2) “Great job, you must have worked really hard at this.”
So similar but a vast difference in results.
If you say “Great job, you must be really smart,”
the child hears,
“Oh you think I’m brilliant and talented. That’s why you admire me and why you value me. I better not do any that will disprove this evaluation.”
It leads to a “fixed mindset.”
Whereas focusing on the process of growth leads to greater perseverance, grit and focus. This comes from the research in the 1970’s by Stanford professor, Dr. Carol Dweck and has influenced so many others including Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s work on Grit.
When Alejandro was still small, I used to habitually say, “Good job.” And I noticed over time, a fixed mindset was starting to set in. If the task did not come quickly and easily, he wouldn’t persist or even attempt to try.
After I learned about Growth Mindset, I quickly shifted how I praised and it began to change. Thankfully, it seems to have been corrected.
It’s the same in music lessons. I have become aware of seeking to praise the process and effort. Over time, you will begin to notice how your child reacts differently.
I tried to read Carol Dweck’s academic works, but found them very dry. This video is a much simpler, easier and fun way to learn more.
Public performance is a huge growth opportunity and an essential skill for success in life.I’ve heard many adults say how public speaking is at the top of their fear lists.
It was mine too!
Back when I was an awkward kid, somehow, I knew that if I could get over my fear of speaking or performing in public, I would have an easier time in life.Through repeated practice in jobs, gigs and performing, I somehow got better.Eventually, to my sheer amazement,I even got a job as a host for MTV with a daily audience of millions!
Over the last ten years, I’ve seen many of my students blossom from shy wallflowers to starring in school plays – from unable to take a bow to belting out pop songs at the top of their lungs – from hiding behind their mother’s legs to standing confidently in front of a middle school interviewer…
Our recitals have played a huge part in your kid’s lives and I am immensely proud to be a part of this magical journey.
If you have never been to one, they are warm, family-friendly affairs where your children can grow.I’ve considered moving to other venues, but the intimacy and community aspect of the library space is exactly what we are after.A safe space.
So be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.You can see previous videos here.
June 10, 2017 – 11am or 2pm
Park Slope Library, 9th Street at 6th Avenue in the lower level auditorium.Wheelchair and stroller accessible.There is limited seating, so arrive early.
Please email me and let me know which time you would like to have your child perform.
What can we do to help our children become successful? It’s a question that reverberates deeply in every parent.
[box] “To give our kids the best possible potential for a successful life, we need to teach and model for them how to work well.” – Cal Newport[/box]
The summer I was 10 years old, I would ride my bike every morning to my local public library. There, I would greet the librarian, Mrs. Mascolo, and take home a stack of books: everything from mysteries to biographies, science fiction, and history.
For most of the day, I would be hidden among the leaves, high up in my backyard willow tree, diving into worlds far beyond my backyard.
There wasn’t much else to do in my suburban town.
To me, the book was the ultimate escape. I could sit reading in the tree all day, until Mom would cry out, “Andrew! Dinner time!”
Today there are so many ways to escape.
I doubt I would have spent so much time reading books if I had the options available today. Every kid has a “pocket computer” that can instantly look up anything, listen to music, “talk” to just about anyone, watch movies, videos, take photos, and play games.
It’s a blessing and a curse.
As a parent, I love the ability to “find my friend” and track my son’s location. I can instantly message him and send automated reminders for appointments with the orthodontist.
But these options have made a problem. A problem of focus.
With the lure of instant gratification, our attention has become shallow and scattered. (Note the rise in cases of ADHD.)
“The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”
To be a contributing member of society today, one needs to achieve mastery of multiple areas. As the pace of innovation increases, we need to learn new skills, behaviors, and tools that didn’t exist a few years ago!
And to do this, we need to learn “how to learn.” We need to develop the muscle of concentrated focus. It’s a skill that is not inherent. Simply clearing away the noise is not going to make you a master of focus. It’s a skill that needs to be cultivated, honed, and practiced.
Perhaps because I was bored and lonely in my teens, I spent hours and hours practicing guitar. I felt like I had to “catch up” to all the other prodigies who started when they were 5 years old. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was engaging in the “10,000 hours” rule that Malcolm Gladwell describes in his fascinating book, Outliers – The Story of Success.
The basic idea is that it takes a long time, about 10,000 hours, to achieve mastery in anything.
The Zen of Practice
Studying a music instrument is like a zen practice on the art of practice! It cultivates attention skills required for deep focus. In psychology terms, they call it deliberatepractice: repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.
This is what will set apart your child for their future life success.
