Archive for the ‘Practice Tips’ Category

Singing More than Just the Words

October 12, 2014

By, Catherine Behrens. Voice instructor at The Lesson Studio










Music can bring about strong emotions, bring back old memories, and soothe our tired bodies at the end of a long day. As musicians, it is one of our chief goals to move people with what we do. We want to give a message to our audience that will leave them changed after they have heard us play or sing. There are many things that go into creating an impacting performance, but there is one tool that I want to focus on that is specific to singers. We have words. Composers and songwriters choose their lyrics very carefully. Whether they have taken inspiration from a great poet such as Shakespeare, Dickinson or Goethe, or if they have written their own, these words have been crafted to evoke emotion. When we sing, we sometimes get so focused on all the technique (which is super important!) we forget about the words. So here are some ideas on how to get the most meaning out of your song.

First, write out your words on a separate piece of paper and read them out loud. If there is a part that doesn’t make sense to you, really focus in on it. Try and figure out if it is symbolic or literal. Maybe it’s a metaphor or a description. If you still don’t know, talk to other people about it. Your teacher, family members, classmates, anyone who you think might be helpful in understanding what the writer meant. Keep reading it to yourself until the message of the words, and what you want to get across when you sing it, becomes ingrained in you. This is also a fantastic way to help memorize your songs!

Next, go into each individual sentence and determine which words are the most important in that sentence. For example, if you have something like “Never mind I’ll find someone like you” I would pick “mind” and “someone” as my two big words (although next time I sing that phrase I might pick “find” and “you”). This is probably going to be a little different for everybody, which is great because that’s going to make your interpretation unique. Once you have your words for each sentence or phrase, go through your music and underline them to remind you that those are the words you want to highlight. When you sing them, give them just a little more love than the other words. Making them pop like this will give your listeners a road-map of what is important in the music.

Finally, invest in what those words actually mean. It isn’t enough to have a head knowledge of what you are singing about, you should be feeling it too. So if you are singing a love song, and you’ve never been in love, maybe try to think about a friend that means a lot to you, or a family member. Make the lyrics your own. If you can’t relate to it, neither will anyone else. The thing that makes your favorite artists so good is that they move you. Maybe it moves you to dance, or cry, or to change the world, but you are feeling those emotions because the artist felt them first. Now it’s your job to feel those same things and pass it on the the next person.

So, at the end of the day, be sure you know what your song is about, and that it means something to you. Whether it’s Mozart or Rihanna, look at what the words behind the music mean. They cared a lot about how those words fit into music, and you should too. So dig deep and make the world listen to your song!

Signs You Might Be Cut Out for a Career as a Musician – or signs your child might be cut out for a career as a musician

November 4, 2013

By Hugh Lobel, piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

Hugh Lobel , The Lesson Studio

Hugh Lobel, Piano

1.     You enjoy practicing. This first one might seem obvious, but it’s critical to pursuing a career as a musician. Regardless of whether you want to be a folk singer, a rock drummer, or a classical pianist, you’ll need the chops when you hit the stage and there’s only one way to get there. Professionals spend hours a day practicing their instrument, maybe even seven days a week, and if you don’t honestly enjoy the act of sitting in a practice room working out the finer points of your technique and your music, trying to be a world-class musician can feel like a real slog. That doesn’t mean that you will enjoy every moment you spend in a practice room; to the contrary you’ll often find yourself practicing out of necessity more than desire. But if you don’t enjoy it at any point, the constant effort might not be worth it.

2.      You’re a night person. By this I don’t mean the kind of person that sits up until 2 a.m. playing Farmville on the weekend. No, a musician is someone who doesn’t mind WORKING late into the night. Remember that gigs (see also concerts) almost always occur in the evening, and may start as late as midnight or even later! Don’t forget that the concert might be late, but your job doesn’t end when the gig ends.  There are people to meet, there’s equipment and stage material to strike, and after-parties to attend. If you’re a classical musician these after parties are often formal, and might be necessary to help inspire those donors to keep on giving! If you like the idea of making late nights a regular thing, the world of music might just be right for you.

3.      You’re patient. Very VERY patient. Astronomically patient. If you want to be a world-class musician you have to think long-term. No one becomes a success over night, and for that matter, no one masters a difficult piece of music in a day! There will be goals that can be achieved in a day, such as getting a certain scale a little bit faster, but some goals will take a week, a month… possibly even years! Making it to fame could take decades, and often does! But for the true musicians amongst us, these things don’t matter as much. We can keep working away in those practice rooms, taking those gigs, enjoying our successes where we get them and keep pushing forward. There’s always something bigger to achieve, but the day-to-day achievements are important steps. Keep your eyes out for those, and that patience won’t be so hard to find.

