Fixing Things

We live in a culture where things are either working or they’re not. And if they’re not working, we throw them away.

Apparently, there used to be these things called repair stores. These were stores that fixed your broken TV’s, washer and dryers and even blenders and toasters. The way products are made and purchased today, the vast majority of these stores have gone out of business. Our approach and feeling about the things we own has also driven these stores out of our lives.

We see this in the professional world all the time as well. A good example is the shelf life for professional coaches. An under-performing season for your team (maybe 2 if you’re lucky) typically means you’re looking for a new job. This is seen not only in sports but many professions including music. Fair or unfair, it’s just the way things work.

All this leads to some misunderstandings in the music world. Many students and teachers have the mindset of “this either works it doesn’t.” Students either get it or they don’t…. [Continue Reading...]

Website Review: Bulletproof Musician

20140713-171854-62334416.jpgThere are a lot of great websites for musicians, but one I keep coming back to every week is The Bulletproof Musician. The site, by Dr. Noa Kageyama (performance psychologist and Juilliard graduate), features a weekly blog post, coaching and an online training course. According to his site:

“The purpose of this website is to teach musicians how to overcome stage fright, performance anxiety, and other blocks to peak performance. The specific mental skills you develop will allow you to experience the satisfaction of performing up to your abilities – even when the lights are brightest. Wait, let me rephrase that. Especially when the lights are brightest.”

I wait anxiously every Sunday morning to read the latest blog post. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to take part in his coachings or online course, but I have a couple of friends who have and they are incredible.

Recent posts have included:
Why I Should Have Paid More Attention in Music… [Continue Reading...]

Gary Burton Resource Guide: Part Two

GaryBurton_Katz__D8C0379 copy

BookChattr is in full swing and I hope you are enjoying reading the book. As you know, we are reading Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton: An Autobiography by Gary Burton. This post will discuss chapters 3-9 and will include listening examples as mentioned in the book.

Chapters 3 – 5 take place in Gary’s early years (around 1959 – 1962). He continues to talk about growing up in Indiana and starting college at the Berklee School of Music. Chapters 6 – 9 are the beginning of the section marked “Apprenticeship” and include his move to New York (when he meets Joe Morello), his time with George Shearing and then Stan Getz. I am enjoying reading about his experiences and lessons he is learning at a very young age.

“Sometimes, we play because we really want to play; sometimes we play as a favor for another musician; and sometimes, it’s just because we need the money. Despite… [Continue Reading...]

Talent, Work Ethic, and Family History; the Secret to Success(?)

Most of us have heard or read Malcom Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers in which he lays out his “10,000″ hour “theory” claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. I’ve read this book and I have to say that his theory, at least in the way it’s presented, is convincing. I’ve also heard other teachers refer to the “10,000″ hour rule specifically. So much so that over the last several years I’ve made regular mental notes to myself noting that it seems to be catching on, this theory of his.

Many, many times, I’ve talked to my students about the importance of practicing… a lot. Blaming practice, and a relentless work ethic for a good part of the success I’ve had. But more recent research is debunking this theory (for some individuals). And, thanks to Greg Zuber for posting this article in my Facebook news feed, drawing attention… [Continue Reading...]

Gordon Stout; Wellness, Adapting, and the Art of Being Frank

Gordon with "Big Bertha"

Gordon with “Big Bertha”


After spending several days hosting Gordon Stout at the 2014 Longhorn Marimba Intensive I couldn’t help but be impressed with his vigor and overall enthusiasm for playing and teaching. Gordon gave a marimba recital, clinic and master-class during his time at LHMI.
So how does he do it? He attributes losing weight (almost 20lbs!), a recent sabbatical, and more practice time; claiming he is currently playing his best. After his recital I can attest to that! I can only hope that in my 60′s I can be playing that well, and have as much zeal for playing and sharing my knowledge of the marimba.
Of course, In Gordon’s case, that knowledge is immense. The students (and yes, yours truly) constantly enjoyed many of Gordon’s stories and philosophies. After a serious update on the rosewood shortage Gordon made a statement saying “Breaking a marimba bar is a sin”. The students all laughed but, of course… [Continue Reading...]