Deep work is not an inherent ability but a skill that needs to be practiced.
You can’t multi-task your way to mastery.
Multi-tasking is not a real thing.
Studies have shown that you are not actually doing more than one thing at the same time, but rather jumping between two or more things quickly. This results in a slow-down and lowering of quality of attention. So when you want to get things done, you need to go into the world of Deep Work.
Success is not about innate abilities / talent, but rather skills of focus, courage, action, and perseverance.
So the next time your child sits down to practice, take a moment to be fully present. Listen deeply, observe, and praise something specific. Your gift of attention and focus is a reward in itself. You are showing, not telling, that this is important and a priority.
And you are showing your child the path to mastery and success in life.
Note: also see the excellent TED Talk and book by MacArthur genius award winner Angela Duckworth.
[box] “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint The greats were great cause they paint a lot Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands Ten thousand hands, they carry me” – 10,000 Hours by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis [/box]
“There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers…practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.” – Malcom Gladwell Business Insider
Summer is usually the best opportunity for new students to join my private music studio. Once you are on my roster, if the fit is good for teacher, student and parents, I will make every effort to accommodate you on the school year schedule. I am incredibly grateful to have so many students who stay with me for years. This summer, I will be offering private and limited group lessons beginning July 7. Music lessons:
Monday through Thursday 10am to 5:30pm.
July 7 through 31, 2014
Lesson are $57 per half hour with an additional materials fee of $20 for the summer.
You can sign up for once per week or even 4 times per week for a super accelerated learning experience. The summer is a time for renewal, recharging and having some fun along with learning. With that in mind, I’ve designed a few summer fun-tastic ways to learn basics of music, ukulele, guitar, piano or songwriting. These music lessons are usually private, but I can accommodate small groups. See below.
For ages 4 to 5, I highly recommend starting with piano and basic music theory in a weekly 30 minute private lesson.
For ages 6-7, especially if you have had some prior experience with music instruction, we can work on guitar, ukulele, recorder, piano, songwriting etc.
For ages 8 and up, we can usually move much quicker and move into pop songs, Broadway, blues and basic jazz.
Group discounts are available – if you know of other children the same age and experience level, I can accommodate up to 4 children for group lessons.
If you are interested, you can register here. I will discuss specific scheduling with you.
All parents want the best for their child and after-school is an opportunity for extra enrichment beyond the classroom.
Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article, After-School Activities Make Educational Inequality Even Worse. The author, Hilary Levey Friedman, interviewed and followed 95 middle-class families over 16 months who were involved in soccer, dance and competitive chess. She identifies 5 skills she believes separates middle/upper class children from less fortunate children and which she calls Competitive Kid Capital. There’s some overlap here with Angela Lee Duckworth’s concept of Grit which I discussed previously. Though Friedman didn’t profile music students, these all overlay very well with music instruction and recitals.
1 – The Importance of Winning – In music there is not necessarily winning and losing, but if you didn’t get the right notes, or you didn’t perform as well as you did at home, then, there’s a sense of a loss. All of my students are pretty hard graders on themselves when asked, “How did you do on that piece?”
2 – Learning from Loss – this is resiliency and happens everyday you practice at your instrument. You’re going to make mistakes, but what matters is what you do next.
3 – Time Management – Music is a time based language- you need to keep the beat – events happen over time. Having good rhythm and timing to correctly and effective communicate a beautiful piece of music is one aspect but so is the management of practice time over weeks and months for a big recital. Will you be prepared? This is life!
4- Adaptability – you need to go with the flow – some days you’ll feel different and you’ll play the music different because of that. But also making small corrections everyday on technical issues is a way of adapting.
5 – Grace Under Pressure – performing in front of a roomful of strangers can be a very intimidating experience. The more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve seen some of my students blossom over the years and these skills will be useful in the classroom, the job, the board room, anywhere. I wrote this article Why Music Recitals Are Like Life Skills 101 a few years ago.
A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.
“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.
What’s incredible is that this is 30-40 years later! And these people may never have continued on an instrument after their childhood music lessons.
This past Sunday, there was a NY Times Article on the importance of music education in everyone’s life. I feel like it was written specifically for music teachers! The author interviewed some of the top performers in numerous and diverse industries and has found a surprising number had deep musical training from Condoleeza Rice to Allan Greenspan to Paula Zhan to James Wolfensohn to Steven Spielberg to Woody Allen and Paul Allen.
[box] “I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.” – NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd[/box]
With all of my students, I stress the importance of memorizing their pieces, especially for performance at a recital. Here’s some of the reasons why.