4.      You’re a perfectionist.  Remember how I mentioned that you’d be in a practice room a lot, and that patience is important? Here’s where those two things come together. A musician greatly benefits from perfectionist tendencies. You’ll be in that practice room a lot, working out some incredibly difficult techniques and figures, and it helps to really want each moment of a piece to be exquisite. After all, what’s the point of running through the first three beats of that one measure two hundred and thirty six times if you don’t really care whether you hit each of those notes at just the right time with just the right amount of volume and just the right intonation? Perfectionists have to deal with extra stress: we worry that everyone hears every microscopic imperfection that comes out when we play in public and judges us for it. We bite our nails, grind our teeth, and pull our hair out over what other people think of a three minute song (and no this is not healthy,) but we also find nobility in striving for something outstandingly good, and nothing satisfies an audience quite like a performance that blows them away.

There are more signs I could go over… possibly in a future post, but these are all requirements for a career as a musician. If you don’t find that you fit all of these requirements, DON’T SWEAT IT! You can still learn an instrument beautifully, and play to your heart’s content for family and friends. You can carry your skills with you through your entire life and share your love of music with everyone around you. But if you are thinking of making a career out of being a musician, think about these necessities, and talk to your teacher more about what it takes. You just might be cut out for it after all!

Practice Tips and Strategies

July 10, 2013

by Ricardo de la Torre, Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

Your success at the piano is greatly determined by the way you practice. More important than how much time you spend sitting at the piano is how you spend this time. Quality means a lot more than quantity here.

It’s a good idea to make a plan to know exactly what you will cover in each practice session and what goals you want to achieve. When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, you need to make the most out of it. Having some strategies to make the process more efficient will help a lot.

Here are a few tips:

• Remember to practice in small chunks. You can take a section of your piece and break it down into smaller sections. Make sure these sub-sections make sense musically (they are phrases or parts of phrases that have a clear beginning and end). Work on one section at a time and then put them together. Reintegrate them into the whole by starting a little before and stopping a little after the section you want to improve.

• When things seem too hard at first, always simplify your task. There are many ways to do this (i.e. play hands separate, slow the tempo down).

• Consistency is very important. Try to make practicing every day a habit and stick to it.

• Don’t always start practicing at the beginning of the piece. This approach almost always results in a performance with a solid beginning and a shaky end. Try a different spot every day or start with the most difficult parts.

• By the same token, if you only practice the parts you like or can play well while neglecting the more difficult spots, the integrity of your performance will suffer. Have priorities and spend less time with the parts you can already play well while devoting more time to the harder sections.

• Make your goals attainable and realistic. If you are too ambitious you might feel overwhelmed and frustrated. By making steady progress with smaller goals at a time you’ll actually get the results you want faster than trying to get too much done at once.

• Only repeat a passage once you have it right (in terms of notes, rhythm, dynamics, articulation and fingering). If you’re unsure, it’s better to wait and ask your instructor. Practicing a mistake will fix it in your memory and will be very difficult to undo later.

• Use your ear! Practicing is mostly about self-assessment. Stop frequently and evaluate what you just did. Always have a purpose for repeating a passage. Mindless repetition is not very useful.

• Remember: playing through your entire piece from beginning to end several times in a row is not practicing! (Unless of course you’re in the final stages of preparing for a performance).

Ricardo de la Torre, Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ricardo de la Torre

Janos Starker and Learning From Giants

July 2, 2013

by Keith Thomas, Cello instructor at The Lesson Studio

Janos Starker, renowned cellist and teacher, passed away last week at the age of 88. I doubt that any performing cellist today has not been touched in some way by this giant. I first encountered his teaching as a young student learning the Bach Cello Suites for the first time. I played his fingerings and bowings (largely) without really knowing the man. He was, arguably, the most influential pedagogue of the 20th century, holding a professor position at the University of Indiana Bloomington for five decades. His methods are used in private studios and universities across the world.

