Why It’s Important to Know (and Use) Your “Signature Strengths”

Why It's Important to Know (and use) Your "signature Strengths"

That’s out of tune! Now it feels rushed. Hmm…the sound is a bit forced; doesn’t ring enough.

Whether it’s the voice in our head, or a trusted teacher, conductor, or colleague, we spend a lot of time focusing on all the imperfections in our playing. And not just with regards to all the little details in every piece we play, but with every facet of our instrumental skills and musicianship too. From finger tension, to breath control, rhythm, concept of sound, intonation, or our musical instincts, it’s easy to obsess about all the areas in which we struggle.

Pinpointing and working on our weaknesses isn’t all bad of course, and there are indications that the best athletes and performers spend a greater percentage of their time targeting their weakest areas than do intermediate-level athletes.

But there are some who have concerns about the “deficit-based” approach, and argue that we should spend at least as much time cultivating our strongest attributes too. Because it’s our strengths which allow us to stand out and make the greatest contribution to our community and the world at large.

So which is it? Should we focus on remediating our weaknesses? Or enhancing our strengths?

Having Difficulty Believing You Can Play a Flawless Audition?

Having Difficulty Believing You Can Play a Flawless Audition? Forget Feedback; Try “feedforward.”

When I was a little kid, my mom used to put on a recording of a piece I was about to perform, and have me close my eyes and listen to the recording, pretending that it was me playing perfectly in tune, with beautiful sound, and not whichever famous artist was actually playing on the tape.

It felt like a silly thing to do at the time, but it did seem to help, and was something I ended up doing quite a bit of over the years.

Could it really be possible to enhance learning or performance

Why Being Too Quick to Offer Feedback Can Degrade Learning

How Being Too Quick to Offer Feedback Can Degrade Learning

I remember a lesson many years ago, when my teacher told me that her goal was for me to learn how to teach myself. Where I would no longer need a teacher.

I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 at the time, so the notion of me teaching myself was completely inconceivable. It was enough of a struggle to play in tune, never mind coming up with my own bowings and fingerings, or figuring out how to make a piece engage and capture a listener’s attention.

But she was right. One day I wouldn’t have a teacher. Or even if I did, I would only have that teacher’s assistance for one measly hour out of each week. Which meant that for 99.4% of the week, I was on my own. And if I wanted to make meaningful progress during the week, I’d have to learn how to teach myself.

So how does one teach someone to become a more independent learner?