Repetition is the Mother of Skill
How many times did Tiger Woods hit a golf ball before ever entering a competition? Apparently he was already golfing at age 2 when he made an appearance on the Merv Griffin show with his Dad. He turned professional at age 21 after winning many competitions along the way. That’s 19 years and probably 30,000 to 40,000 hours of practice! In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he discusses the theory that it takes an applied 10,000 hours of practice to mastery in any field. No wonder Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer that ever lived! He’s simply played 3 or 4 times much as anyone else before he even turned pro!
Now, I’m not demanding 8 hour practice days for my students, but five minutes the day before the lesson is just not going to cut it. It’s unfair to the student who is going to sound awful and not enjoy the wonderful process and sense of accomplishment of learning a song to a masterful level.
As we use our muscles to achieve the production of sound, we need to train them to move in specific ways. Fluidity can only be achieved by repetition. By consciously practicing the repeated motions at the same time being mindful of proper alignment of back, wrists, hands, we can create smooth, fluid motions that create beautiful sounds without repetitive stress injuries.
Practicing small bits at a slow speed can produce incredible, exponential results. When pianist Glenn Gould burst onto the scene as a young man, his flawless technique stunned the world, as did his ingenious interpretations of Bach.
The bits of music phrases teach re-usable pieces of the fabric of music. Just like a recipe book or a code pattern that can be re-used in many projects, future songs will surely employ similar melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas. Music performance, composing and listening becomes easier as we progress. This is in fact the basic concept of object orient programming for computers. By designing a library of re-usable components, programmers can quickly put together new projects by cobbling together pre-build elements. Learning a later song is easier because the old one had similar patterns. And then, creating variations is now an option.
The famous actor Spencer Tracy was once quoted,
“Know your lines…and don’t bump into the furniture.”
You could say the same of music. Know the notes.
How can you make the music your own without knowing it at a deep subconscious level.
When I was briefly an actor, I took a wonderful class in
the Meisner technique. The basic exercise was called the Repetition technique. It consisted of 2 or more actors on a bare stage with minimum set props. It was improvisatory in that each would only repeat what the other said until there was a natural impulse to say something else. What was amazing was that the inane conversation became full or emotion and life immediately as the words were not hindering the emotion. It’s the same thing in music. But, we need to know our parts. Of course, in jazz, improvisation is the raison d’etre, but there is still an agreed-upon structure.
We need to get to the very heart of emotion in the music, and the only way is to memorize, internalize, and interpret as our own. To know the music fully.
Tell A Story
To make your music tell a story, you need to have a physical comfort level with it. You can’t NOT know your parts. Otherwise it’s like the actor who doesn’t know his lines…you don’t believe them.
Instrumental Music is extremely abstract. Pop and folk songs with lyrics provide a narrative focus. But pure instrumental music can benefit in having some kind of narrative in that it can bring a piece to life. Make up a storyline for your piece! Sometimes this is relatively easy as the music is dramatic and narrative by nature. Disney realized how Dukas’ Sorceror’s Apprentice was perfect in that it told the story. Take a look.
I’ve been astounded by the difference in performance by some of my youngest students when they add a storyline to their piece. What’s even more amazing is that 6 year stories are all pretty much the same! But the music sparkles!
Having a mind full of pieces to perform at a moment’s notice is a wonderful thing. It’s what makes one feel like a truly accomplished musician. And, you never know when your Aunt Harriet is going to pop over with her friends and ask you to play “something sweet.”
So far, it seems that there are some generally agreed-upon concepts.
Encoding – getting the information into your memory. Of course, the information needs to be right from the start. Garbage in does equal garbage out.
Storage – There’s short term and long term. It seems we are similar to computers in that we have temporary space for short term and commonly used information. If we don’t use it, we lose it, unless we consciously store it in an organized way.
Retrieval– Getting the right information out when you want it is possibly the trickiest. Many scientist believe that the human mind never forgets anything, it’s just difficult to retrieve on command. But, repeated retrieval places the keys to a specific memory in a prominent location. So if you want to remember where you put your keys, try saying it aloud when you put them down. And, practicing your piece on your instrument at repeated intervals is like oiling the doors to that memory closet.
How To Memorize Music
In a famous study done by George Miller at Princeton University they discovered that humans can memorize up to 7 discreet bits of information, plus or minus 2. But chunking this into groups greatly increases the amount that could be stored and retrieved easily. We can apply this to music memorization.
