RSS

Tag Archives: practice

Training Your Auto-Pilot

Training Your Auto-Pilot

by Linda Ratcliff

Don’t practice until you get it right!
Practice until your auto-pilot takes over and you can’t get it wrong.
– Linda Ratcliff

Training Your Auto-Pilot

 

There is something we all have in common.

Once we were ALL beginners. And do you remember when you went to a jam session for the very first time? You might have purchased a brand new dulcimer, or maybe you were given a hand-me-down that you cleaned up and polished. Maybe you had a teacher that guided you through some basics and taught you a few tunes. Or maybe you simply watched YouTube or DulcimerCrossing.com videos, and learned a few things.

You thought you were ready for the jam. You sat down, made sure you were in tune, and met some other duci-fanatics. But then, the leader started off with “Boil Dem Cabbage”, and the entire group took off like a bunch of race horses bursting out of the starting gate.

You didn’t know they were going to play THAT fast! Worse yet, the harder you tried to play faster, the more your arms and hands seemed to stiffen up. You gripped your pick, you clenched your teeth, you tightened your arm muscles … and you tried to hammer faster or push your pointer finger up and down that fretboard faster. But you actually began to get farther and farther behind.

AAAARRRRGH! What just happened?

What just happened?

Physically, what happened is, the more you stiffened up, the more mistakes you made and the slower you actually played. The faster you want to play, the more relaxed you need to be. And to be relaxed when you play with or for others, you need to train your “Auto-Pilot.”

    1. First choose a passage to practice where you find yourself slowing down EVERY time.
    1. Play that passage in slow motion, taking the time to press or hammer the string for each note in exactly the right place. Relax as much as you can … both mentally and physically. Think of it as a slow-motion replay (but in advance!) of the beautiful performance you would love to give. When you practice in slow motion like this, you won’t trip over notes, or deliver badly-controlled rhythms.
    1. Auto-Pilot ButtonNow close your eyes or turn off the lights, and see if you can play the correct strings by feel, still in slow motion, using MUSCLE MEMORY. Try that until the passage almost floats from your arms. This is training your auto-pilot, teaching your muscles the way to go without intense focus and physical effort.
  1. Next begin to gradually speed up the passage. Picking up the tempo, just a little at a time, will work better because you aren’t trying to closely supervise every single note.

Your conscious mind may be telling you, “Yeah, this is all fine and good, playing at half speed in the sanctuary of my home.” But your auto-pilot doesn’t work as analytically as your mind does. When you join others (back in the real world), muscle memory will kick in and the notes will flow. Tapping into your auto-pilot, you will be able to deliver every note – smoothly, effortlessly, and accurately.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.

Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 25, 2018 in lessons, subscriber news

 

Tags: , , ,

Make a Goal

Make a Goal

by Linda Ratcliff

Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines.
– Unknown

Make a Goal List in Your Journal … Every Week

My husband and I recently moved in with my daughter and her family about 4 weeks ago (there are now 7 of us at the dinner table), and she donated her formal dining room for me to set up as my music room.  I LOVE it.  I have all my instruments set up within easy reach.   And as soon as everyone is out of the house, I usually pick up my hammers and practice for a while.

 

But I just noticed something today about the way I have been practicing lately. I am simply playing whatever comes to my mind, rather than selecting tunes with a particular goal or result in mind.

I know better. When I took piano lessons, I had a spiral steno pad (how many of you remember those?).  My goals (aka assignments) were written down for the week, for the month, for the end-of-the-year recital.  I knew what I needed to practice for the next lesson, for the next month, and when I needed to have a piece ready to play in public.  
 

The Bible says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2).  So I have turned over a new leaf.  I pulled out a new journal, and dedicated it to my music practice time. I drew lines horizontally across the page, dividing it into these five sections.

  • Warm-up Exercises:  Even though I am an experienced player, I need to consistently review the hammering drills in our Hammering Skills section, so I don’t get rusty.
  • Old-Time Jammin’ Tunes:  I find I like old-time hymns the best, and tend to play something like “It Is Well With My Soul,” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when I have a moment to practice. But I have neglected to practice the old-time jammin’ tunes like “Old Joe Clark” and “Golden Slippers” regularly.  I scheduled 2 of those for review this week. 
  • Something New: I noticed I haven’t challenged myself with a new genre lately. So I decided to work on expanding my Celtic tunes repertoire. This week, I assigned myself Caledonian Club and Dorsett’s 4-Hand Reel.
  • Free Exploration: This is something we don’t do often enough.  This is how you will expand your musical vocabulary and see greater potential with your instrument.  Take something familiar and try new rhythms, new chord progressions, or add new embellishments to the melody.
  • A Good ‘Ole Favorite:  To close your practice, you should randomly play something you really enjoy.  Have fun with your instrument, and end your practice time on a positive note.

