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Refining truth: a guide to surviving the artistic life

Posted by Rebecca Fischer on Mar 21, 2017 10:43:46 AM

“Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness.” - Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark 

Artists know all about refinement.  This is a large part of what we do every day, constantly retooling our craft, whether it is bouncing a bow on the string just the right way or getting the lighting to work beautifully on a portrait.  The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of refinement for this purpose is: “the improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes.”  As important as minute, delicate changes are to perfecting a skill for artists, the kind of refinement Willa Cather suggests is far larger and more complex.  I read her statement as addressing a more holistic honing, the refinement process of which helps us to become more authentically ourselves in the world.

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Topics: Practice, Self-Improvement

New Years Resolutions for the string player

Posted by James Engman on Jan 5, 2016 2:08:17 PM

The start of a New Year is commonly a time in which people feel encouraged to better themselves, take on new adventures, or kick a bad habit. We all hear about the flood of new gym memberships, but what about new years resolutions in the practice room? Well, in case you haven't made up your mind on what your resolution might be, here are some ideas. Plus, feel free to share your resolution in the comments!

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Topics: Practice, For Fun

Take Practice to the Next Level with the Cadenza App

Posted by Joseph Chapman on Nov 21, 2014 12:07:00 PM

Often, it's not enough to know a piece cold. You need to feel it, you need to interpret it. This is especially hard to do with an orchestral piece; how can you develop your own voice when you can't hear the rest of the orchestra? This is where Cadenza, a new app for the iPad, steps in. 

At SHAR, we're very excited about a new app called Cadenza. It allows you to practice with a full orchestra. And it's not just a play-along track. It's responsive. If you want to linger on a phrase, hold a fermata, or go for an exhilirating finish, it's there with you. Basically, it lets you figure out how you want to play a piece. You can explore different interpretations, all with the help of this simple app. 

Not convinced? We know, it almost sounds too good to be true. But Cadenza has a really solid video explanation of the app. The cellist Michael Dahlberg shows you what's possible with the app by doing a quick demo.

Cadenza is actually free (it comes with several pieces of music, but you'll have to purchase the pieces you want to practice). You can download it here. If you play violin, cello, viola, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, French horn, or trumpet, you can use this app

What's more, if you like Cadenza's Facebook page you'll be entered to win a $250 shopping spree at SHAR Music. Downolad the Cadenza, and get thee to a practice room!

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Topics: Practice, cadenza

Why Own an Instrument Stand for Your Violin, Viola, or Cello?

Posted by Alberta Barnes on Sep 25, 2012 3:14:00 PM

Pretty much every musician has a music stand, but not every musician has an instrument stand. Have you thought about the benefits to owing a violin stand or a cello stand? Here are four things to think about!

1. Motivation to Practice. Having the instrument out on an instrument stand can be a great way to motivate yourself (or kids, especially!) to practice. It can be irritating to have to open the case and get everything set up correctly, but when the instrument is immediately accessible it is also that much more motivating to play it.

2. Time Saver. If you have to squeeze in practice time between the million other things inyour day then taking your instrument out and packing it up again can waste valuable practice time! With the instrument safely out of its case, you can move away from and return to your instrument to practice without fumbling with shoulder rests or endpins for those valuable minutes.

3. Useful at Gigs. 
Bringing a violin stand or a cello stand to your gig with you can prove veryuseful. A violin stand is a must-have if you switch between instruments at gigs. Or, if you are playing only the one instrument, it can be a much more secure way to hold the instrument during breaks than simply perching your violin on your chair.

4. A Way to Display Your Instrument. When used at home, the cello stand can be a beautiful way to safely display your treasure. It thereby enhances the ambience of the room much more than leaving it in the case would!

If you’re looking for a violin stand, we have several options: 

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Topics: Violin, Viola, Cello, Practice, Product Reviews, Instrument Stand

Three Ways to Improve Musicianship Outside the Classroom

Posted by Guest Blogger on Sep 19, 2012 2:03:00 PM

Christian Howes shares a terrific new blog entry with his top three ways to keep practicing when you're not in the practice room. Leave a comment below with your own "downtime" practice tips!  

Good musicians practice.

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Topics: Violin, Practice, Teaching, Christian Howes, Electric Violin

A Silent Violin?

Posted by Alberta Barnes on Aug 23, 2012 4:11:00 PM

Aren’t violins made to be heard? Why would you want a silent one, then? Well, silent violins have several advantages (besides just being fun to play!). Here are some thoughts!

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Topics: Violin, Practice, Electric Violin, Silent Violin

Making It: My Life as a Working Musician

Posted by Guest Blogger on Aug 2, 2012 10:54:00 AM

In May of this year, we shared an article with our email subscribers titled "The Value of Music Degree." The article argued that a music degree, while it may not lead directly to a job, is still worth earning because of how much it can enrich one's life. The response was overwhelming: many musicians disagreed with the article and felt that their degree sent them out into a tough economy with few practical skills; others could not imagine their lives without their music degree, or without music at the center of their lives, no matter how tough it is to make a living as a musician. One of our readers, Susan Speicer, agreed to share her experience as a recent grad of Washington State University's School of Music. Even though Susan hasn't landed a symphony job (yet!), she's doing fine: she teaches and works at violin shop; she serves as an administrator for a youth symphony; she coaches and makes violin jewelry; and she writes a music blog. What we love about Susan, besides her obvious dedication to music, is her willingness to try out the different niches of a career in music, whether that's teaching, business, administration, or playing.   

