Memorize More Music by Remembering to Press “Pause”?

A few weeks ago, my 12-year old got hooked on a Japanese anime centered around volleyball, in which one of the main characters shares his last name. Needless to say, this has led to a sudden enthusiasm for jumping.

I began hearing him jump and crash about in his room randomly throughout the day. And he’s been running up and down the block, jumping and spiking the low-hanging leaves on all the trees in our neighborhood. And he even started an online program that’s supposed to increase your vertical jump in 3 months.

At first, he wanted to train every day, multiple times a day. But this program puts a pretty strong emphasis on rest. Not only are there days between workouts, but there is a full week of rest after each 3-week cycle, before you’re allowed to test your vertical again.

Indeed, whether it’s jumping higher, running faster, or lifting heavier, recovery seems to be a crucial ingredient in maximizing our gains. Yet because it can be fun to obsess about how many sets and reps to do, or which exercises are best, we can easily get sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole and focus too much on optimizing the workout, at the expense of emphasizing recovery. Even though it’s during sleep, and the hours between workouts, that the greatest gains take place.

Hmm…so are there things we could be doing between practice sessions to help maximize our gains? Like, what is the learning-enhancing equivalent of a post-workout protein smoothie?

Rob Knopper: On Overcoming the Fear of Recording Yourself (and Making It Your New Favorite Practice Tool)

Once upon a time, my kids would practically beg me to videotape them in action. Whether it was slurping noodles in slow motion, jumping off the couch onto bubble wrap, or rocking out to AC/DC, they seemed to be endlessly captivated by the magic of seeing themselves on-screen.

Fast-forward a few years, and my videography game now needs to be at crazy ninja-like levels of stealth if I want to have any hope of capturing them on film.

I can’t blame them of course, as I wasn’t any different. Especially when it came to recording myself in the practice room or on stage.

Indeed, most of us have been told to record ourselves at some point or another. And on some level, I think we know and agree – at least in theory – that it would be a helpful thing to do.

But, um…why is that exactly? Do we really have to?

Because…what exactly does it do anyway?

And what are we supposed to do if all it does is make us feel like an incompetent mess, and that we can never do anything right? Are we missing something, or doing it wrong?

Rob Knopper is a percussionist in the Met Opera Orchestra, and has been writing about the audition process for several years now (at He wasn’t always a proponent of recording, but had an experience in college that totally changed how he felt about recording.

So if you’ve ever struggled to make recording work for you, and want to be able to incorporate this useful tool into your practicing toolbox, I hope you’ll feel differently about recording after listening to this week’s conversation!

In this 30-minute chat, we’ll talk about:

-Why his first attempt at recording was a big fail in high school
-What changed in college when he tried it again
-The various methods and purposes of recording, and why it’s important to find one that fits you (for instance, is it best to listen back right away? Or wait a day so your ears are fresher?)
-How to eliminate the overwhelm you feel after listening back to a recording
-When to record audio only, and when video might be better
-The biggest mistake we often make when recording for the first time
-And more!

“Mistake Rituals” and Why it’s Important to Prepare for On-Stage Surprises

Most of us are creatures of habit, in at least some area of our lives. 

Maybe we tend to gravitate towards the same section of the parking lot at the grocery store. Or still eat the same kind of jam we grew accustomed to as kids. Or consistently sit in the same row and section of the movie theater. 

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of predictability, of course. Whether it’s having a consistent warmup routine, or setting up an area of the house devoted just to practicing, it’s nice not to have to reinvent the wheel every day. 

But there are times when a dose of unpredictability is exactly what we need. Especially when it comes to learning skills that must be executed in the messiness of the real world.

How so?

Does Stress Make Us More Susceptible to Injury?

What do finals week, the first few months after having a child, and housebreaking a puppy with the world’s tiniest bladder have in common? 

Well, all are potentially stressful moments in life, when experience (and research) suggests that we are more likely to catch a cold. Which can be inconvenient and unpleasant of course, but at least we’re usually back to our old selves within a week or so. 

Injuries, on the other hand, can be much more debilitating and take far longer to recover from. Wait…hold on a sec. Injuries? 

Well, one of the most stressful periods in my life was senior year of high school. After all, there were fall semester grades to worry about, SAT’s to study for, college application essays to write, competition tapes to make, auditions to prepare for…and not enough time in the day to do everything.

Curiously, it was the only time I’ve ever experienced a playing-related injury.

Could that just be a coincidence? Or are stress and injuries potentially related in some way?