The wedding is imminent! I am very excited about traveling to London next week to visit my daughter Rose and to attend her wedding. She (and I) have waited a very long time for this event to come about and I am so very happy for her (there will be photos!). This means I will not be teaching on these days:

Wednesday 9/26/12
Thursday 9/27/12
Friday 9/28/12
Monday 10/1/12

Tuesday lessons will not be interrupted.

I will be teaching this week (9/17 – 9/21) and the first two days of next week (9/24 and 9/25).

I am also happy about the beginning of our Fall semester. It seems that the decision to use my ipad in lessons was a good one. Previously I had prepared what the student had to work on in the following week prior to the lesson, but now I can make those decisions during the lesson which is much more satisfactory. I did not realize this until I started using the tablet in lessons; my initial thought was to save paper and ink and thus the environment (in my small way!).

I hope the emailed lessons are reaching you and you are making it work for you or your student satisfactorily. My other thought in changing to this system was in some way to make students a little bit responsible for their goals each week. Some students have their own email addresses and this is good because all students need to learn to use email. They can tailor how they transfer my suggestions to actual practice goals. In some cases for young students I appreciate the necessary parent involvement in printing or copying out the assigned work.

This bring me to weekly practice and the art of learning a musical instrument. One of the best motivations for students is having fun. If your lessons are miserable and your practice a boring chore, you are eventually going to give up music lessons. However, having fun with music lessons only comes when you get to play something well, so that you feel really good about yourself and your music making. This means you DO have to put in some practice; without practice, the fun can never really start to happen. The fun comes when you get to the lesson and I say “what are you going to play for me?” and you say confidently “i have a piece ready to play for you”, and you play and I am very impressed. Or you invite your parents or your friends to hear you play a piece and you do it so well they are astounded. That’s fun!

So I hope everyone is organizing their practice each week so they can do at least some practice at least 5 days a week. We all have very little spare time these days so practice has to be focused; you have to know when you sit down what your plan is. Parents, if you can help the younger ones with their plan that would be terrific. I am going to be talking about plans for practice over the next two weeks.

I have also been talking to students about practicing small segments of their pieces (2-3 measures) many times over. This is a critical part of learning a new piece of music whether for piano, guitar, or ukulele. What you are doing by practicing a small segment over and over is building muscle memory. The reason you need muscle memory is because you cannot rethink every note you are playing each time you come to that piece. Your fingers need to know it so you can relax and just play while you consider expression and interpretation. Learning a new piece follows this trajectory:

Work out the fingering and play it with the same fingers every time (otherwise your finger muscles are going to be of two minds, this finger or that one, and by the time they have made that decision, your have stopped playing!)

Play through the piece and mark out the hard segments, and practice them over and over (if your parents or partner complains about your doing the same bit over and over, them you are practicing well! Sorry people!)

Once you have the fingers and hard bits mastered and your can play the piece fluently (without stopping), you can work on interpretation (dynamics, articulation, speed), while you have faith that your fingers are going to do just as you taught them.

Thank you always for learning with Flourishing Muse. I have over 50 students in the studio now, including my three home schooled groups, and I am very grateful that you enable me to earn my living this way.