vertically.  Even clothes.  She has a special way of folding clothes.

For digital organization, use Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or something similar.  See the guided tour of Dropbox below.

Depending on how much clutter you have, this process can be a weekend project or up to six months!  But it’s worth it,  soon your space will be reflective of the person you truly want to be.  Detoxing your home and/or workspace will also detox your body and mind.  

Clearing Space For Learning

Students and clients can also feel the difference.  By having a clean, clear, tidy space for learning, they can focus on the content, not the clutter.  It’s subtle, but clearing your space will free up energy for them as well.

I’m not quite finished with my detoxing, but already, I feel lighter, clearer, and happier.  It’s a surprisingly simple way to change your life and access your highest, best self.   If you feel overwhelmed during this process, take a break and listen to something like this.

“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle.

Recommended Reading and Resources

 

Read More