Sunday, January 3, 2016

What’s in Your New Year Tool Box?

Here we are, inviting another New Year into our lives.  What does this mean to us as musicians?  What new opportunities are there to embrace?  Of course, there is new music to learn, new programs to prepare, and new performances to work toward.  But, if we work toward all of these new things in the same old way aren’t we simply playing the same song, different verse? As you try on other New Year resolutions try on some music resolutions as well.
  • Go to more live performances that feature professional artists.  We can’t get better if we don’t know what better sounds like!
  •   Read a book about a new musical concept, a musician you would like to know better, or an instrument.
  •   Explore the formal structure of a new piece before playing it.
  • Count everything out loud. The amount of cohesion and focus will surprise you!
  • Play the left hand alone to listen for the “driver of the bus."
  • Determine the high point in each section and for the piece. Build your playing around it.
  •  Spend some time each week improving one or more specific technical aspects.
  • Use each dynamic change starting places in practice. Not only will you notice them, it will provide guidance in determining structure and high points.
  • Make music with another musician. This is especially important for pianists, who spend much of their time making music alone. 
  •  Sing each line of your piece.  For pianists this is extremely helpful to naturally find high places, low places, and resting places. 
  •  Orchestrate your piece. Now as you practice, see how you can make your piece sound “as if” it is a flute, clarinet, oboe, trombone, or saxophone!
  •  Perform more. We get better at performing by performing. Take your music to the local senior center. Volunteer to play for church. Offer to play at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Let your music brighten the lives of others.

Start small.  Choose one item and add it to your musical tool box.  Each month add one more. Before you know it you will find your perspective, playing, and performing, dramatically transformed!

Happy New Year and happy playing!

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