Why Improvisation Should Be Part of Every Young Musician's Training

Much is often made of the Suzuki method as being a system of learning that fails to nurture creativity. I don't know if this was part of Dr. Suzuki's original philosophy, or if I had liberal Suzuki teachers, or just a forward-thinking mom, but I actually remember being asked to do a lot of free improvisation as a Suzuki kid. Almost on a daily basis, I'd have to pick up the violin and create something from scratch. It was as much a part of my practice routine as scales. It actually came in handy…


Practicing When Fatigued: Helpful, or Not Worth the Effort?

Practicing When Fatigued: Helpful, or Not Worth the Effort?

Playing the violin may not seem like an especially strenuous activity, but I nonetheless remember plenty of times when my muscles would feel tired and sort of zonk out on me in protest. Like they just didn’t want to do the work, and wouldn’t listen to me. Sometimes this would happen following a full day of rehearsals, lessons, performances, or practice. But sometimes this would just happen because it was at the end of a long day. Those were the moments when out of frustration (or a desire to…


A Clever Practice Hack From Behavioral Economics That Could Make Practicing More Enjoyable

A Clever Practice Hack From Behavioral Economics That Could Make Practicing More Enjoyable

We all know that exercise is good for us. But developing and maintaining an exercise habit is much easier said than done. How hard is it? Well, I remember my exercise behavior prof once remarking that statistically, we have a better chance of quitting heroin cold turkey than we do of maintaining an exercise program beyond 6 months. Yipes. Why are the numbers so discouraging? Well, working out - especially at first - isn’t inherently fun. I mean, it certainly can be, but cycling until your legs…


Quiet Eye: A Technique to Enhance Performance When You're Nervous

"Quiet Eye": A Technique to Enhance Performance When You're Nervous

Whether it’s sight-reading a tricky piece in rehearsal, playing our least comfortable excerpt in a big audition, or doing a run-through for a colleague whose opinion we respect, most of us are more likely to rush than to drag when the going gets tough. And sometimes, we rush before we even play a note. We walk hurriedly onto the stage, tune quickly, and start to play before we’ve taken a moment to get our thoughts in order. None of which makes logical sense. I mean, why would we make things…


The performance benefits of a

The Performance Benefits of a "Can-Do" Attitude

When you hear the phrase “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can,” you probably think immediately of the classic children’s book The Little Engine That Could (and if by some chance you don’t remember it, here’s a retelling of the tale , or if you prefer, the Damon Wayans PG-13 version ). It’s an uplifting little tale, and conveys a nice message about positive attitudes. But does saying “I think I can” actually do anything? Can you compete under pressure? A group of…