Chunking It Down
To start memorizing, I suggest with a small chunk or part, perhaps even as little as 3 to 4 notes. The younger the student, the less notes. As they learn, we can go to the next chunk, and after mastering and memorizing that, we group those two chunks together. By continuing to add to the memory in small groups, and then synthesizing those into a larger whole, the entire piece can be memorized quickly so that a piece with several pages can be played from memory easily.
Some common breakpoints would be first measure, then second measure, then group them together. Then do the next 2 measures that way before you group together the entire first stave. Then A section can be memorized as contrasted to B section, etc.
An extremely effective way of learning a new piece is by listening to an existing recording. This is, of course, the bedrock of the Suzuki program of music instruction.
At higher levels, this may influence the styling of the performance, but that’s why we listen to great performances! Better to mimic the masters. You can also record yourself playing the piece slowly to listen to it over and over again.
Writing as a Memory Aid
Actors learning lines often write and re-write their lines without punctuation, like a long run on sentence. Why no punctation? By learning the words as raw material, they can add their own punctation depending on the emotion required for the scene. We can do the same for music, though the punctuation is usually dictated by the composer in terms of tempo, dynamics and accents, etc. By copying the music to staff paper, another method of input has been created both visual, kinesthetic and even aural through mental memory of the sounds. As a composer, I’ve gained invaluable details and nuances by just copying pieces of music. The physical act of copying does something that internalizes into the mind and body. It’s why the great painters all learned by copying the masters at the Louvre.
Another technique to memorize is by relying on the auditory, and kinesthetic only. By blindfolding, or closing one’s eyes, or even turning out the lights, the musician can practice
without relying on the visual and play by touch and ear. This will also make the student realize quickly if they are not committing to a fingering pattern as they will be unable to play it blind. And, some of the best musicians in the world were literally blind.
I’ve heard of stories where prisoners of war without access to their instruments practice completely in their mind, visualizing the experience completely, hearing it in their mind’s ear and seeing themselves in the mind’s eye performing their piece perfectly. These people return from their isolation playing better than before! I’ve told a few of my students about this and you can see in this video, my student Mitra is actually visualizing herself right before she performs onstage. Wonderful!
My son Alejandro has been working on a difficult piece by Bach and he recently told me that every night before he goes to sleep, he visualizes himself performing this piece. Wow! I don’t even recall telling him to do this!
An Odyssey, A Memory Palace
There’s a lot of wonder at how some of our ancestors could remember stories to pass on to the next generation. One was was through the use of rhythm and sound in the form of poetry, a kind of word music. By linking the sounds with the imagery in the stories, whole long passages could be told and memorized. By singing the melodies of the piece you are trying to memorize, you are using these very techniques and internalizing the music. Glenn Gould would sing all his parts incessantly to the point where he never stopped singing even when performing in public or recording his piano pieces.
There’s also the technique called the Memory Palace, where using the memory of a physical place you know intimately such as your own home, you could “store” information in specific locations. So, to remember things in a specific order, you could then mentally walk through your palace and retrieve the information. I found this book where it taught me all the names of every play by Shakespeare in the proper order, and lo and behold, it works! Now I should really do this for something more useful like song lyrics as I’m terrible at remembering them.
The Benefits of Memorization
Now the greatest thing is that these memorization and learning skills are applicable and transferrable to the rest of your life, forever! You can use them to learn anything like languages, careers, work stuff, school, research, anything! You are basically learning to operate your mind. How to store information, keep it fresh, retrieve it when you need it and then use it to combine, build, mix, remix and synthesize all you want. And to think you got all this from memorizing your little recital piece!
We’ll be having our recital at the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 2pm. The space looks nice and they even have a grand piano – though so out of tune it is unusable!
It’s located at the corner of Clinton and Union Streets. The recital, as always, is free, and open to the public, so come early to guarantee a seat and to help me set up the room! I appreciate your help in putting away the chairs afterwards as well.
So we continue our tour of the Brooklyn Public Library spaces as weekend hours have been cut at Pacific Library and Park Slope is still under renovation for another year! Please support your/our public library!
The Fall semester is fast coming to an end with the last lesson on Saturday November 20, 2010. We’ll have a break for Thanksgiving with the new Winter session starting Tuesday November 30, 2010 and running until Saturday February 19, 2010.
The cost for the new semester is $550 with an early bird discount of $50 if paid before November 15, 2010.
There will be no lessons the week of
* December 24 – January 2 – Winter Holiday Recess
If you are not currently studying with me, space is extremely limited, but you may register on the waiting list here.