Some of you have been enjoying a break coinciding with school holidays - it seems that anyone high-school aged was pretty stressed in the last couple of weeks of term with exams and assignments. It's in these times that I'm very happy to have chosen to teach people to play primarily for fun rather than for exams or competitions. There has been one task I've been giving a lot of you in the past few weeks, and I'd like to share it with everyone and try to explain how it works.
Over the past couple of weeks I've been doing a lot of brainstorming with my students during their lessons. Often we'll use brainstorming as part of our methods for trying to solve problems, but lately I've been using it more as a way to intentionally create problems. Now, why would I ever be so mean as to make life more difficult for you? Lets find out.
One fantastic thing about teaching is finding out how your mind works - what makes you tick, what gets you frustrated, how you measure success - it's different across each and every student. Some students have one thing in common though, the desire to understand the logic and reasoning behind the process of learning a piece of music. What a great thing to aspire to! As they say, knowledge is power. However, there's a potential trap in searching for the logic.
February already?! How the time flies. This week I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of students who have been away through January - I'm looking forward to catching up and hearing about your holidays!
A few of my students are currently on a strong rhythm focus with their learning, nailing down that all-important ability to count and groove and swing and move. It's a vital skill with music and is of equal (if not arguably greater) importance than which notes you're playing. So if you're looking for some new ways to test your rhythm skills (and we all should be, right?) then here are some ways to find rhythm out there in the 'real' world.
Who would have thought that having a baby would mean I had a little less time on my hands? (Everyone. Everyone thought that.) So, that's my excuse for this being the first newsletter of 2021 despite being the third week of teaching for the year.
For those of you who have resumed lessons already, it has been fantastic hearing about what you've been up to over the past couple of months and to check in with you again to find out whether your goals have shifted, what you're finding frustrating and rewarding when practising, and who your musical heroes are. However, I have been surprised at how many of you don't have a musical hero. WHAT!? No-one to aspire to? No-one to inspire you? No-one to fastidiously study the lyrics of, or dream of playing their pieces note-for-note?
Over the past two weeks I've been checking in with each of you at your lessons to make a plan for your self-directed learning and practise while I'm on paternity leave. It's been great to zero in on the areas of your development that you feel like you could benefit from some focused work in your next few lessons to give you the best opportunity to be productive over November and December.
If you, upon reflection, have decided that there are some other skills that should take priority in the next few weeks, then please let me know at your next lesson. In essence, as you're practising over the week, I want you to ask yourself, "What's one skill I wish I had more training in?"
Today I want to talk to you a little bit about chord extensions - the added notes on top of your standard major and minor chords that add some different flavours in a lot of the music we listen to. Specifically, I want to talk to you about how chord extensions are easily created by accident and how you might use those same happy accidents when composing your own pieces of music.
The exciting news has just been announced that the AFL Grand Final is to be played in Brisbane this year - what a thrill for those locals who can nab themselves a ticket! It's a little too close to our baby due date for comfort, so we will be admiring the 'Gabba from our lounge room. Part of the spectacle of the Grand Final is the pre-game entertainment - usually a few Australian bands plus an overseas headliner. With overseas options off the table, I'm sure the booking agencies have been putting their local bands forward. I think a Powderfinger reunion would go down a treat, although I think at least one band member currently lives interstate. Have you ever been watching a live performance at a sporting event and wondering if the performers are actually playing and singing, or whether they're miming to a pre-recorded track? Here's some tips for spotting a mimed performance, and the reasons behind it.
My wife and I spent some time yesterday afternoon with a professional photographer so we could have some maternity photos taken. We took her advice on what to wear, made sure to turn up on time, followed her directions for poses and fun time doing it! The photographer mentioned to us a couple of times that we were really easy to work with, and that we might not even need all the time allocated to get the photos she needs. My own internal reaction to that was, "Of course we're getting praise, we're super easy to work with. After all, we're doing what we're told. Plus, I am pretty great at most things, and I deserve praise for that!" (and clearly modest too! :P) My wife's reaction was a little different though.
One of the biggest industries hit by COVID-19 has been the performing arts - with no venues open for a long time (now with sit-down capacity caps), and touring restrictions for interstate or international artists, concerts effectively stopped dead. I have to admit that I haven't been the biggest patron of the local music scene over the past few years (I think I still have some burn-out after 15+ years of gigging...) but I've usually always had a concert on the horizon to look forward to. In the past few years I saw Paul McCartney, Elton John, The Killers, Robbie Williams, John Mayer, Ben Folds, Jon Bellion and probably a couple more that I'm forgetting right now. The unknown of when this type of concert will be able to come back to Australia was making me feel a little wistful today, so in the spirit of celebration of the industry, I thought I'd tell you about the first concert I ever got to attend.