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Topics: Violin, Education, Practice, String Community

Shinichi Suzuki – The Man and the Violin Method

Posted by Alberta Barnes on Jun 1, 2012 7:00:00 AM

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Topics: Suzuki, Violin, Beginner Violin, Parents, Education, Practice

Notes from a Suzuki Mom: Keeping Joy Alive

Posted by Guest Blogger on May 31, 2012 4:09:00 PM

In today's post, Nerissa Nields talks about the big fear every music-loving parent encounters at some point: If I push my child too hard, will he just end up hating music? For me, the highlight of Nerissa's post is the moment she realizes that both grace – the thing that happens when you least expect it – and hard work make music (and teaching music) possible.  

Johnny had been showing up for his guitar lessons like a mini-brunette normal-eyed Johnny Winter. He continues to hone his moves, if not his chops, on his little acoustic, or a boom whacker, or what appears to be part of a Hot Wheels racing apparatus. At a recent lesson, he was given this for homework:

-Stand in zero position (feet to the right of the stool)
-Now move to one position (left foot moves about a foot to the left, so legs are wide)
-Pick up guitar with right hand
-Hold guitar with the head up.


Also, he can clap back rhythms that I or Lila clap or play for him. I was pretty sure he was well on the way to superstardom. Or at least maybe eligible for this month’s Suzuki Springfest, a heart-lifting end of the year all day extravaganza held in Downtown Northampton. Suzuki students from every studio mass together in various outdoor locales and play through their repertoire. Lila did this last spring on the courthouse lawn. I noticed that Jeremy, Johnny’s teacher, had a group of his guitar students participate. I dreamed of Johnny sitting on his tiny guitar stool, holding his guitar in place as the older guitarists played. He’d be watching them all, with a mix of reverence and chutzpah, thinking, “Next year, man, I’ll show you all!”

Well, this didn’t exactly happen. Instead, Johnny watched for about ten seconds, then kicked off his shoes and ran across the lawn to slide down the stone banister in front of the courthouse.

Instead, we walked into Jeremy’s classroom today, and after about ten minutes, Johnny lay on the floor. “No,” he said to everything Jeremy asked him to do. “Dat is so boring.” When Jeremy asked him to clap, he lay on his back and idly swung his arms together so that his hands missed each other. When Jeremy asked him if he’d like to learn “two position,” Johnny said, “Dat is so boring.” (Two position is when you sit down on the stool. I have to agree; pretty boring.)

It came up toward the end of the lesson, when I mentioned to Jeremy that I’d been away for the past two weekends doing gigs, that perhaps there was some general free floating anger that had attached itself to the guitar. “You went away and I didn’t even wike dat,” Johnny said from his side lying position on the floor.

We called it a day a bit early, and actually decided to take a hiatus from lessons until September. I felt a heaviness in my heart. Had I pushed him too hard? Should we quit now before we squeeze all the love out of the guitar for him?

Emily, our violin teacher gave us some perspective. “When I started, it took me six months just to stand still for one minute” [which is part of the Suzuki teaching pedagogy.] “I used to hide under the piano bench. It took me another two years to learn my Twinkle variations. But I knew the music because my parents played it every day. You have to take the long view. You are giving him invaluable life skills that will apply to every aspect of his life.”

I looked up the word “student,” as I noticed it shared a root with “studio” and also, of course, “study,” which is what we called the room my father worked in, a room we’d refer to nowadays as his office.”Study” comes from the Latin studere, to apply oneself with diligence; or earlier to what’s known as “Proto-Indo-European language, or PIE: to “to push, stick, knock, beat.” I like this. Sounds like music. Next fall we’ll come back to Jeremy and we’ll push the tiniest bit more. Or maybe we’ll just knock out the beat with a couple of sticks. Either way, nothing worthwhile comes without an application of some kind of diligence and then that magic Other: grace.

After Springfest, post-dinner, Lila and I practiced her violin, and Johnny joined us, red boom whacker air-guitar flailing along to “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie” through Brahms’s Waltz. And then, for the first time ever, he pulled his little guitar stool out of the music trunk and set it up in front of his stool, picked up his real) guitar and set it carefully on his left knee. “Wook, Mama!” And he began painstakingly to pluck out notes on the strings.

So far we haven’t knocked his love affair with the guitar out of him yet.

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Topics: Suzuki, Violin, Beginner Violin, Parents, Tips, Practice, Guitar

How a Three-Year-Old Has a Suzuki Guitar Lesson

Posted by Guest Blogger on Feb 28, 2012 10:17:00 AM

Nerissa Nields, one of our regular contributors, writes about Suzuki guitar lessons with her son Johnny. Nerissa describes how Johnny, initially uninterested in guitar lessons, comes around to them and even says that he "wuvs" them. Nerissa's thoughtful entry shows just how impulsive and lovely kids can be, though it also expresses faith in music's hold on us, whether we're three-and-a-half-years-old or parents ourselves.
 


So we started Johnny on Suzuki guitar lessons. Yes, he is three-and-a-half. No, he can’t understand the difference between my gently suggesting that he might not want to dump his glass of watercolor paint wash all over the table and cruel and unusual punishment. (At the top of his lungs: “Mama, you are being SO mean to me!”) Yes, I am probably crazy.

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Topics: Suzuki, Violin, Beginner Violin, Parents, Practice, Schubert, Stravinsky

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