Most Popular Posts of 2017

Email? What’s email for?

That was my reaction upon receiving my first email address as a freshman in August 1994. I just couldn’t fathom what one was supposed to do with an email address (I know – sounds crazy now, right?).

Of course, I soon discovered that friends at other schools had email addresses too, and you could type little notes to each other if you knew their address. And they’d get them almost instantly. For free!

Of course, now we all have multiple email addresses, and experience a very different emotion than we did in 1994 upon seeing an inbox full of unread messages.

For instance, my “junk mail” account currently has over 1000 unread emails in the inbox waiting to be sorted. Which wouldn’t be an issue if the emails were all truly junk. But they’re not – there are actually a lot of interesting and valuable gems hidden amongst the expired 20%-off coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond, and reminders to pay my Verizon bill.

I keep telling myself that I’ll sort through these someday…but I’ve been saying that for years (and deep down, I know it’s probably never going to happen).

I’m assuming that it’s not just me who lives in that same state of denial, so…I went through all of the year’s articles, and pulled together five of 2017’s most-read practice hacks and performance-related insights, so you can put your inbox-cleaning efforts off for a few more months too…

Here’s to making 2018 a memorable and inspired year – both on-stage, and off!

Difficulty Staying Focused in the Practice Room? Why “Airplane Mode” May Not Be Enough

Difficulty Staying Focused in the Practice Room? Why “airplane Mode” May Not Be Enough.With all that’s going on in our lives (and in the world in general), sometimes it can be a real challenge to stay focused in the practice room and keep our mind from going into that zombie-like autopilot mode of practicing.

We know that emails, texts, and Facebook can be a distraction, but a recent study suggests that the mere presence of our phone could be taking up more of our mental resources than we realize. And that the more dependent we are on our phones, the worse we may perform on challenging tasks when our phone is in the room.

So are you a smartphone addict? Learn more here – and take a short quiz to find out if you might be more addicted to your phone than you think!

A Practice Hack That Could Significantly Boost Practice Efficiency (but May Not Feel Like It In the Moment)

A Practice Hack That Could Significantly Boost Practice Efficiency (but Probably Won't Feel Like It)It seems incredibly obvious in hindsight, but I spent decades frustrated by inconsistent progress in the practice room, yet never really thought of practicing itself as a skill. As something we can actually get better at –  with, umm…practice.

And research suggests that one of the keys to making practice more effective is thoughtful spacing – i.e. knowing when to keep working on something and when to move on and come back to it later.

So if you’ve ever found yourself finishing up an intense practice session, but feeling like you accomplished very little, the “big stack of flashcards” model for practicing could be an invaluable tool for making more progress in the same amount of time.

Having a Couple Drinks Before Performing…What Does the Research Say?

Having a Couple Drinks Before Performing…what Does the Research Say?We’ve all heard stories of performers who’ve had a drink or two to calm their nerves before a stressful performance (or that crazy friend from summer festival who did it just because).

But have you ever wondered if this was a legit way to improve performance? Or simply something that eased one’s jitters but actually made performance worse?

Well, a German research team conducted just such a study on the impact of vodka (vs. OJ) on public speaking performance. Click here to find out what happened.

Dogs…A Musician’s Best Friend?

noa & duckSome kids (and adults) are natural performers at heart and love to ham it up in front of a crowd. Of course, most of us aren’t quite so comfortable performing, and many have difficulty building confidence in their performing abilities.

So if you have any students who fall into this latter category, and shy away from performing, a strategy from research on reading comprehension might help them become more comfortable (and confident) in front of an audience.

Click here to learn more about the “Cinderella” exercise.

How Many of Our Mistakes Do Audiences (and Other Musicians) Actually Hear?

Nobody likes flubbing a shift or cracking a note – but we can sort of live with it in the practice room, because nobody’s listening.

However, once we get on stage, we can’t help but cringe at every little imperfect detail. And worry what the audience must be thinking about our every mistake.

But how many of these mistakes do audiences actually notice? Especially our fellow musicians in the audience who totally know the piece we are playing?

Click here to find out what a Yale study discovered, when a group of pianists were put to the test.

Ack! After Countless Hours of Practice...
Why Are Performances Still So Hit or Miss?

For most of my life, I assumed that I wasn’t practicing enough. And that eventually, with time and performance experience, the nerves would just go away.

But in the same way that “practice, practice, practice” wasn’t the answer, “perform, perform, perform” wasn’t the answer either. In fact, simply performing more, without the tools to facilitate more positive performance experiences, just led to more negative performance experiences!

Eventually, I discovered that elite athletes are successful in shrinking this gap between practice and performance, because their training looks fundamentally different. In that it includes specialized mental and physical practice strategies that are oriented around the retrieval of skills under pressure.

It was a very different approach to practice, that not only made performing a more positive experience, but practicing a more enjoyable experience too (which I certainly didn’t expect!).

If you’ve been wanting to perform more consistently and get more out of your daily practice, I’d love to share these research-based skills and strategies that can help you beat nerves and play more like yourself when it counts.

Click below to learn more about Beyond Practicing, and start enjoying more satisfying practice days that also transfer to the stage.


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