Practice Tips from The Musician’s Way

Gerald Klickstein’s newsletter is always a treasure trove of helpful links and resources. In his Summer 2015 issue he links to a couple of posts on his blog that I thought were particularly insightful, especially as I prepare for another year of teaching and consider what areas to emphasize with my students.

5 Tips for Successful Practice gives some great practical suggestions that teachers and students alike can implement to maximize their time at the piano! For some reason, I also had never come across his page of Downloads with a variety of helpful documents you can download and utilize for free. I’m especially drawing inspiration from his Practice Sheet with a specific breakdown of different kinds of assignments and succinct practice objectives that correlate with each one.

If you’re not already, I highly recommend subscribing to the fabulous quarterly newsletter from The Musician’s Way!

Special Introductory Offer on Carnival of the Animals Music Camp!

Carnival of the Animals Cover

For all of you who have been anxiously awaiting (probably me most of all!), I’m excited to announce that the Carnival of the Animals Classical Christian Music Camp curriculum package is finally complete and ready for delivery! This extensive curriculum has been in the works for many years at a conceptual level, so it’s been thrilling to watch it fully come together this week as we’ve given it a trial run in the studio. And from now through the end of July, you can get your downloadable package for only $20 (that’s $10 off the regular price of $30)!

I’m amazed at how much the students grasped as we incorporated history, geography, rhythm, technique, music vocabulary, composition, science, art, and performance into our camp activities each day. It will also be exciting to see how the seeds sown this week continue to bear fruit in the years to come as the students draw on the knowledge and understanding they’ve gained through this experience.

The curriculum is designed as a 5-day music camp curriculum, but could easily be adapted for almost any setting and schedule. It has enough material to last for weeks! Creative music teachers could even use it as a springboard to delve into many other areas of musical study more extensively. Read a full description and view sample pages on this page.

I hope that this Carnival of the Animals music camp curriculum will be a valuable resource to help teachers and students around the world experience the enjoyment and enrichment of learning more about God and the world in which we live through the study of music!

Check out photo highlights from each day of the camp:

Day One: http://musicmattersblog.com/2015/07/13/highlights-from-day-1-of-carnival-of-the-animals-music-camp/

Day Two: http://musicmattersblog.com/2015/07/14/highlights-from-day-2-of-the-carnival-of-the-animals-music-camp/

Day Three: http://musicmattersblog.com/2015/07/15/highlights-from-day-3-of-carnival-of-the-animals-music-camp/

Day Four: http://musicmattersblog.com/2015/07/18/highlights-from-day-4-of-carnival-of-the-animals-music-camp/

Day Five: http://musicmattersblog.com/2015/07/18/highlights-from-day-5-of-carnival-of-the-animals-music-camp/

Highlights from Day 5 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


Day 5 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp has arrived! We played the ever-popular Guess-It! game as a way of reviewing all that we’ve learned so far this week.

The Science of Sound today explores two remarkable instruments – the piano and the glass armonica.


Students use their music vocabulary knowledge to attempt to translate the meaning of Cristofori’s original name for his musical instrument invention: the gravicembalo col piano e forte.

Next everyone gets to take a turn trying to produce a tone similar to one on a glass armonica by rubbing their finger around the rim of a wine glass containing water.

Wrapping up a fun week for a crazy bunch!

Reviewing proper performance procedures before the parents arrive. These admittedly cheesy performance signs still seem to do the trick of helping students visualize and remember each aspect of their performance!

Let’s practice bowing!

The parents are here and we are ready to entertain them with our own original Carnival of the Animals! Each student has written a brief narration to introduce their composition (ala Ogden Nash) – love the clever creativity!


Levi plays The Shark


Elise plays Dancing Turtles


Daniel plays Spy Cheetah


Stephanie plays An Elephant’s Life


Claire plays Swan Lake

Highlights from Day 4 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


A fun review game of hangman to start off Day 4 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp!

Learning all about the Science of Sound and how the ear works.

For the math whizzes of the bunch – compute these 32nd notes!

Practicing technique concepts on each other!

