Part of the joy of teaching students who have had lessons with another teacher, whether it be recently or in the distant past, is to find out the things that they were taught, how they were taught and what their overall memory of their previous lessons is. One thing that crops up eventually is the learning and practising of scales - you know, those pesky exercises some of you were made to do without any apparent rhyme or reason. For some of you, it was the worst part of learning to play! Boring, monotonous... and all without any explanation of why they were even useful in the first place. It's time to set the record straight and give you some new ways to play your scales that will help get some variety back in to your practise.
Imagine that you're walking down the street, going about your day, enjoying an ice-cream. Suddenly there's a screech of tires - a car comes around the corner and races up the street as fast as it can go! A few seconds later a police officer runs up to you with some questions. They're very important questions, they say, as it will help catch some bank robbers. They want to know all the details you can remember about the car. There's a problem though, that car was going so fast that all you can remember is that it was... a car. Maybe it was blue? Who can say for sure.
Over the past week I've been thinking about what I prioritise when I play a piece of music, and challenging myself to investigate the things that I sometimes neglect as a result. It might be no surprise that I'm a big fan of rhythm and groove, so I often find myself playing things in service of that ideal. It does leave me a little short sometimes on some other aspects of my musicality, most notably my attention to detail when it comes to phrasing.
Over the past few weeks I've been putting quite a few of you through your paces in keeping up with a drum machine, metronome or playing along with a recording. Once the playback starts, I can usually see one clear reaction - fear! All of a sudden there's a possible consequence to a mistake; you might lose your place and not be able to recover. The song is over, another failure to absorb. As someone who has had the best time playing music with bands, friends and strangers, I think it's time to learn how to love to play along, and there a few strategies that might help.
I've finally come to accept that yes, it is winter; and yes, it will be winter for a while yet. Why would I want to be in denial of that? Well, I don't like the cold. It's uncomfortable. It's dry. And it can suck all my motivation to practise out of the air. So, how do we get on top of a seasonal slump?
It's school holiday time! Those of you who are in school have had a topsy-turvy first semester and I'm sure you're enjoying the break after the exams and assignments of the last few weeks. Across the road, the Stafford Skate Centre has re-opened and now we're singing along to the distant rumble of the hottest party tracks of the past few decades while they have their school holiday sessions. It only takes one listen of "Baby Shark" to get it stuck in your head for days!
After two weeks of face-to-face lessons the new teaching space has well and truly been tested, and I think the general consensus in that it's a step up from the previous studio. I'm loving the new layout and finding it easy to switch between in-person and online lessons throughout the day.
Some more good news this week (on the back of all the good news last week) - I'll be offering the option of resuming face-to-face lessons starting on Monday May 25th, two weeks from yesterday. This is the same proposed date as the return to school for most students.
Between now and then I'll be putting in place my COVID-Safe work plan and some ongoing studio policies (and trying to find some stock of hand sanitiser!). There'll be much more information to come next week.
Importantly, this is optional. If you wish to continue with video lessons until you feel ready, that's absolutely fine! Zoom lessons are here to stay as a lesson format anytime you prefer to learn from home.
I've had a mammoth couple of weeks - moving house is no joke! As much as it was difficult climbing the staircase at the old house for your lesson, I'll bet you're glad you didn't have to do it 100+ times in 3 days! The good news is that I'm now well and truly settled in to the new house and the new teaching space and I'm looking forward to having you here again for in-person lessons once guidelines have shifted a little further
In very exciting news, it's time to look at the eighth and final step to improving your musicianship:
Have fun. Be silly. Step outside your zone.
Now, everyone has their own reasons for wanting to learn music. Some are in it for the long-haul and are chasing a career, some are hoping to be able to jam with their friends, some are simply wanting to sit in their room and play some favourite songs. Whatever the motivation, there are some serious benefits to not taking this whole thing so seriously.