Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Power of Repetition

I've recently been reading  (and rereading)  Shinichi Suzuki's (of the well know Suzuki Method) book Nurtured by Love.  The book describes Suzuki's path that led him to develop his method of music education.  Incidentally Suzuki never called this his "Method".  He always referred to his style as "Talent Education."  His goal was never to produce virtuoso's of the violin but virtuoso people.  Here's a quote of his from the book, "I want to make good citizens.  If a child hears fine music from the day of his birth and learns to play it himself, he develops sensitivity, discipline, and endurance.  He gets a beautiful heart."

I couldn't agree more.  I gain a great deal of fulfillment from the study of music.  In essence the study of playing a musical instrument is also the study of self-control.  It requires a massive amount of patience, hard work, and discipline to play a musical instrument well.  It's amazingly difficult to get your fingers to do what you want them to do.  You have to learn what your hands can and can't do well and learn to work with them.  Everyone is different.  It takes time.  It take REPETITION.

This is important.  Suzuki mentions it several times in his book.  The power of repetition can not be underestimated when it comes to playing a musical instrument.  Here's a personal example.  Whenever, I perform or go to jams where I improvise a lot I find myself falling back into these familiar patterns of playing.  I've practiced other licks, songs, and passages but I can't seem to play them out.  Why?  It's simple really.  I've haven't practiced them enough.  The songs and licks I play best are the ones I've played the longest.  The ones I've played the most times.  

Now that might seem like a no brainer but it's important to remember this when practicing.  If I hope to get these new musical ideas and songs into my fingers I have to play them that much more.  Repetition.  I  can't expect to practice a song once or twice a week and expect to play it up to speed.  It needs to be constantly nurtured and worked on.  Muscle memory take time to develop.

If you find yourself frustrated with your playing remember the power of repetition.  Focus yourself on one small problem and keep working on it till it improves.  How long will that take?  Hard to say.  But I can tell you with absolute certainty that you will see results if you start small.  If you're working on a song.  Play the first 1/2 of that song 100 times and see how much better you are at it afterward.  Play it 200 times.  Experiment and see how long it takes to see improvement.  

Devote yourself to one song for a month and see how well you play the song at the end of the month.  Let me know how it goes.  

Hope it helps.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Workshops and classes at Dusty Strings

I have several upcoming classes and workshops at Dusty Strings.  Starting Monday the 12th and meeting every two weeks are my Beginning and Intermediate Banjo classes.  The beginner class meets at 6:30pm and the intermediate at 7:45.  You can link to a description of the classes and get more info below:

I am also teaching a couple of workshops in January and February.  The January workshop will focus on Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar.  The class will meet Sunday January 18th at 12:15pm.  There will be two seperate classes of 2 hours each.  The first class will focus on the basics and the second on the fancier stuff.  You can check the details at this link:

The second set of workshops will take place February 28th.  The first class will look at Bluegrass banjo back up techniques:

The second class will look at practice techniques.  This class is applicable to any instrument of any genre.  A great class if you feel like you can't improve.

You can feel free to send me an email if you have any other questions.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Music as expression

What is music?  Try to answer that one.  Is it art?  At its best a high art for sure.  In our society its also product even from some of our most beloved artists.  In America virtually all music has some sort of cultural and societal stereotype attached to it.  We identify ourselves with certain types of music and this helps us define who we are as people.  Maybe its always been this way in all societies.  Is this a good thing?  Hard to say.

As a music teacher I often focus on the technical side of playing.  And this is important.  There is a right way to practice and a wrong way.  But why practice?  What are we getting at?  What is the need we have?  The challenge of just executing difficult maneuvers with our hands is not necessarily music.  I think aspiring musicians (myself) would do well to ask what they are really trying to achieve with practice.  What do the notes of the song say to you?  

As musicians we can improve our music by discovering more about the expression.  Can you say more with less?  Perhaps if we always consider what our music expresses we can improve our practice and interpretation of the music.