Compose Yourself: Songwriting & Composition as Practice

Songwriting as a means of practice is a great idea! The engagement with the sound you’re making goes deeper than when you practice scales, or other techniques, because you own (on many levels) the sounds you’re creating. And you don’t have to have special skills to do it, just dive in and start figuring it out.

2nd Place is the First Loser?

Here’s what a loser sounds like:[video]

Of course I’m being sarcastic. This is a wonderful performance by 12-year-old So0-Yen Lee-Wieniawaski.

Getting Loopy: Elijah Aaron covers TLC’s “No Scrubs”

Loop pedals are such a great way to have fun while you practice, no matter what instrument you play. You hone your rhythmic skills, you focus on a short snippet of music at time, you can layer these snippets to your heart’s content, and best of all, you receive immediate feedback. Here’s Elijah Aaron showing us how it’s done right, with a cover of TLC’s No Scrubs

Yeime Arrieta Ramos: When She Looks Asleep, Her Accordion Playing is Most Dangerous

Meet young accordion queen, Yeime Arrieta Ramos. Her playing is great, and her attitude is even better. I’ve been writing about Flow states lately, for a chapter in the motivation section in The Practice of Practice. Young Ms. Ramos could be a poster-child for Flow. I’d love to hear more about her history and how she practices. Her musical companions, who also seem to be around 10-12, are also pretty amazing musicians. Anybody see the Smithsonian documentary on her? I think I’ll go check the Smithsonian app right now. Here’s the video of Yeime Arrieta Ramos:

Music and the Brain on Radiolab

Radiolab is one of my favorite podcasts: smart, funny, thoughtful, and at times mindbending. All artfully mixed and mastered into great storytelling that teaches. Here’s an episode on music and the brain that should be required listening for musicians. Covers music and the brain, music and language, sound as touch, and musical DNA. Hope you like it as much as I did.

What Excuse Holds You Back?

Anyway, at the fest this year, in casual conversation, I recounted Victor Wooten’s presentation a couple years ago which I posted on the blog. A high school kid raised his hand and asked how he could overcome the problem of having large hands. Victor set the kid straight. This picture of Chinese artist Huang Guofu overcoming (read: crushing!) his limitations reminded me of Wooten’s words of wisdom.

First Video of A Thought in the Brain

I often post about brain-related issues and music practice. This video is more general than usual, but I present it to you because of its interesting uniqueness. The first video footage of a thought sparking through neurons (the video says it’s 3x normal speed). Details about the process here.

This made me think about a few things: How were those neurons and the connections “built” or grown? Is a firing of neurons really a thought? What is a thought?

Your Brain on Music (fMRI)

Music doesn’t make you smarter, at least not generally smarter, but playing music does make you musically smarter. In fact, there have been many recent studies showing profound differences in the brains of people who have studied music. One is that the corpus callosum, the “conduit” between the left and right sides of the brain, is…

Stop! Hey, What’s that Sound?

The more musicians I speak to about practice in preparation for the new book, the more I’m reminded how extremely important listening is to one’s music. In fact, there’s some evidence in published research that all this time spent listening gives us musicians more ability to pull sound out of noisy environments (link to study)….

Practice on a Tiny Drum Set

This has me thinking about portable practice. Would practicing these drum set skills transfer to a real set? Maybe. Either way, it would be fun. There are all kinds of “travel” instruments out there for surreptitious practice: pocket trumpets, travel guitars in many configurations, and now, this drum set. First vid is the drum solo,…