Interval Intuition – Can they feel the right interval in their fingers even when they’re not looking?

Highlights from Day 3 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp


Students get comfy as we start Day 3 of our Carnival of the Animals music camp.


Having fun with our string art projects!


Loving using my new iPad mini and iHome bluetooth speaker for listening to each work while we color the corresponding pages.


The students work on one of today’s technique challenges – wrist rotation.


A lovely collection of our completed string art projects!

Highlights from Day 2 of the Carnival of the Animals Music Camp

We began Day 2 of our Carnival of the Animals Music Camp by discussing our theme verse (Revelation 4:11) and reading a psalm of praise (Psalm 100).

Next up was a challenging activity to review yesterday’s vocabulary words. Students had to select the right definitions from a list of 15 possibilities!


Coloring while listening to each movement is still a favorite!


Levi shares his research on sharks and what rhythmic motive he plans to use for his shark composition!


Everyone’s string art projects are coming together very nicely!


A close-up of one of the string art projects – can you tell what it is yet?

Highlights from Day 1 of Carnival of the Animals Music Camp

Today was the first day of our much-anticipated Carnival of the Animals Music Camp, and we had a blast!

Snacks are ready! One bottle of water and a cup of Whales for each student.

Student Workbooks ready for the unleashing of each student’s creative juices!

String art supplies collected!

Laptop, Bible, and Bluetooth speaker ready and waiting!

And the students have arrived!

They enjoy coloring the corresponding picture while listening to each movement of the Carnival of the Animals!

String art projects are in progress…

It’s fun watching all of the personalities come through in each of our various activities. What a great start to the week!

Free Music Fonts!

In working on curriculum for the Carnival of the Animals music camp in our studio next week, I realized that the Bach musicological font I used to use all the time on my PC was not rendering correctly on my Mac. With a little digging, I discovered a great new Rhythms font that works even better! Thanks to Matthew Hindson for doing the hard work and compiling a helpful list of free music fonts for both Windows and Mac!

Overview of Soundbrenner Pulse


Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 6.42.56 PM

It is no secret that sound frequencies/vibrations are woven into the very fabric of our world-in nature and in us. It is also no secret that practicing with a metronome can be very unenjoyable and it often causes you to play less musically and more technically. So, “Why,” a group of German musicians seem to have asked themselves, “has a rhythmic device not been created that taps into the natural, human vibrational system?”

Creators of Soundbrenner Pulse (a wearable metronome device for musicians) put it this way on their crowd funding page, IndieG0Go:

“It makes sense, if you think about it: Making music, we often tap our foot or move our body a bit. The feeling of the vibration integrates in that body feeling. That’s why you don’t need to focus so much as you would have to with an audible click. Focus on your music instead.”

From personal experience, I can definitely relate to their sentiments! I remember so many times needing to practice with a metronome in order to solidify a piece rhythmically, but I often lost a lot of musicality during that period of time because I had to focus so much on “hearing” the beat instead of “feeling” the beat. So when I read this section on the IndieGoGo page, it was revolutionary! It does. It makes so much sense to create a metronome you can “feel” because it definitely seems like it would develop a much more natural sense of the rhythm.

This newly designed metronome has some nifty features in addition to being able to wear it around your wrist or ankle, like syncing multiple Soundbrenners to the same beat, or changing the tempo, or switching it to “discreet mode,” etc. I have yet to try the Soundbrenner Pulse myself, but would love to at some point! (One thing I’m somewhat curious about, is if it will have any negative effects on people because of the direct vibrational force on the body…)

Below is a video about Soundbrenner Pulse that is very insightful. It’s also pretty fun to watch because you get to see the metronome used by musicians in action. :)

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 6.42.42 PM

Soundbrenner Pulse is available for pre-order (projected delivery date is November 2015) and you can learn lots more about the device, its creators, the concept behind it, and watch testimonials by clicking either of the links below:

Soundbrenner Pulse Funding Page

Soundbrenner Pulse Website

Some scientific thoughts about the metronome by Julian Vogels