Sunday, July 3, 2016

copyDown add on for Google Sheets

Just discovered this add on a few weeks ago. It allows you to run formulas on data from rows after the information is entered into the spread sheet from Google Forms. This was not possible before as any new information from the form was put into a row that had nothing in it already (meaning you couldn't have a formula there ready to run). copyDown makes this possible though.
I discovered this while creating an online practice chart that students can fill out and submit via the web. Once I have finished that project I will be publishing a video tutorial so check back later!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

What's the Deal Here, Anyway?

I have a student who was recently struggling to practice with the metronome. She was showing marked improvement though from the previous lesson so I asked her about it. The conversation went something like this….

Student: “Well…it’s [metronome] difficult to use so sometimes I shut it off.”
Me: “What do you mean difficult?”
Student: “Like… it’s difficult, it’s just hard to play with the metronome.”
Me: “Yes it can be hard to play with the metronome. Can you say anything else about it?"
Student: “Um… well… my bow doesn’t want to move correctly. Whenever I go to move my bow with the metronome it just doesn’t want to go and it’s hard to move it at the same time as the metronome. So then I cut it off and play without it.”
Me: “Well… that’s kind of the deal. It can be difficult to play along with the metronome, at first. But, you keep at it and you get better. You keep working with it, listening to it, anticipating the beat, correcting your mistakes and eventually you are playing along with it easily. All these things happen pretty quickly all at once actually. Did you know you were doing all these things to get better at playing with the metronome?”
Student: Not Really
Me: “Well that is learning to play the cello, that is the deal, that is what we do. Something is hard, we struggle with it and then eventually we get better.”
Student: “Oh, ok.”

For musicians it is especially easy to take our experiences and the musical experiences of others for granted. Most of us started long ago having played for most of our lives. We have had too many experiences in learning and music making to remember even half of them. Then we go to teach students and gloss over something like practicing with a metronome. Something that for us at this point is such a fundamental aspect of our own practice, that we have lost the notion that practicing with the metronome has it’s own set of fundamentals and it’s own reasons as to why. Getting better, learning, the deal, continues to evolve for us as we grow up and grow as musicians. So the next time you are introducing something new to your students or taking on a new piece, ask yourself, “What’s the deal here?”

Friday, April 22, 2016

David Finckel Cello Talks - Practice Place

Itzhak Perlman on Practicing

Here is link -

Professional Reminder

I think I am going to change my title to "Professional Reminder". I think about that as I teach students to practice and what they need to do to stop performing with bad habits. I wonder if I am really a teacher with pedagogical knowledge or am I just the guy with the list of reminders that go out when they are needed. Of course then I think about my own practicing and why don't I remind myself the way I wish my students would remind themselves. And this is where the discipline of practice gets a little murky with philosophy....we all have the power to do whatever we want, we have the power to remind ourselves of anything we want. Its true though, we can decide at any moment to remember all the things we have been told about playing our instrument and then sincerely try to do them. Perhaps the more philosophical, or psychological (now getting really murky) question is, Why don't we sincerely try to do it? I mean, we like the instrument right? We decided to play it, we picked it out, we are sitting here in this practice session wrestling with this stuff, we should take the next step and remind ourselves of all that good stuff we know.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Assigning Emotion

When we play our instruments we assign certain emotions and feelings to what we are doing. It might be fear, it might be joy or a combination of the two or a whole host of other emotions. I believe a large part of the complexity is that that whole other host does not have a definitive set of descriptors. They are musical emotions and therefore a reflection of the uniqueness of the performance in that moment. I was practicing Haydn C major earlier when all this came flooding into my mind. I was practice the scales going up into thumb position at the end of the exposition. I was noticing, again, how I lift away from the cello on such difficult passages. I have noticed this so many times and have just now in my musical life begun to do something about that habit. I also noticed how I was recalling a feeling, a specific feeling of a kind of fear. This is measure 46 that I am referencing, shifting on the D string from the 4th finger on the C to the thumb on the D. It was difficult, very difficult to begin to try and not pull away there and be proactive. I know now how you can have a really great technical performance that is lacking in musical depth. It is much easier to hit all the notes correctly when you take the emotion out. But when I say take emotion out its not really emotion, its fear. Its taking the fear out and judging the sound rationally as it should be, for what it is. I think a lot of progress is hindered because we just aren't honest, truly honest the bad and the goo, about how we are playing something and what we are really feeling while we play it.