At 15, he made his name performing this piece, the Kodaly Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello. That astonishing fact should give you an idea of his technical genius from an early age. Watching him perform the same piece as an older man, I’m struck by the total mastery and ease with which he tackles such a monstrous piece, and I consider it like a man and his old friend having a conversation. Look again at his performance: look at his face, fully focused and concentrated (and almost bored looking); look at his arms and wrist, relaxed to a ridiculous degree; listen to his ideas, how invigorating and interesting they are.

Which brings me to my point: there is an amazing value in studying pros. I’ve learned so much from listening to great performances from cellists, violinists, singers, flutists, and almost every other type of musician. Our ears are so spectacular that they can tell our bodies what to do intuitively. If I want to play with the color and character of Maria Callas, I need to listen to her singing and try to match it. If I want to play Kodaly like Starker, I ought to study his efficiency, his bowings, his fingerings, his musical ideas, his coloring, etc.

There’s a treasure trove of musical performances on YouTube. If you’re performing a piece, listen to it first. Then listen again and again, from different performers. It will ingratiate the music into your heart and you’ll feel more comfortable practicing and performing it. Listen and look; they’re the two biggest tools we have to have more fun practicing, and more success performing.

Keith Thomas, Cello Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Keith Thomas

RE a Drop of Golden Sun!

May 14, 2013

by Erin Keller, Voice and Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

For me, one of the most valuable things I have ever learned is solfege. Solfege is what we call the language of the singing scale, also known as Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do. Solfege is very useful for many reasons, including but not limited to sight-singing music for the first time, hearing, learning, and singing intervals (the “distance” between two notes), learning scales, hearing melodies in your head and translating them into more concrete or even written ideas, and also figuring out what the notes are in a song you are trying to learn from a recording. I was in a children’s choir when I was young, and I learned solfege very well by the age of 10. Because of this, I could sight-read any music you put in front of me by the age of 10. To this day, I still use these skills all the time.

How does solfege work?

Being a singer and looking at notes on the page, it is very hard at first to have any idea as to what to do. When you play an instrument there are specific things you do with your hands in relation to the strings or keys or buttons, etc. to create each pitch on the staff. Singers do not have buttons. For singers, sound is created by two small muscles inside of your larynx (the thing that moves up and down in your throat when you swallow) called your vocal cords, which vibrate very quickly together. The pitch gets higher when your vocal cords get longer and lower when your vocal cords get fatter and shorter (like when you pluck a rubber band). Your vocal cords stretch to the exact length needed for each pitch because you think of what note you want to sing and hear it in your mind ahead of time. (AMAZING) This means that having a clear sense of pitch in your mind enables you to be accurate with pitch with your voice. Solfege is in essence a set of imaginary brain buttons for singers to use in order to sing the correct notes in tune. This system dates back to as early as the 8th century and was created by a man named Guido D’Arezzo. Another man named John Curwen took this system a step further in the 1800s and created hand signs for each of the tones in the solfege scale. They are as follows:


Using the hand signs helps you to create a more physical and visual connection to the notes in the scale in terms of how high and low they are in relation to the other tones. Doing solfege without the hand signs is not nearly as effective, so it is strongly encouraged to utilize the hand signs whenever you are using solfege.
Here is an example of a C Major scale labeled with the solfege syllables:

If you come work with me as a voice student I will teach you solfege, and we will start out with the above scale and work our way up to reading music at varying difficulty levels. These skills will benefit you in many ways by increasing your ability to learn songs you like, improving your intonation, helping you locate and navigate the break in your voice between head voice and chest voice, air flow and breath support, and many other things. This is only one small part of the voice lesson, though. You will also be working on various vocal techniques associated with vowel formation, breath support, resonation, flexibility, strength, chest voice and head voice, and laryngeal positioning. Of course we would also work on repertoire of your choosing, including but not limited to pop music, classical music, country music, jazz, rock, folk, music in different languages, and much more. With my varied experience and your motivation to work hard, we can accomplish whatever you desire, helping you connect with music in a new and special way that is meaningful and rewarding to you.

Erin Keller, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Guitar Tips!

May 5, 2013

by Mike Furry, Guitar instructor at The Lesson Studio

As a guitar player, it’s easy to overlook rhythm because we seem to be so focused on playing the notes but the rhythm is as important if not more important than the notes themselves. I could be playing the hippest notes but if my rhythm isn’t discernible then it doesn’t matter what notes I play because music is really the amalgamation of both harmony and rhythm. I could also be playing really bad notes but if I play them with a discernible rhythm then I certainly have a better chance to communicate more to the listener than if I was playing indiscernible rhythms.
In order to understand how rhythm works, it needs to be internalized. What do I mean when I say internalized? When a musicians is able to keep a steady pulse while playing a piece of music, without any outside help (drums beat, clapping, etc…) then the notion of rhythm has been internalized by that musician. In order to gain that internalization we must…PRACTICE. How do we practice rhythm? The use of a metronome is virtually incalculable to the skill of internalizing rhythm.