Flashback: How Effectively Do You Use YouTube?

I originally wrote this article on October 19, 2012 and I still believe that these points are true. How do you use YouTube? Do you post your performances? Do you make comments on other posts? Please leave your thoughts below.

We all know that YouTube is a valuable source for any musician. According to YouTube’s statistics, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. We all know that there are a lot of bad videos included in this number, but there are also many videos that are educational and worth watching. So how do you use YouTube? Chris Robley wrote a blog post on the D.I.Y. Musician Blog (a service brought to us by CD Baby) detailing the “Top 5 Tips for Effective Music Video Promotion on YouTube.” Some of the top tips included:

1. Add links at the top of the description field for each video

This is very important since you only get about… [Continue Reading...]

Gary Burton Resource Guide: Part One

GaryBurton_Katz__D8C0379 copy

BookChattr is starting soon. Come join the DrumChattr community and read Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton: An Autobiography by Gary Burton. I started the book last week and I am really enjoy it. The style of writing is conversational and the information is informative and insightful. As I was reading the first couple of chapters, I starting think about how I would like to listen to the pieces Gary talks about in the book. So I decided to put together a resource guide (similar to the Steve Schick Listening Guide Part 1 & Part 2 that I compiled when we read his book). While some of these recordings are probably not the exact recordings Mr. Burton heard, I wanted to familiarize you with the pieces. If there is something I missed or if there is another version we should listen to, please leave your comments below and I will add… [Continue Reading...]

Time’s Up!

Everyone knows about the metronome. It is perhaps the single most important tool that any musician, especially a percussionist, has in the practice room. As my former drumline instructor used to tell me, “It doesn’t count as practicing if you’re not using your metronome.” However, there is a much less celebrated tool that may actually be just as important… The timer.

The humble kitchen timer/stopwatch can revolutionize the way that you practice. Most smartphones have a timer function, or you can invest in a cheap digital kitchen timer. If you feel like being particularly “old school” you can always get one of the kitchen times with the big dial and the bell that rings when time has expired. Once you’ve got your timer, here are a few things that you can do with it:

1) Stop counting repetitions. Many of us like to practice short segments of music a certain number of times before we speed up or move to another section. For example, you might tell yourself “I’ll play measure 37 ten times at quarter… [Continue Reading...]

BookChattr 2014 is here!

We are excited to announce the 4th Annual BookChattr 2014. This year we will be reading Learning to Listen: The Jazz Journey of Gary Burton: An Autobiography by Gary Burton.

A seven time Grammy Award winner, Gary Burton was born in 1943 and raised in Indiana. He taught himself to play the vibraphone and, at the age of 17, made his recording debut in Nashville, Tennessee, with guitarists Hank Garland and Chet Atkins. In the 1970s, Burton began his music education career with Berklee College of Music in Boston. Burton began as a teacher of percussion and improvisation at Berklee in 1971. In 1985 he was named Dean of Curriculum. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate of music from the college, and in 1996, he was appointed Executive Vice President, responsible for overseeing the daily operation of the college.41mnkXH5h2L._SL500_AA300_

Why this book? It has been a while since we have read an autobiography (The Percussionist’s Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams –… [Continue Reading...]

Stroke for Tone, Part Two- Predictable and Repeatable Strokes

ted hedbwToday we feature an article from Ted Rounds.

I use what I call a full stroke as the basic motion. Regardless of the stick height, the beginning and the end of the stroke are the same location in space and that location is the apex. For a thorough description of the full stroke, refer to the Method of Movement for Marimba by Leigh Howard Stevens. Stevens also refers to this stroke and its application as the “piston stroke,” an analogy that suffices, but that I do not use for insignificant reasons. (Please don’t ask me why). The full stroke has at least a couple of major components: the downstroke, and the upstroke. They can be varied in direct or inverse proportion to each other resulting in what can be characterized as less than full strokes and they have various applications. A sound that is produced by using more downstroke than upstroke is a preparation for a sound at a lower dynamic level. Conversely, a… [Continue Reading...]