The sheet music reader’s guide to chord charts

Music is, in many ways, is a language.  It has its own grammar (structure for melody to follow) and vocabulary (motifs, “riffs” or “licks” that cluster sounds together).  Also like music, language (with the exception of signing) is first and foremost aural communion. (What matters is one person’s mouth reaching someone else’s ear). However, that…

every note is alive

Basho was a poet who lived 17th century Japan, considered one of the greatest haiku writers of all time.  It was said that Basho was once with a student, and they saw a dragonfly, and the student attempted to compose his thoughts on the experience: A red dragonfly If you would but pluck its wings…

free and creative from the beginning

A teacher is always continuing to learn, and must always be open to new ideas and challenges. Learning is a lifelong process of continuous evolving and tweaking how we do things. I once heard in a class that one of the more important sentences for a teacher is, “I used to think ___ but now…

being musically multilingual

In a previous article, I briefly brought up the concept of being musically multilingual as an important goal for my students. Just as a multilingual person is able to communicate with people from a wider range of nationalities, a musician proficient in multiple cultural or musical traditions can perform with a wide variety of people,…

Why we need both a Suzuki and an O’Connor method….

… I was prepared to not make a comment on this at all, but recent discussions about violin pedagogy and which method books to buy have reached a level of passion and vitriol I usually associate only with religion and politics (and that usually sends me looking for the door.) For those of you too…

Four musical approaches…

When I first walked down this path of using strings to create sound, I was unaware how versatile it could be, or how the same instrument could make me comfortable in a huge variety of settings. I have inserted my voice into all kinds of situations – sometimes projects involving many hours of rehearsal, and…

reflections on playing for a wedding

This weekend, I played for a wedding.   While I normally don’t deal with a lot of pre-performance anxiety (most of the time, I can usually talk or gentle breathe myself into knowing I’ll do ok and then feel fine), I did wake up with just a small amount of fear, mostly because I knew it…

How to play freely…as part of your daily practice

As I discussed briefly in my previous post, I believe spontaneous improvisation to be a vitally important part of reaching musical maturity. I further think that it’s possible to grow in and practice, and so should become a part of regular music practice. In this new video, I explain how I do it, and what…

play nice with others (and keep your [musical] hands to yourself)

In my development as a musician and violinist, I  was deeply fortunate to be mentored and encouraged by a number of great teachers who nurtured creativity and encouraged improvisation.  At violin/fiddle summer camps in particular, I interacted with several amazing teachers who were directing sessions intended to unleash our creativity, break rules, and one time,…