A metronome is a practice tool that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help musicians play rhythms accurately. The pulses are measured in beats-per-minute or (BPM). Most metronomes are capable of playing beats from 35 to 250 BPM. The metronome is designed to help you maintain an established tempo while practicing, and learning difficult passages.

There are plenty of free online metronome sites that allow you to utilize a metronome without having to spend any money on it. When using a metronome start simple. I would suggest playing one note per beat (one “click” on the metronome equals one beat). After your comfortable playing one note per click, then try to play two notes per click. What does that mean? That means play a note on the click and play another note halfway between the first click and the second click. This creates a rhythmic imagination where we can understand where the middle of the beat is without hearing a click on the middle of the beat. From most people, this is the genesis of their rhythmic imagination or rhythmic internalization. From there try dividing the beat into three (triplets) and 4 (sixteenth notes). Once your comfortable playing these divisions of the beat, then try to play them at faster tempos by increasing the BPM. This internalization can then be applied to the songs that we learn and allows us as musicians to better replicate both the harmonies and the rhythms of the music that we love.

Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Practice Makes Perfect (or Does it)?

April 30, 2013

by Ron Troester, Voice and Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

How to be Successful in Practice and Reach Your Goals in Musical Performance:

1. Be careful to find a time that works well for your practicing that isn’t interrupted by other activities, even if for only 15 minutes. Focus your energies to that time on getting better!

2. Choose a different point of focus for each day, and set aside a day for a fully coordinated practice session or rehearsal that assimilates what have been your points of focus earlier the week or in the previous few days. The pursuit of success requires you to cultivate a commitment to consistency. Quality practice time is essential to amount of success you will receive.

3. Use the approach of: generalization, specifics, generalization, details, generalization. Take time to look over the piece from beginning to end, and get a good sense of the time signature, style and the form. Recognizing sections that repeat can greatly reduce rehearsal time.

4. Do something to warm up your voice or fingers—scales, patterns, a familiar song. It begins the focus on what you are going to do and gets muscles ready for action.

5. Now be more specific. Take time to learn notes correctly—vocal line, or each hand on the keyboard, so that you have the patterns in your hearing and muscles right. It doesn’t matter how much time you take for this, but it greatly reduces re-learning parts that weren’t correct at the beginning. Use the syllables to find pitches and intervals that are difficult, fingerings that work best, and then write them in the music! This will remind you of what to do next time, without so much review time. And then review it often!

6. Pay attention to details. Find the trouble spots and isolate them—take great care to really get these comfortable. Then put these sections back into the song to get consistency in the whole piece. Be careful you are always thinking of the tempo, dynamic and phrasing markings.

7. Think of performance details as well during these times—are you rehearsing as you would perform it? For vocalists, this includes knowing the text, what it is saying, and how you can convey it in the best and most interesting manner. This is part of the rehearsal process.

8. Put the piece back together—from beginning to end. Now evaluate your work thus far. See what you can do successfully with the piece, and where to go back and detail specific sections again.

9. Don’t always start at the beginning to run through a piece—start at the back, or in the middle, then keep adding sections toward the beginning of the song and run to the end. It is common for everyone to start at the beginning and then the end sections don’t get rehearsed as well, and it sounds weak or not as comfortable.

10. Run the piece from beginning to end, thinking of performance level as you do. Don’t let just one time influence your rehearsal. Do it several times, and it will show more and more improvement and confidence. Muscle memory is the key—repetition, repetition, repetition!

11. Life happens – the unexpected or unthinkable shows up as Murphy’s law takes you to court. Sometimes you have too much on your plate or there’s additional stress, and you find it difficult to focus. So, you have to cut back on rehearsal time Then, what rehearsal time you have suffers because you’re exhausted or distracted. When the time comes for that special live performance gig you’ve been dreaming of, you stumble and fumble your way through, and it doesn’t go the way you would like. Change up the routine, take a couple days break, ask for another opinion or evaluation—then go back to your normal routine again.

