Review of How to Become a Confident Performer by Clive Stocker

To visit the book’s site click here

With his experience as a teacher and music practitioner, Clive Stocker offers his  expertise and self-help tips for those looking to improve their performance quality. The suggestions in his book range from simple breathing exercises to step-by-step approaches to becoming more confident on a small or grand stage.

The book is comprised of 31 chapters of illustrations and explanations of methods, and at the end of many of the chapters, it summarizes the explained method into an ordered list of steps. After chapter 31, you will find two chapters with references and acknowledgements.

While I do believe Mr. Stocker has some good, helpful approaches and thoughts to becoming a more confident performer and musician in his book like…

“The real truth is that you will never be like James Brown and nor should you be! We all need to be the best version of ourselves we can be on stage but we can borrow actions and ideas from other performers that we know will work for us.” (Page 111)

…I do take issue with a couple of major things about Mr. Stocker’s work:

1) One of the big things proposed about this book is that it offers quick fix solutions for your lack of performing confidence. While the book does have some easy-to-try exercises, I think it’s a very hard thing to claim that your approaches will provide easy fixes for performers across the board. Yes, they might have proven successful for some, but for many performers – young and old – there are just some things that will take time for them to work through in order to become more comfortable/confident in the spotlight.

2) To me, there ‘s a very strong underlying theme of hypnotic approaches in Mr. Stocker’s book, as well as connecting to your feelings/imagery-that you have the power within your mind to find the confidence you need. This is also very prevalent in his “Guided Meditation“ CD.

I am not a proponent of spiritualistic type approaches to music or life in general, nor have I been successful overcoming obstacles – specifically with learning and performing piano music – believing I can do it through myself. On top of being well prepared, I have only found complete confidence and peace during a performance when I quote these verses to myself from the Bible:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
-Philippians 4:13

“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
-Isaiah 41:10

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:7

“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence…”
-Proverbs 14:26

So in conclusion, I do believe Mr. Stocker is quite knowledgeable when it comes to enhancing your performance skills, but I don’t always agree with the avenues he takes or teaches to becoming a “confident performer.”

To learn more about Clive Stocker’s material visit his website: Confident Performer.

Review of Ear Master Pro


I have yet to review a product I liked better or found more musically resourceful than Ear Master Pro, an ear training & sight-singing software! This program is loaded with exercises to help improve students’-even teachers’-ear and sight skills, and I found it to be very nicely laid out, as well as user-friendly and effective.

Upon opening the program, you can first choose a mode and activity from the options pictured below. (Yes, there is even a “Jazz” mode! I’m not super familiar with the jazz style and I didn’t delve into that mode extensively, but I do find it pretty neat they have that as a feature.)

Within each activity, there are different modules you can choose from (some activities have over 20 modules while others have 1), and then you can choose what lesson of the module you’d like to start with. Once you do all that, you are set to begin your activity!

I found the interactive interface of Ear Master Pro to be pretty straight forward and easy to navigate which was really nice considering how many features it has. To be quite honest, I really enjoyed some of the activities myself. Naturally, I have a poor sense of rhythm and am definitely a “by sight” pianist, but I thought I’d give a rhythm dictation activity a try and…I ended up liking it. I believe some contributing factors to me liking this training program so much is 1) the good selection of activities, 2) how much you can customize the activities to fit your needs, 3) it has a fun, educational and techy feel, and 4) the fact that it utilizes so many different aspects on the computer: onscreen piano keyboard and staff, computer keys, the ability to use built-in audio functions or hook up a midi keyboard.

One thing I think is huge about this program is the clear sound quality it has. So often ear training games, sites, or CDs have very tinny or muffled sound, and that can really affect the listener’s ability to distinguish what they hear-especially if they are doing melodic dictation. I can see having Ear Master Pro in your studio as a teaching/training tool for your students being incredibly instrumental in helping them improve in areas from simple rhythmic dictation to chord identification.

Even if you’re not convinced yet to go buy your own downloadable copy, you should definitely download the trial version of Ear Master Pro and try it for yourself! There is also a Teacher Edition you can take a look at on the site.

