Hard to believe we are only a month away from halloween and less than two months from thanksgiving – Fall seems so short!

The work at my house has recommenced so students who have lessons before 5 pm each day will receive  morning email with information as to whether their lesson will be at 2119 or 2121 Sprunt Ave.  The weather has cause huge delays and if hurricane Matthew comes too close it will be even more delayed.  One has to exercise patience!

October fees will be due this week.  Monday people have 5 weeks in October so the fees will be $150 BUT Monday 10/31/16 is of course Halloween.  It is a teacher workday in Durham public schools so can I suggest that Monday students who go to public schools come earlier in the day?  Just let me know a good time for you.  Students at other schools might be able to then take earlier times after they get out from school.  Tuesday – Friday people have 4 weeks in October so fees are $120.

The next adult work-in-progress night will be Friday November 18 and most probably at the Porter’s wonderful house with the amazing grand piano if they are agreeable – more news to come.  I am also thinking about the parents who also play.  I know I have at least 3 mothers and one dad who play an instrument and I will be contacting you to see if you would like to join us at the Adult night to play or just be in the audience.  It is an over 21 night because we indulge in some adult beverages.

I will not be having a Soiree before Christmas and I am regretting that already because it is such a part of my program but I cannot let my granddaughters grow up without seeing Grandma.  I will be having a big Soiree in June next year, probably June 4.

I think you know I am a member of the Music Teachers National Association and we receive a very good journal 6 times a year.  A recent article by Steven Brundage on how we learn had some good ideas about how to learn and practice a musical instrument.  His ideas are based on two types of thinking, which he calls system 1 and system 2 thinking.  System 1 thinking operates “ automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control”, and system 2 thinking “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it”.  I teach that you need system 1 processes before you can enjoy system two which i liken to having faith in the muscle memory you have worked on.

I am going to summarize somewhat brutally with apologies to Steven but there are five gems here:

1. Broken not massed intervals of practice produce the best results.  Learning music depends to a large extent on muscle memory (system 1 thinking) so you have to devote blocks of practice to acquire this. Instead of sitting for a long time practicing, break up your time by resting for a few minutes.  When you come back to practicing you will re-engage system 2 thinking.  Advanced students might practice 20 minutes, take a 5 minute break and come back for 20 minutes.  Intermediate students might do 10 minutes, break 3-4 minutes then back for another 10 and so on.  This does not so much apply to very young beginners who would benefit from going to the instrument for 5 minutes at a time even several times a day.

2.  Breaking up practice by alternating sections of a longer piece, 5 minutes on one section, 5 minutes on another and so on. “The key is to practice in relatively short, intermixed intervals, which primarily serves to continually re-ignite system 2 thinking”.

3. Being able to identify details in the score so you can adequately self-assess as to whether you are playing accurately.  “Without an accurate understanding of musical details, one cannot reasonably expect to correctly identify and perform them”.  This is why I place an emphasis on musical theory and musicianship.

4. This is my second favorite.  Steven calls this baseline practice.  Practice slowly, not faster than you are able to accurately play the notes and not at the performance speed indicated.  After you can play accurately you can adjust the speed.

5. And this is my first favorite – half speed practice. Steven also recommends playing a little heavier when you are doing this type of practice so you can focus on attention to detail with system 2 thinking.  Even after you feel you have a piece under your fingers this type of practice is so helpful to identify weak spots.

“Fooled by Fluency: Understanding Illusions and Misjudgments in Music Learning”. Steven Brundage. American Music Teacher, Volume 66 number 2: October/November 2016, pp. 10-13