Have you ever heard it said that trying NOT to think of something only triggers more thoughts of that thing? It makes sense, but is this actually true? And if so, and thought suppression really doesn't work, is there anything else we can do, to avoid thinking negative thoughts on stage?
Published 07/18/21
I think we all know that taking short breaks between practice sessions is a good thing. But a recent study suggests that to maximize learning, we also ought to be taking short micro-breaks within each practice session. Because it seems that most of our learning doesn't take place when our fingers are moving, but in the short rest periods between the moments when we're actively performing a skill.
Published 07/11/21
In this episode cellist Natasha Brofsky and violist Roger Tapping share various insights on how to approach and practice new repertoire - from whether to begin from the score or a recording, to how to learn a composer's unique language, to cultivating patience in the practice room and prevent fear or cautious playing from transferring from the practice room to the stage.
Published 07/04/21
Have you ever found yourself struggling to quiet those increasing doubts and worries and fears in the last week before a big audition or performance? Where even if you tell yourself you're prepared, the thoughts keep popping into your head, stressing you out, and making you wish the moment would just come so you could get it over with? A 2014 study provides some clues on a strategy that could help to reduce the repetitive negative thoughts, and make it easier for us to quiet our inner...
Published 06/27/21
There are a lot of extrinsic motivators that naturally incentivize students to practice - like parental pressure, not wanting to let teachers down, seating auditions, recitals, competitions, and more. But there can be some negative costs of relying too much on extrinsic motivation. So...are there things we can do to increase students' intrinsic motivation to practice and hone their craft as well?
Published 06/20/21
You're probably familiar with white noise, which you may already be using to help you get to sleep at night. But recent research suggests that it might be worth experimenting with pink noise. Which seems to enhance slow wave activity during certain phases of sleep, and boost memory consolidation, which can help you retain more of what you learned or studied the day before.
Published 06/13/21
Having to transition to teaching online in March 2020 was quite a challenge for many of us. We may be able to return to live instruction soon, but this seemed like a good time to reflect on what we've learned, and how we've grown in the months since. Here's Alexander Technique teacher Lori Schiff's story of how she went from believing that Zoom was not a viable medium for teaching AT, to finding ways to adapt and grow as a teacher, discovering that she could make online lessons a meaningful...
Published 06/06/21
Have you ever found yourself talking yourself up backstage before a concert, trying to quiet the last-minute doubts and boost your confidence? Sometimes this works, but sometimes the words just don't seem to resonate or sink in. A 2012 study suggests that there might be a better way to shift our mood in a more positive direction than simply talking to ourselves in a more positive way.
Published 05/30/21
Even though we know that learning can and does continue throughout our lifespan, it often feels like it's more of a struggle to learn new things as we get older. So are there practice strategies that could help to offset this a bit? A recent study tested out three different practice schedules, and identified one that leads to better retention, more flexible/adaptable skills, and more motivation too!
Published 05/23/21
I think we've all heard that mental practice can help us improve some aspects of our playing. But is shifting or leaping from one note to another one of those areas that visualization can help with? A 2013 study of pianists provides a few clues...
Published 05/16/21
This episode is for all of the parents out there who worry when their kids don't practice, or who aren't sure how much to push when the child says they want to quit. There isn't one single correct way to approach any of this, of course, but if you've ever wondered how professional musicians might handle these situations, here is one family's recollection of how they navigated this tricky path.
Published 05/02/21
You've probably heard that it's helpful to make your own test questions when studying for a test or exam. But is this actually true? A recent study suggests that there are a couple study strategies that could be more effective than the standard approach of reading/rereading/reviewing your notes and assigned readings for a class.
Published 04/25/21
You've probably heard the saying that "practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect." But is that true? Or just a myth? Research on errors in learning suggest that error-free practice might actually hinder the learning process, and that how we respond to errors might be the more interesting factor to consider.
Published 04/18/21
Ever have one of those performances that makes you cringe to think of it, even years after the fact? And discover that it still continues to affect you a little bit even in performances today? A recent study identified a strategy that may not wipe your memory clean of the negative performance, but could help you move past it a bit more effectively.
Published 04/11/21
The "memory palace" or method of loci technique, is a strategy often used by memory champions to achieve some pretty impressive feats of memory. Like being able to memorize the order of a deck of cards in less than a minute, for instance. Typically though, memory athletes are asked to recall the information relatively soon after encoding the information into memory. So...does this strategy work for more long-term memory too? And could it be used for music too?
Published 04/04/21
Ever find yourself in a conversation that you think should have ended some time ago, but you're still hanging in there because you think the other person wants to continue, and you don't want to be rude? What if that person actually wished the conversation were over too, but is sticking around so as not to be rude to you? A new study suggests that this sort of thing might be happening more than you'd think - and that we may all be a lot worse at knowing when to end conversations than you'd...
Published 03/28/21
Have you been experiencing "Zoom fatigue?" There isn't a ton of research on this phenomenon quite yet - but a paper did come out recently identifying four potential causes, and a couple tips on how to manage this. I tried one of the Zoom fatigue "hacks" and found it surprisingly helpful!
Published 03/21/21
Some athletes have noted that visualizing past successes has helped them get into a more positive and confident headspace before competition. Which makes perfect sense, but is there any research evidence supporting this? A 2013 study provides some clues, and tests out a simple writing exercise that could help you present yourself more effectively - especially in performance situations where you are being evaluated by an expert (e.g. auditions, juries, competitions).
Published 03/14/21
Cellist Astrid Schween (Juilliard String Quartet) shares some of the daily routines she relies on to set herself up for a productive day of practice, as well as how to approach new repertoire, remain open to one's colleagues' ideas in rehearsal, and much more.
Published 03/07/21
This week we take a look at a study which shows how a teacher's mindset beliefs (growth vs. fixed) can affect the way they try to support or console a student who is struggling. And how we can inadvertently do more harm than good, even if we have the best of intentions.
Published 02/28/21
You're probably familiar with the idea of a growth vs. fixed mindset, and how this affects your own learning and performance. But recent research has begun to look at how at teacher's mindset beliefs affect the learning and performance of their students too. Spoiler alert: it matters!
Published 02/21/21
You've probably been told that when setting goals, they need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed). But recent research suggests that there are specific times when SMART goals can actually be counterproductive, where vague, open-ended goals can actually be more effective. What?!
Published 02/14/21
I think all musicians are much more aware of tendonitis and other playing-related injuries than even just 10 or 20 years ago, but one health issue that isn't on many of our radars quite yet is noise-induced hearing loss. As in, hearing loss that results from exposure to loud music. Is this something that classical musicians need to be mindful of? And if so, what can we do to protect our ears?
Published 02/07/21
We tend to think of music as a sound-based art form (as opposed to dance, for instance, which has more of a visual component). But does a musician's physical movements on stage affect our impression of the performance more than we realize? Like, does a more physically communicative performance appear to sound more musical - even if it isn't?
Published 01/31/21
Research suggests that in general, we may have a tendency to cut notes or rests short, and come in early, rather than late. If you've found yourself struggling to keep accurate time on long notes or in rests, a 2010 study tested a technique that can help you develop much more accurate timing and cultivate a stronger sense of internal rhythm.
Published 01/24/21