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Welcome to Issue 1 of the Perfect Practice Monthly E-zine. The only E-zine available that helps you make more progress in less time on any instrument! As you read through the e-zine and pick up new ideas think about how you will apply them to your practice, then you just apply them to your practice one at a time. Hey presto! Instant progress!

If you have a friend or student who would also benefit from improving the effectiveness of their practice, please do them (and me) a big favor and forward this to them.

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In this issue...

1)Feel the beat - The metronome finally comes of age. Read about the exciting next development in metronome technology and what it means for your practice...

2)New eBook on practice available soon - I am in the final editing stages of Practice Makes Perfect - my upcoming eBook that will revolutionise the way you spend your practice time.

3)Getting over the plateau - What do you do when you feel you just aren't making any progress? Advice to get you moving again.

4)Practice tip of the month - Top practice tips from successful people inside and outside the music field. Find out how to apply the strategies that took these people to the top of their field.

5)Software tip - There is a huge amount of music software available but none of it is really dedicated to practice. Read this section for advice on how to use different programs to improve your practice effectiveness. This month: Transcribe!


1) Feel the beat

The metronome has finally come of age! When it comes to metronomes I always recommend an electronic version for accuracy and convenience. I do keep a beautiful antique clockwork metronome on my piano though because it looks fabulous! My electronic metronome (the Qwik 3 for those that are interested) also has a tuner built in. My metronome has served me well. It has been around the world, dropped, sat on, soaked, stolen, returned and still delivered great performance. Recently, however, it has started to become a little unpredictable...sometimes it turns on, sometimes it needs a shake first and I've noticed the shakes need to be harder and harder each time, so I have started looking for a new model.

Normally I would just buy exactly the same model again, it was very reliable after all and metronome development isn't exactly at the forefront of gadget technology is it? However, I remembered there was a Qwik 7 available when I bought the Quik 3 and I couldn't afford it at the time...maybe now.

I popped over to Zzounds website and searched metronome and was amazed to see a brand new model there... the Peterson BB1 BodyBeat Pulsing Tactile Metronome. This metronome actually vibrates on the beat, allowing the musician to have 'free ears' to listen to their playing! "Wow! I need one of these" was my first and only thought! This could potentially solve many of my issues with metronomes! I believe a metronome is essential for practice, but they are often misused. Click here to read more about this amazing new form of metronome...and look out for a complete review on the Metronomes page of the Essential Music Practice website. I ordered one straight away...and if I don't use it the drummer in my jazz band will love it - he'd better!

Get one for the drummer in your life!

2) New ebook on practice coming soon

In response to a number of emails asking for information from the website to be available in a downloadable format I am in the final stages of producing an ebook called Practice Makes Perfect. This will be on sale on the Essential Music Practice site in the next couple of weeks, along with some other short, information booklets on Sight-reading, Memorisation and Practice Tips for Beginners. There will also be a cut down free version of the book available for download. Practice Makes Perfect is aimed primarily at students and addresses practice issues in an easy to read, easy to understand format. Where possible I have kept concepts to a single page, or broken them down to make them easy to understand and apply.

The layout of the book is designed to be easy to read on a computer monitor. A copy of the text with essential images and diagrams only included is delivered as a separate file for those who wish to print a copy without illustrations.

More news on this as soon as it is available.

3) Climb every mountain - Getting over the plateau

It happens to all of us at some point. We practise and practise and practise, the weeks go by and we seem to be in exactly the same place we always were as though no progress has been made at all. That fast section in the Mozart piece is still giving us trouble!

This is a dangerous time. It is all too easy to throw up our hands and say "OK, that's it! I give up!" While thinking this however, it may be worth remembering that the world is full of adults who wish they had never given up playing an instrument. Almost every time I play a concert or a gig with a band, people tell me about how they used to learn at school but then gave up and regret it. They explain how school work, going out, sports and any other number of things got in the way.

