Delivering a Polished Solo Performance

Posted in good musicianship at 5:00 am by Administrator

Greetings, band students, and welcome to our third post designed to help you give an outstanding solo performance on your instrument! Today, we share 6 things to do on the day of your performance to make everything run smoothly.

Before the Show:
1. Warm up at home. You never know if a venue will have places for you to warm up comfortably–there may not be as much privacy or space as you’d like. So, take a few minutes earlier in the day and warm up at home. This will be one less thing to worry about once you get to the show.

2. Arrive early. When you get to the venue a few minutes early, you give yourself the luxury of time–time to calm your nerves, check out the performance area, and get ready to play.

During your Performance:
1. Walk on stage confidently, and pause before you play. The way you take the stage can add a lot to your performance. Walk onto the stage with excellent posture, and smile at the audience. When you look at the audience, think of how wonderful it is that all these people came to hear you, and what a great musical treat you’re about to give them! Before you play, pause for a few seconds to make sure you feel comfortable and ready to go. There is no need to rush into your first note–relax and enjoy yourself!

2. Recover! If you mess up, keep playing, and act as if nothing happened. Remember, the only person who can see your music is you, so nobody will know if you’ve made a mistake. That is, unless you stop playing and make odd faces at your instrument.

After You Play:
1. Smile and take a bow. Applause is the audience’s way of saying “Thank you” for your performance, and a bow is your way of saying, “You’re welcome!” Smile at your audience and savor this moment. You did it!

2. Graciously accept compliments. After the show, people may come up to you and compliment you on your playing. If this happens, smile and say thank you! You can even add a kind comment like, “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” or “Thanks for coming today.” Compliments are like gifts–make sure you receive them with open arms.

Try using some of these simple actions at your next solo performance. You may find that they make the day much more fun, and help you look like a seasoned performer…even if this is your first time taking the stage on your own!


Winter Lip Care for Young Musicians

Posted in healthy playing at 5:00 am by Administrator

Winter Lip Care

For wind and brass players, the condition of our lips can make or break our day in band. Playing is fun when our lips are soft, supple, and responsive…but dry, cracked, chapped lips can make playing feel awful! In the winter, we have to do a little extra work to protect our lips from the cold, dry air. Here are 4 things you can do to keep your lips working well all winter long.

1. Drink lots of water. – Winter air doesn’t just chill the outdoors; it also dries out our lips and skin! One of the easiest ways to combat this is to drink plenty of water. Keeping your entire body hydrated helps keep your lips hydrated as well.

2. Don’t lick! – Licking your lips may make them feel moist for a minute, but as the air dries the saliva off your lips, they actually end up being drier than before. And dry lips are more likely to chap and split…ouch!

3. Save your chops. – If you need some moisture on your lips, try using a great lip balm, like Chop Saver. Chop Saver helps your lips stay well-moisturized, and is full of herbs that can help your lips recover after a long practice session or band class.

4. Practice! - Believe it or not, practicing is a great way to heal and prevent chapped lips. Playing stimulates bloodflow to the lips, and can help scrub off dry, chapped skin. Unless your lips have chapped so much that they’re split and bleeding, playing is a good idea!


Preparing for a Successful Solo Performance – Part 2

Posted in good musicianship, practice at 5:00 am by Administrator

Playing Solo

In our last post, we discussed some ways to get a strong start on preparing pieces for a solo performance. Today, we’ll learn three things every soloist should do as the show gets closer.

1. Work on style. When you’re in the early stages of practicing a solo piece, your focus tends to be on playing correct rhythms and pitches. But audiences don’t come to concerts to hear pitches and rhythms–they come to hear MUSIC! As the gig approaches, spend more time in your practice working on articulations, dynamics, phrasing, and style. Experiment with different ways to play the notes and rhythms you’ve learned, or even try to communicate specific feelings or ideas through your playing. As you add style and feeling to your piece, you’ll discover a great deal about yourself as a musician; plus, you’ll create a performance that’s exciting and memorable!

2. Record yourself. – Often, what we hear when we play is very different from what the audience hears. When you record your playing, you allow yourself to hear your sound from the audience’s perspective. As you listen to a recording of your playing, you may uncover mistakes you didn’t know you were making, or realize that you’re doing some things better than you thought. Once you hear exactly what you’re doing, it’s much easier to take your playing to the next level. You don’t need an expensive studio setup to record yourself; a small digital voice recorder from Wal-Mart or Target can work very well.

3. Set up some performances. – Got pre-show jitters? One of the best ways to calm your nerves is to perform often, and get used to how it feels. Play your solo for your family or friends, or ask Ms. T if you can play in front of the class before your actual performance. Doing practice performances helps you know what to expect when you play solo in front of an audience, so that playing the actual show is much easier and more fun!

Next week, we learn how to get up on stage and deliver a great solo performance. See you then!


Breathe New Life into Your Practice!