12. Discipline is vital to your arrival, survival, and potential for thriving in the pursuit of being a better musician. Realistic pacing and realistic goal-setting are both key to helping you stay disciplined and keeping your commitment to consistency. Manageable goals are important—don’t expect it to all happen at once. Enjoy the small successes as well as when you reach bigger goals!

13. As you consider your performance on a piece of music, focus on showcasing your strengths and the ability to communicate your passion and interest in the music selection. In other words, what would you like your audience members to feel, think about, or even want to learn more about? These objectives in how your music can serve others will help you with choosing material for your song sets as well as selecting stories to share that resonate with your personal passions and your desire to make a difference. Music has the ability to inspire, encourage, entertain, enlighten, and educate. And most of all, you should enjoy this—HAVE FUN!

14. At the same time, don’t allow yourself to not push your skills. Take a moment to sight read something quickly—see how you do. Don’t make every piece about getting it all perfect. It is good to be able to know that you can learn quickly, as well as taking the time to work out more difficult music.

15. Ask yourself who has had an impact on your success. What specific qualities have they had a hand in developing or encouraging? What impact have they had on feeding your passions and objectives in the pursuit your musical success? Give thanks for the opportunities that will come as a result of your desire to be your best and do your best. Consider the impact that your being served has had on how you strive to serve others. Write down their names of those who have inspired you to serve, and thank them any way you can.

16. This positive attitude of using your unique gifts to serve others will give you peace and purpose through the rough patches and smooth stretches. It will help you press on past any unexpected stalls and crawls that will creep up occasionally on your journey to true musical success!

Ron Troester, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Ron Troester

Vocal Health

April 17, 2013

by Jonathan Cole, Voice and Piano instructor at The Lesson Studio

As singers, our body is our instrument. Because of this, things like illness, lack of sleep, dehydration, and emotional stress can affect our singing in a negative way. Here are some things we can all consider to make our voices function as well as possible:

· Drink plenty of water, especially considering Colorado’s dry climate. Being properly hydrated is one of the simplest things to do and one of the most important factors in vocal health. Remember, substances such as alcohol and caffeine can cause dehydration. Consider using a humidifier.

· Get enough sleep. Experts suggest that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and children need more: up to 11 hours! When our bodies are not rested, our voices don’t function as well as they could otherwise.

· If you’re ill, even if you just have a common cold, take it easy! Our vocal folds are often swollen when we’re ill (just as any muscle can swell when it’s irritated), so they are more susceptible to injury. If you don’t have to sing or speak, don’t. Consider it a free pass to not practice for a few days! Remember, whispering can be harmful when ill, so avoid it.

· Antihistamines/decongestants should be avoided as they cause drying of the vocal folds. Analgesics (aspirin products such as ibuprofen) should be used with caution while singing. If your body is producing extra mucus (the gunk that makes us clear our throats), consider taking an expectorant such as Mucinex paired with lots of water. Additionally, a spoon of honey and gargling with salt water can help sooth a sore throat.

· Don’t clear your throat unless absolutely necessary. If you must, do so in a very gentle manner and as seldom as possible. If you must cough, do so gently.

· Don’t smoke. In addition to long term health problems, smoking also affects our voices in a very negative way. It also goes without saying that you should avoid illegal drugs as well.

· Exercise regularly. Cardiovascular exercise and yoga have proven to be especially beneficial for the singing voice. If doing weight training, do not “grunt” to facilitate lifting heavier weights. Instead, try making a hissing sound while lifting.

· Eat a balanced diet. If you have reflux, take steps (diet change and/or medication, based on your doctor’s recommendation) to fix it.

· Don’t scream or yell. This is particularly tempting to do at sporting events, concerts, and other loud settings.

· Use ear protection when in a noisy environment, and keep your headphones at an appropriate level.

· Keep yourself mentally healthy, and remember that you started singing because you enjoy it. Singing should never be a chore!

With these tips we can all keep our voices healthy. In the occasional event of illness, they are especially important to consider. You only have one voice—take care of it and it will take care of you.

Jonathan Cole, Voice and Piano Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Jonathan Cole

Hey kids, have you ever wanted to be like Superman???

March 17, 2013

by Kevin Kern, Drum instructor at The Lesson Studio

The question all of my students have been asking lately is “Mr. Kern… How do I play faster?!?!?” While I personally stress the importance of practicing slowly and deliberately to better comprehend the mechanics involved in playing music, it is equally necessary to spend time developing endurance and stamina to improve your technique. The exercise I use to build speed is very simple and has never failed to help me strengthen my technique provided that I practice diligently and follow a precise routine.

