Life Skills

Going paperless

Although I am a lover of organization, I do tend to find myself going through cycles with paper.  Paper is hard to keep organized and being so thin, the mess sneaks up on you.  “Oh, it’s just one piece of paper, I don’t want to deal with it right now” turns into a stack of papers so quickly!  Those stacks tend to accumulate in regular places: the piano, the coffee table, the kitchen counter, the den counter, my desk, Luke’s table.   In addition to the 15-20 minutes I...

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Vacationing as a freelancer

The need to unplug is real.  Overwork is real.  I have always been a proponent of the work hard, play hard theory.  But as previously mentioned, I am a serial over-committer, so I’m probably overdoing it (on both sides!).  In the last post, I talked about adjusting goals as a way to deal with burnout.  During the school year, I tend to work up to the point where 12 hour days become normal.  Then when the semester ends, I tend to flip to the complete opposite end of the spectrum where I seek...

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Stay flexible with your goals

Have you ever had trouble meeting a goal? Near the end of the UofL spring semester this year, I got an email from a competition.  I thought, why not?  I spent a couple of days picking out repertoire and then once the semester was over, I launched into practicing.  My teaching load was still fairly heavy, but I was able to work in 2-4 hours of practicing/day.  I got a few more emails from other competitions for which I could use the same program.  Excellent! Then I got...

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How to avoid losing your voice

While most instrumentalists fear overuse and the muscle pain associated with it, vocalists see overuse manifest itself in them losing their voices.  Again, the best defense is good technique, but illness or overuse will compromise even the best technique. My favorite tactics to avoid losing my voice (and/or recover quickly from losing my voice) are: 1- Drink water Keep those folds lubricated!  Your body needs an obscene amount of water just to function anyway, so just keep drinking...

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How to recover from overuse

I’ve written several articles about practicing now.  As you increase the number of hours spent at your instrument, you increase your risk of injury.  The number 1 defense against this is good technique, yet even if you have great technique, you can still find yourself the victim of an overuse injury (the most common injury among musicians!).  While I wish this on no one, if this has happened to you, the list below is my go-to recovery guide.  Having said that, I also...

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The importance of processes

So in my last 2 posts, I shared the processes that I have developed for score study, practicing piano, and practicing singing.  These are very specific processes that are only applicable to musicians.  But developing processes in general is a very important tactic that anyone can utilize to optimize their time. For example, I have a couple of post-its up in my bathroom.  They have been up so long they lost their sticky long ago, but they are attached by a magnet to the bottom right corner of...

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How to practice singing

I have also developed a practice process for singing. It's a bit of a different animal from playing the piano. First off, there are a couple of additional score study steps: 1-I generally ask my students to mark their breath plan and mark the word emphasis before starting to sing at all. 2-In addition to translating that foreign language text, I write in the IPA (international phonetic alphabet - basically a pronunciation guide) for any unfamiliar words or any words I am unsure of how to...

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How to practice piano

For those of you left curious by my last post, here’s my score-study process: 1-If I’m dealing with a digital score, I crop and straighten every page so that I’m not dealing with straining to read tiny notes or crooked pages. 2-I slash out all the tied notes. (I don’t remember where I learned this.  I didn’t like it when I first saw it, but this has turned out to be a crucial time saver for reading: I have realized that it allows me to skip processing unessential notes; when they are not...

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Practicing is just as mental as it is physical.

You read that correctly.  While I do have a chart of recommended amounts of daily practice time on my studio policies page, that’s just a basic guideline.  Because it’s not so much about the quantity as the quality.  Well, ok, if you don’t put in the quantity, you won’t get anywhere, but if the quantity is also high quality, you’ll get so much farther.  Personally, I am of the mindset that life is too short to waste, so I want to use my time as efficiently as possible.  Work smarter, not...

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Equalizing your bills

About 6 years ago, Colin and I took a close look at our bills.  As freelancers with income that varied month to month, the timing of several of those bills really hurt.  Of course, some essential bills are due each month (mortgage, gas/electric, cable, health insurance, car insurance, etc.).  Although we took a look at lowering these how we could, these were not the bills that were really hurting us.   Much more hurtful were the four yearly estimated tax payments,...

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