Some of the happiest adults I know are those whose job may not be music but who are involved in music in some way. Maybe in a rock or pop band doing cover versions, accompanying choirs or even just getting together with friends to play together in their houses. It gives them a great creative outlet, helps relieve stress and if they are playing in public can earn a bit of extra cash!

So think about these people next time you are about to throw your toys out of the pram and you want to give up because I guarantee you will live to regret it if you do! If learning music was easy then everybody would do it, and what would we have to set us apart from the rest of the non-instrument playing world?

Try different practice routines and games, talk to your teacher or other friends who play your instrument about your problem. Contact me and I will help if I can! In short, get support. Have a look at the Getting over the plateau page on the Essential Music Practice site for some tips on how to beat the plateau.

And if you do decide to give up, don't stand and tell somebody you see in a band in 20 years time you wish you had continued, because it might be me and I will say "I told you so!"

4)Practice tip of the month

This month's tip is based on a quote from top Oklahoma Basketball coach Abe Lemons. He said

"One day of practice is like one day of clean living.
It doesn't do you any good."

Although Lemons was referring to Basketball this quote, like so many other sports quotes, applies double to musicians. To be successful practice needs to be regular.

Many students have asked how they can make faster progress and one of my standard replies is to ask the question "How often do you practise?" Answers usually revolve around how long the student spends practising each session. When I question about how often this takes place the answer varies from "Once or twice a week" to "different each week" and hardly ever "every day!"

Too many students end up practising the day before their lesson, just before an exam, when they feel guilty for not practising enough, when they decide to turn over a new leaf or whenever they remember.

Doing 'occasional' practice like this doesn't help progress at all, but many students just don't realise this. I often ask my students to imagine training for the Olympics or going to the gym and weight training and how useful doing random training sessions would be. Playing an instrument is in part about muscular control and the only way to improve this is through regular practice. Many students, once they hear this analogy and Abe Lemons's quote realise the need for a more regular practice habit.

Of course, getting them to follow through with this is another story, but as so often, realisation is the first step.

5)Software tip - Transcribe

One of my top recommendations for practice is transcribing music, especially for jazz musicians. Transcribing music improves your ability to hear intervals, internalise music and gives you a great insight into how composers and arrangers put music together.

Depending on their experience of transcription I either ask students to transcribe the main theme of a piece they are about to learn or I record the melody line (sometimes with basic harmony) for them to transcribe. Students also make a plan of the basic structure of the piece, with keys and modulations where possible.

Using transcription reduces the time it takes for students to learn new pieces and I also find this experience makes it much easier for them to memorize pieces because they have a clear understanding of the structure of the piece before they start.

I recommend Transcribe! software to my students to help them transcribe pieces successfully. It has excellent features including slowing the music down without altering the pitch, looping sections and gives a general guide to notes and chords being used.

You can read more about transcribing music on Transcription Page of the Essential Music Practice website.

Next month's featured software:Band in a Box 2009 Pro

If you have something to say about practice in general, a tip to help other readers, you want to share a practice related story or you would like to contribute an idea or article to the Perfect Practice newsletter please click here to contact me.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. Possible Russian version!
A reader of the Essential Music Practice website from Ukraine has contacted me to ask about translating some of the pages into Russian! More information on this soon!

Copyright info
I'm not a big fan of the way copyright laws operate in the world today. I could spend a huge amount of my time surfing the internet looking for people who have copied or translated parts of the Essential Music Practice site or Perfect Practice newsletters...however, I think it would be far more valuable to spend my time researching practice further and getting the information out to other musicians. Therefore, you are free to copy, forward or reproduce the content in this e-zine in any form you wish. I would appreciate an attribution and/or a link back to the Essential Music Practice website - but if you don't I won't come chasing you. I am a great fan of Creative Commons, but this is not under a creative commons license. You are free to use the information in any way whether commercial or non-commercial...if you make a million you can buy me a drink sometime!

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