Posted in good musicianship, practice, successful transitions at 5:00 am by Administrator

For many young musicians, January can be a tough time to practice. Since we just had a nice, long break, we may feel very lazy, and the cold, gray weather doesn’t help. But January is also a great time to evaluate our practice, and make sure it’s as fun and effective as possible! Try asking yourself these simple questions:

1. How’s your time? Back in August, one of our assignments was to find a good time of day to practice. But since our energy levels can change quite a bit from summer to winter, we may find it hard to practice at the same time we used to. If you find that you’re always tired when it’s time to practice, switch your practice to a time of day when you’re more alert. Your practice will be more fun AND you’ll get more done!

2. How’s your space? Just as we double-check our practice time to make sure it’s still working for us, it’s also wise to consider our practice space. The space that we found back in August may feel very different in January! So ask yourself, is your space still a comfortable, fun place to practice? Is it one of your favorite places to be? If not, you can make some pictures or decorations to liven it up; or, even try out a new space! When you enjoy your practice space, it can be much easier to spend time there each day.

3. Got goals? If we want our practice to make a difference, it’s important for every practice session to have a purpose. One of the easiest ways to do this is to set a musical goal each day, and work toward it in your practice. You may set a goal to fix some rhythms or pitches that you had trouble with in class, or even make a goal to learn something new. Try writing your goals down, so you can see them while you practice!

4. Got creativity? This question is possibly the most important one here. If you practice the same way every day, practicing will get VERY boring! If you’re feeling bored, try bringing some imagination into your practice. Play at different tempos, start at odd places in the music, try different articulations and dynamics, or make up your own songs. The more creativity you use, the more fun practice will be!


Preparing for a Successful Solo Performance – Part 1

Posted in good musicianship, practice at 5:00 am by Administrator

playing solo

In band, we place most of our focus on learning to play well with a large group. However, performing alone on your instrument can be an exciting and rewarding challenge. Whether you want to prepare a solo to play at your church or temple, for a family gathering, or as part of a band concert, the best way to ensure a great solo performance is to practice effectively before the show. Today, we’ll talk about some ways to get a strong start on practicing your solo.

1. Start NOW. - One of the biggest mistakes that young soloists make is that they wait until the last minute to practice their pieces. At this level in your musical development, you want to choose your music and start practicing several weeks before the show. Starting early means you’ll have enough time not only to learn the rhythms and notes, but also to make the piece your own–by adding articulations, dynamics, and your unique personal style.

2. Choose music that fits. - Choosing music for your solo gig is a lot like trying on clothes. You definitely don’t want to choose music that’s way too easy (think “Hot Cross Buns”); that would be like buying a shirt that’s too small! On the other hand, don’t choose music that’s too difficult to work up in a few weeks’ time (like pieces that use rhythms we haven’t learned, or that are so long that it’s hard to get through them.) Instead, choose a piece that has a couple of challenging elements, but also includes passages that you can play easily.

3. Make a Progress Poster. - The progress poster that guides our preparation of concert pieces in class can also help you keep track of your progress as a soloist. Try making your own progress poster using a sheet of paper labeled: Sightreading, Rhythms, Pitches, Breath Control, Polishing, Runthrus, Ready. Then, look carefully at your piece and divide up the measures onto post-its as you see fit. Use your progress poster in your practice just like we do in class, and watch yourself grow at each practice session!

I hope these practice tips will help you grow as a soloist! Next week, we’ll present part 2 of this series, which includes helpful tips for what to practice as your performance date gets closer.


New Year’s Resolutions for Musicians…and How to Keep Them!

Posted in good musicianship, helping your child succeed, practice at 5:00 am by Administrator

Happy New Year!

January is a time when many people create resolutions to eat healthier, lose weight, or make more money. But as we know, by February, many of these resolutions are already abandoned! As a musician, it may be tempting to resolve to “play better” in 2011. But like the resolutions above, these general musical desires often fall by the wayside very quickly. So, how can you stick to your guns and really become a better musician this year? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Make your goals SMART
The problem with many resolutions is vagueness. If you resolve to be a great jazz trombonist, it’s difficult to know where to begin or what to do to achieve your goal. This is where SMART goals can help. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Making your resolution very specific, giving yourself a deadline, and making sure it’s possible will help you turn your dream into reality. “Be a great jazz trombonist” is a vague, general order. But “By February, I will be able to improvise over two choruses of the Bb blues without getting lost,” tells exactly what you want to happen, and when, and is something you can do in the time you’ve allowed. SMART goals give your desires direction. Once you’ve made the goal, just follow the directions!

Take weekly action
Now that you have your goals, look at them weekly and break them apart to find your Next Actions–specific things you can do to move closer to your goal. If my SMART goal is “By February, I will be able to improvise over two choruses of the Bb blues without getting lost,” my Next Action might be, “Make sure I have my Bb scale memorized,” or “Listen for patterns on a blues recording.” A Next Action like, “Play two choruses of blues every time I practice, no matter how bad I think it sounds!” can help you develop a habit of practicing. Getting yourself into the habit of working toward your goal will help you become a better musician every day.

Reward Yourself!
Setting detailed goals and working towards them each day takes discipline and hard work. So, when you’ve accomplished a goal or completed several Next Actions, celebrate! Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a favorite TV show, snack, or time with friends. Most of all, take the time to feel great about your accomplishments. And then, repeat the process until you’re the musician of your dreams!