Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2012

Beginning Improvisation

I would like to continue with the train of thought from my last blog. Previously, I had discussed the importance of experimenting with improvisation. Improvisation teaches a different set of skills that can help to enhance your abilities as both a classical musician and performer.

While it's important to teach these things to students, it is difficult to introduce subjects that you, as the teacher, may be uncomfortable with. Despite its daunting appearance, learning to improvise is no different from learning a technically complex violin concerto. It must be systematically broken up into smaller tasks that can be easily managed.

One of the easiest things to do is to start listening to improvisation. Get all the books you want, but the "jazz swing" is not something you can notate accurately. Reading music as a jazz violinist rather than a classical violinist is an acquired skill. Knowing how a particular genre should sound is a huge step in the right direction.


10 Repetition Games for Young Musicians

The idea of not just practice but repetition is one of the hardest lessons to instill in a young student.  A five year old student is not going to understand why he has to practice now so that he can play really well later.

Games remove the emotional aspect of tedious repetition.  They become the neutral third party that "decided" how many times something must be done. This transforms a frustrating activity into something fun. A student that is having fun will be more open to corrections which makes the work they’re doing more productive.
I have put together a booklet to give a parent/teacher ideas for repetition games.  All of the games are things that I have tried myself in the private lesson environment.  I explain both how to play the game and what it is about the game that makes it interesting to children.  An old game can often be made new and interesting my merely adding/changing one small element.

You can find this booklet on AmazonBarnes & Noble and most ma…

Rethinking Improvisation

I think that improvisation is often overlooked these days by classical musicians. Classical music is, in many ways, very safe. Everything is already figured out for you. Notes, dynamics, key changes, even fingerings are already written down. As musicians, all we really have to do is get the coordination to play it and maybe add a little of our own artistic interpretation. Easy right?

Maybe not. But with so much initial information presented to us before we even attempt to play, the chances of playing a piece "wrong" the first few times is much higher than playing it "right." This is not an entirely bad thing. It instills in us a drive for perfection. To work hard until the desired result is achieved.

But this sense of achieving perfection must be balanced out. We've all hit ruts at some point when learning one song or another. Even when the teacher is encouraging, we still think on some level "I didn't play that piece correctly because I mes…

Teaching En Masse?

I would like to explore the stereotypical school music setting. From what I understand from talking to friends who teach in this type of environment, students are assigned or pick out an instrument to play in orchestra or band. The teacher then covers basic, basic technique for each instrument. Students are then highly encouraged, but not always required, to seek instruction from a private teacher outside of school.

Does this work? Granted, I do not have a ton of experience teaching orchestra in the school setting. But when I did, it kind of felt at times like I was babysitting with instruments. To me, this seems like a really frustrating learning experience for everyone involved. The teacher can't possibly give everyone the individual attention they need. The students are drowning in a sea of new material. And then the parents get frustrated when they think their kid is being ignored in class.

I kind of have to wonder that if this is the face of music in schools, would chi…

Interview with Chris Graber on Google Groups

Welcome to Rethinking Genius, Chris! Let's start out by having you introduce yourself. Tell us about your own musical background and why you ended up becoming a Suzuki parent.

My daughter and I have been learning Suzuki violin for about two years now. As a child I was always drawn to music, but never had any formal training. Throughout the years I've played all sorts of instruments in different settings, but in a very "self taught" way.

As a past kindergarten teacher, my wife has a strong background in early childhood development. We both thought it would be good to have our children start learning instruments very early on. She had heard of the Suzuki method through the grapevine, so when our daughter was turning 6 we did a little research and found a teacher in our area. We knew that learning violin required some structure and the Suzuki method seemed to provide just that. Our teacher was open to teaching adults as well, so I thought it'd be a great opportun…