I imagine everyone has heard this at some point in time and if not they are truly words to live by… “It does not matter how many times you repeat something, but how well you make each repetition that helps you improve.” This is very pertinent information for those trying to learn anything new. Practicing halfheartedly with poor technique in an unfocused frame of mind is not a beneficial way of rehearsing music. Below (Figure 1) is the exercise that helps me build speed, and with it comes a list of specific instructions that must be followed if you want this exercise to benefit you!

Figure 1: Single Stroke – Endurance Builder

The exercise works by playing a group of comfortable slow notes (in this case eighth notes), followed by a group of notes exactly twice as fast over the same number of beats. It is super important that you can play these rhythms accurately to a metronome before you attempt to use this to develop technique. Follow this list of instructions very closely to properly utilize this exercise…

  1.   WITHOUT SACRIFICING ANY CLARITY OR CONTROL, find the FASTEST metronome marking that you can play the exercise at.
  2.   RECORD this metronome number and keep it with your practice materials.
  3. PRACTICE the exercise WITHOUT STOPPING for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel a slight burning sensation in your forearm muscles. This should be repeated a second time with the “L” hand leading the exercise to keep balance in the mind and body.
  4.   SPEED IT UP by increasing the metronome 2 bpms every day you practice. Note: It is advised by most musicians that one practices 4 to 5 days per week.
  5.   REPEAT STEPS 3 and 4 until you completely maximize your metronome’s potential and then fly to Germany and compete for the WFD like this shining young drummer… (fast forward to 6:30 to see the action!)

Remember that you can use this rehearsal method to help build endurance and stamina on whatever musical challenge you might be dealing with. The exercise in this blog will particularly help build single stroke or open stroke rolls, a very important skill for every drummer to refine. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the “Ins and Outs” of drumming, please don’t hesitate to write. I hope this helps in your most recent drumming endeavors and the best of luck to you!!

Kevin Kern, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Kevin Kern

Using Audiation as a Key to Successful Musical Learning

March 12, 2013

by Will Smith, Drum instructor at The Lesson Studio

As a young man my father taught me an important lesson that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “Think before you speak.” These words were simply my dad’s way of preparing me for the real world. Lucky for us musicians a parallel exists in the music world so I can share with you a derivative of my dad’s advice. I’ll say to you “Think before you play.” I’d like to expand a concept called audiation to help you do just that, “Think before you play”.

Audiation is a musical tactic often overlooked by a vast majority of musicians even though they use it every day. Let me clear things up for you! Audiation is defined as a high level thought process involving mentally hearing and comprehending music even when no physical sound is present. Let’s give it a shot together, sing in your head, without making any physical sounds, the song “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Amazing! You have just used audiation. This is an excellent habit to begin using during your practice times because the beauty of audiation is that we can sing and move all in our brain without ever having to sing or move physically.

What does this mean to us as music educators?

1) We should first acknowledge the pioneer of audiation, Edwin E. Gordon who identified the key concepts behind the process of audiation and encouraged the adoption of this process into every music educators’ tool belt. Gordon suggests that in order to audiate while musicians perform music through imitation, they must be able to do the following: sing what they have played; play a variation of the originally melody; play the melody in a different keyality, tonality, or with alternative fingerings; or to demonstrate with body movements the phrases of the melody.

2) We should incorporate these strategies into our lessons even if at a minimal level to help our students become stronger musicians. I like use the old elementary P.E. basketball example. “Imagine the basketball going into the hoop when you let go of it.” This is exactly audiation in sports form… tell your students to “think the first phrase through from m.1 to m.9” then to play exactly what they were able to audiate. I promise you will notice an immediate difference in the confidence a student has in their ability to play that certain phrase.

3) We should use this process as a key for improvisation skills. As a music educator, I am always striving to teach my students to think on their own and on their feet! Improvisation is a great strategy to use with students especially when accompanied by audiation. Using audiation helps the students get to a level of achievement where they feel comfortable looking away from sheet music, but then remind them that the sheet music also exists in their mind, and audiation can unlock that musical manuscript.

I’ll conclude with a note from Gordon’s website ( “Through development of audiation students learn to understand music. Understanding is the foundation of music appreciation, the ultimate goal of music teaching.”

Will Smith, Drum Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Will Smith