 

 

4 Tips for Writing More Effective Piano Lesson Assignments

The topic of the latest newsletter from Music Educators Marketplace really resonated with me: Tips for Effective Practice Assignments. It always amazes me how often students return to their lesson with very little reference to their assignment book during the week. (I’m not the only one that deals with this, right?!) But the more I’ve pondered this, the more I realize that some of the fault lies with me and my approach to writing assignments. I think as teachers we may subconsciously write the assignments more for our own benefit than the student’s! So, I think it’s definitely worth exploring ways to make assignments more effective. Here are the 4 Tips shared in the newsletter:

1. Consider Visual Appeal

2. Include Specific Goals and Specific Suggestions for Results

3. Engage the Student as a Collaborator in Creating Practice Steps

4. Expect Student Engagement with the Assignment at Home

Click here to view the whole newsletter with more elaboration of each tip. I’m doing lots of revamping of my studio for this fall, so I’m excited to take these tips into consideration and figure out ways to make student assignments more effective so that their practicing, in turn, will be more effective during the week. If you have any additional tips that have worked well for you, please do share!

Review and Giveaway of Supersonics Piano by Daniel McFarlene


I’m greatly inspired by Mr. McFarlene’s (creator of the Supersonics Piano website and piano music) innovative spirit and how he takes full advantage of the modern technology available to us today. All of McFarlene’s music is completely digital and can be downloaded at SupersonicsPiano.com, making it possible for you to have his songs at your fingertips within minutes wherever you are in the world. The piano music offered on the site ranges from elementary to early advanced, each with its own modern flare.

I love Mr. McFarlene’s ambition behind his site and music, but unfortunately I did not fall in love with his music like it seems some have. As I played through his songs, I felt like many of them lacked strong melodious character. What I mean by this is that the melodies were either hard to detect or abstract, and the harmony would seem to collide with the melody in various songs rather than complement it. On a more positive note, however, because of the recurring patterns incorporated into his songs, I can see McFarlene’s music being an awesome resource for earlier level students learning how to identify patterns throughout a song!

On the Supersonics Piano website you can also find duet/trio music, as well as audio recordings and McFarlene’s video channel.

Starting the 4th of August Supersonics Piano pieces will be featured in the Piano Maestro app and Daniel McFarlane has generously offered this code: JTS3MSUPERSONIC for Music Matters Blog readers to gain access to the entire app one month free!

Additionally, we are having a giveaway! Comment on the post saying you want to be entered and three lucky winners will each receive a single print piano e-book of your choice (from Levels A, B or C) which can then be printed, accessed on your smartphone, iphone/tablet, and computer.

If you are looking into purchasing some music on Supersonics Piano website you can use this code: musicmatters to receive a 10% discount. But don’t waste too much time, it expires 8/6/13.

Supersonics Books A, B, & C; The Lake (Intermediate Piano Book)

Giveaway of 3 Piano Solo Collections!

Don’t you just love having a new book of beautiful piano solos to play?! One of my favorite things to do is sit down with a new collection of lyrical piano pieces and just lose myself in the music. Thanks to composer James Stevens, there are three more such collections available to pianists everywhere (Like a Dream Flying By, Relaxing and Romantic Piano, and Winter Serenade). In honor of his latest releases, James is generously giving away one copy of each collection to three special Music Matters Blog readers! Just leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway! The winner will be drawn using a random number generator at noon (CST) on Friday, August 1, 2013.

In the meantime, check out James’ music at the following links:

Website Info: New Piano Music by James Stevens

Sheet Music: Like a Dream Flying By, Relaxing and Romantic Piano, and Winter Serenade

And the Winner Is…

#60 – Walter! And Everyone! (see below)

Congratulations, Walter! You should receive an e-mail with the complete set of 44 Birthday Variations by Forrest Kinney. I know you’ll enjoy them.

And as a special thank you to everyone for participating, Forrest has generously offered to give all Music Matters Blog readers 50% off the entire set of Birthday Variations! That means you can get the complete set for less than $10. Just type “musicmatters50″ in the coupon code box at checkout and get 50% off the Birthday Variations.

Free Giveaway of 44 Birthday Variations by Forrest Kinney!

Those of you who have been around here for a while know that my teaching philosophy and approach has been largely influenced by Forrest Kinney and his Pattern Play books and teacher workshops. I am excited to share that he has a new website and has been working on lots of projects to share with fellow pianists and teachers!

And, even better, he has graciously offered to giveaway a complete set of his new 44 Birthday Variations to one Music Matters Blog reader! You can listen to sample recordings of them on the individual variation pages (e.g. here’s the New Age one). Just leave your name in the comment section below, and a winner will be selected using a random number generator on Friday, July 11, at 12:00 noon (CST). I know you and/or your students will love these!