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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: music ed

Sam Pilafian on the Importance of Pushing Limits in the Practice Room

Andrew Hitz

"If we over-train via the literature like method and etude books, we're going to know more than we need to know in order to be able to cover the parts that are put in front of us."
-Sam Pilafian

The above quote was taken from Sam's fantastic interview in A Band Director's Guide to Everything Tuba: A Collection of Interviews with the Experts.  It is a good reminder to us all that we have to encounter everything we'd ever need to do on stage (and then some!) in the practice room in order to be truly prepared.

The best bands perform full run throughs of pieces and entire programs when they are mentally and physically exhausted, yet hold themselves to the same high standards.  The people most prepared to win an audition have played the excerpts during their preparations in every possible order including the worst ones for their chops.

Anyone who makes performing look easy has a secret.  It is easy compared to what they made themselves do in the practice room.

Two Quotes to Help You Get to the Next Level

Andrew Hitz

"Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is a strength."
-Ranaan Meyer
"You need to be brutally honest with yourself about what you can and can't do on the horn."
-Joe Alessi

Honest appraisal of one's abilities is the first step in improving any skill.  The key is constantly practicing both the things you can do and the things you can't do so your assessment of your own abilities is not out of date.

Do you have an accurate assessment of your strengths and weaknesses today?

Links That Make Me Think - Practicing Edition

Andrew Hitz

Before the summer I was posting a large collection of links each month.  I've decided to post less links more frequently now.  Here are a few from around the internet that I find interesting.  And please send anything along that you'd like to share!


1. "5 Incredibly Effective Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder" 

This article has absolutely nothing to do with music or practicing and is a must read for any musician, performer or educator.


"Measure your results, not your time. The whole idea of working smarter rather than harder stems from the fact that many of us put in more and more hours only to find we don't get more done. That's why we want to find methods to be more productive in less time.

One way to do this is to adjust the way you measure productivity. If you evaluate yourself by what you actually get done rather than the time it takes to get something done, you'll start to notice a difference in how you work."


The rest of Jeff Haden's points are great as well.


2. "12(+) Ways to Practice a Technical Passage"

Bret Pimentel hits the nail on the head with this blog post on how to approach the practicing of a technical passage.  Really well done.


"What is crucial is that you are keeping your brain engaged by varying the material."



3. "The Power of a Practice Schedule"

As usual, Gerald Klickstein of The Musician's Way is right on the money with this short and to the point post:


"Consistent, deep practice is the rocket fuel of musical development.  When we live by regular practice schedules we reap countless benefits."

He then lists six benefits of a regular practice schedule which are all fantastic.


4. Get a Free Copy of Lance LaDuke's "Music Practice Coach" for a limited time!

As I explain in that post, this is the best book on practicing I've ever read and all of my students are required to own it.  Grab it before he changes his mind!

Great Advice for Music Students from Eric Whitacre

Andrew Hitz

The following is a quote from Eric Whitacre's Facebook Page that offers great advice for music students entering a new school year:

"Music students: as the semester grinds on you may feel intensely burnt-out.  You may even consider dropping out of music altogether.  If that happens, go back and listen to your favorite recordings, make music with your friends, do anything you can to remind yourself why you loved music before you started studying it.  An education in music can be a very good thing, but it can also squeeze the life out of any love you ever had for it.  Don't let it."

Now that is some great advice.

Links That Make Me Think - April Edition

Andrew Hitz

Here are April's links that make me think.  Some are recent and some are not,  but all have proved thought-provoking. ---------

Yet again Seth Godin nails it right on the head (and in only 57 words!) In asking the question "How do I get rid of fear?" he explains that fear is not the enemy, paralysis is. This is a MUST READ for anyone in music.

Not surprisingly, children who learn music from a young age find it easier to learn languages even in adulthood, research has found.

Here's a fantastic article about 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently which includes failing up and asking the big questions.

Forbes compiled a list of 16 Leadership Quotes To Inspire You To Greatness including quotes from JFK and Andrew Carnegie.

This article in Scientific American talks about using psychological distance as an easy way to increase creativity. (I didn't know what the heck that was either until I read it!)

Filed as Exhibit A under Always Be Ready For The Call: The lead in the Metropolitan Opera's Wozzeck fell ill just hours before the show.  in came Matthias Goerne to save the day, with virtually no time to prepare at all. How did it go? Placido Domingo leaped to his feet applauding at the curtain. What a great lesson for all players and conductors to always be ready for absolutely anything!

You can not go to a Joe Alessi master class without hearing him mention the Amazing Slow Downer. It is a powerful tool for any performer or music educator. Here is one music teacher talking about how indispensable it is for her.

Finally, a fascinating article titled Why We Love Repetition In Music which talks all about brain function.

Bonus Link: If this guy with nothing but a trombone, his hands, and a digital loop doesn't make you happy you should probably get off the internet and get some fresh air.

Most links are best enjoyed with a bowl of ramen. © 2014 Andrew Hitz

Five Steps to Mastering a Piece of Music

Andrew Hitz

Here are five steps to mastering any piece of music.  If done correctly, it will work every single time.

  1. Record yourself.
  2. Listen to it.
  3. Analyze it.
  4. Change something.
  5. Repeat.

How do you know when the tomato sauce you're making from scratch has the right amount of salt? You taste it.  If it needs more you do two things: add a little salt and then taste it again.  Too often as musicians we record something, hear something that needs changing, change it, and then we're done with it.

Always taste the musical sauce before it is served.

With painters here at the house, if you need the score to Rite of Spring, it is in the shower. © 2014 Andrew Hitz

Links That Make Me Think

Andrew Hitz

I am starting a new feature, Links That Make Me Think, which will simply be a collection of things from around the web that I find thought provoking.  Please feel free to contact me with anything you find (or wrote!) that you feel I might find interesting.  You can contact me through my Facebook page, via Twitter, or email me at  Here's the first set of links: -----

Seth Godin, as usual, nail it with one of his recent blog posts titled "Framers and Polishers". In about 100 words he shows why I would argue you should not necessarily look for people with similar skill sets when forming a chamber ensemble or any other kind of musical venture.

Here's a great article by Dr. Noa Kageyama (from the Bulletproof Musician) where he discusses the benefits of taking "creative pauses" and how they can help you in the practice room: "How to Reduce Practice Room Angst (and Boost Creativity)".

Gerald Klickstein of The Musician's Way discusses what he calls "The Peak-Performance Myth".  He talks about how thorough preparation helps you to overcome and adapt to the varied internal and external situations that are encountered during a performance.

My jazz piano playing friend Ron Davis found a gold mine of piano videos on YouTube.  If you need some inspiration in the practice room, chances are one of these 150 videos of the greatest pianists throughout history can provide you with some!

If you use social media to promote yourself or your ensemble (and if you aren't what are you waiting for?), this article by fellow Phish fan Jon Ostrow from CyberPR gives some great insights into the six biggest platforms: Five Facts About Your Favorite Social Media Platform [Part 1].

Finally, Joe Guarr (who runs weekly music ed chats on Twitter using the hashtag #musedchat) spotted a website that enables you to upload a score and it will auto-generate parts! This seems like science fiction to me.  What a great resource for music educators!