A good work-out like this would take me an hour, because I entered TWO things in my journal for each category. I think I might have been overly optimistic. I don’t usually have an hour, and you probably don’t either.  Next week I may just give myself just one assignment per category and see how that goes. 

 
As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.
 

Tags: , , ,

Map Out Your Practice like a Workout

Map Out Your Practice like a Workout

by Linda Ratcliff

Map out your practice session out like a workout.
When athletes are getting ready to go for a run, they usually warm up first with some stretches to loosen their muscles. Then they walk for 3-5 minutes, gradually working up to a brisk walk, then jogging, and finally breaking out into a full-steam-ahead run. As they end their run and the workout, most athletes cool down by walking briskly at first and then slower, and finally ending with a few more stretches.

For musicians, a pretty common scenario is to start with scales as a warm-up. I like to start with arpeggios up and down my hammered dulcimer. These exercises serve to loosen up your muscles and get your brain thinking about technique. Next you should move on to the “working” part of your practice time, where you plug away at new tunes. Finally it’s fun to cool down by revisiting some old favorite tunes that you already know well.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask Steve or myself.

 

Tags: , , ,

Find Somewhere Quiet

Find Somewhere Quiet

by Linda Ratcliff

It is in that quiet place at our center that we hear the whispers of our soul.
– Sue Krebs


Find somewhere quiet. This almost seems too obvious to really need to say. But it’s important.  Many of you probably have a special room, or your own corner of the living room for practicing your dulcimer. When you have a designated quiet place to practice, you will be less likely to cave in to distractions.

In addition, going to your special practice area helps prepare you mentally for getting something accomplished on your dulcimer. When preparing to perform, mindful intention at practice time is paramount, and having the ritual of going to the same place every time can help set that intention.

This is my quiet place in the RV.  Right now I’m facing a forest owned by the Corps of Engineers, and it is refreshing to look out at the beauty.  But soon my view will change, when we move to Tennessee.  I’ve Photoshopped what my view will be out the same window at sunset.  Either view is peaceful and inspiring.

Notice, my dog is always with me when I practice.  But I would rather be “home alone” without any humans around when I practice. This probably goes back to my childhood, because my father always asked me to hold off on practicing until he got out of the house. He would find something to do in his workshop when I wanted to practice the piano. Understanding this, my husband is very good about finding something to do outside when I practice.

Do you have a quiet place to practice? Is it a space where you can keep your instruments and all your accessories within easy reach?  If not, look over your home and carve one out.  If I can make a space for music in an RV that has less than 400 square feet, you can find a place too.

As always, if you have any questions, always feel free to ask Steve or myself.
Happy dulcimering,
Linda
 

Tags: , ,

Trust Your Practice

Trust Your Practice

by Steve Eulberg

While at Camp Kiya at Tehachapi Mountain Park, Steve records the following tip for Habits for Your Healthy Music Habitat.

This is part of a weekly email video benefit that our Premium Members at DulcimerCrossing receive.  Subscribe and you can receive it, too!

 

Tags: ,

“I Have to Practice every day…

“I Have to Practice every day…

by Linda Ratcliff

…to play as bad as I do.    —Woody Allen

Woody Allen (born Allan Stewart Konigsberg) is a passionate fan of jazz, and jazz music has often been featured prominently in the soundtracks of his movies. He started playing the clarinet when he was a teenager and actually chose his stage name, Woody, after the famous clarinet player Woody Herman.

Woody will be 81 in December, and these days he is performing with the Eddy David New Orleans Jazz Band.  They play every Monday night at the Carlyle Hotel.


What made me take a closer look at Woody was a quote by him about his own playing: “I have to practice every day to play as bad as I do.” I love his statement because it mirrors the way I feel about my own playing.We all need to practice – and not just to prepare for the next jam session or performance.

Practicing an instrument sharpens your brain, increases your eye-hand coordination, teaches you perseverance, and creates a sense of achievement when you overcome the challenge of learning a new tune.
I’ve also discovered a lot about the history of our country and its musicians by researching the stories behind those old fiddle tunes dulcimer players enjoy.
 (This post originally appeared in the DulcimerCrossing Newsletter.  You can subscribe here)
 

Tags:

Habits From The Muse

Habits From The Muse
Music_lesson_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2421

The Music Lesson

by Steve Eulberg

This new promised resource is now available to you here!

Habits from the Muse is a short, weekly email sent to your in-box, with ideas, suggestions and tidbits we’ve collected to help support your daily practice of music.

We all know that habits come from repetition and that habits, once set, are hard to break.

Our intention is to help you set some good habits in place, habits to help you make progress toward your musical goals!

Sign up here (We don’t share your email!) and get supported today!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 3, 2016 in lessons, subscriber news, uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,