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Category Archives for "Bill Alpert Journal"

suzuki violin lessons for ages 4 1/2 to adult in San Luis Obispo, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Cayucos and across the central coast.
Jan 08

The Ideal Age to Begin Violin Lessons

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , music education is essential , violin

Thousands of students over many decades remove any doubt. Even at a tender 4 years old (or even earlier), kids can almost miraculously play a string instrument with beautiful posture and a rich, vibrant tone. So just what is the ideal age to begin violin lessons?

Violin Lessons for Kids and Teens
Of course your own family’s progress may vary, but it’s rarely a lack of natural talent that limits stellar results. Are you able to provide the kind of parental support that is needed to take a 4 year old from raw beginner to “polished performer?” Here are some clues to help you decide:

Over many years of teaching today’s super-busy Suzuki families, I’ve found the common bond between the most successful is a long standing, deep and abiding love of music. This is the one ingredient that seems to motivate kids to stick with the program over the long haul.

Let’s face it; learning to master a musical instrument is a long term project. The rewards are great; if you are willing to make a family commitment to the see it through.

Other important factors to success:
• One or both parents with at least a modest background in music
• No more than one or two other regular after school activities
• A reasonably calm and stable home atmosphere
• Especially for younger students: a parent who will be physically and mentally present for all lessons and practice sessions, who will take careful notes, and who will be support the practice process, no matter what is required.

What’s a good starting age for kids?

Taking the above factors into account, I’ve found that it is rare to find a modern family that can find the time to fully support a 3-4 year old Suzuki violin student. Still, a few super patient parents will find themselves with an unusually well-focussed four year old and the results look almost magical to someone on the outside.

If you have a five or six year old child and as a parent you’re willing to learn more than your ever dreamed of about the violin, success will almost surely be yours! Even 7-12 is an ideal age to begin violin lessons.

Adult Students: Violin Lessons for the Young at Heart

I’ve successfully started beginners at every stage of life. And I’ve rekindled violin journeys for many an adult whose instrument has been gathering dust in a closet for decades. As an adult student, you have many unique advantages, and you have the ability to leapfrog your progress very quickly, if you so desire.

The short answer: there is no “ideal” age to being violin lessons when you bring your curiosity, your patience, your love of music and a youthful can-do spirit to your violin journey.

Apr 12

Violin Practice as Simple as Copy and Paste

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , violin

Recently I wrote about starting your daily violin practice with something dead simple. And that’s common sense.

But it also turns out that same idea also works for your most difficult songs, pieces or passages. In fact 90% of your practice problems can be solved in about 10% of the time you currently spend practicing! That’s great to know, when your available time on the violin is limited.

Begin by warming up for 5 or 10 minutes on a very simple song, or scale while you relax into the physical sensations of playing.

1. Find your target tough spot. Maybe a “tricky group” of 5 or 10 notes that you’d like to improve within 5 or 10 minutes.

Now, here’s the practice hack that actually uses your brain in a productive, positive way:

  1. “Copy and paste” the challenging aspect of your “tricky group” into your simple piece. For example, a rapid fire succession of hard to find notes could be pasted into a slow “scale.” This simplified version of your problem allows you to focus on the 10% of skills that will produce 90% of the results.
  2. Tune into any and all physical sensations during this process. Especially notice any tension or discomfort ANYWHERE in your body.
  3. Stop, and evaluate what you’re hearing, feeling and seeing. Frequently. Like every 15 or 30 seconds.
  4. Return to your original song, but with your new found skills. Use the copy/paste, feel, think pattern. Do this for no more than 5 or 10 minutes before moving on to a new challenge.

Copy and Paste practice is enjoyable, fast moving and effective

Using this practice system really works well because it honors your intellectual skills while at the same time honing your physical and motor skills.

Copy and paste practice is SO POWERFUL! It’s a staple of top professional musicians, yet it simple enough that even a beginner can take part. In fact, this idea is so powerful I surgically implant it (just kidding) into the brain of all my private studio students. And it’s also at the heart of my video training programs, like the 6 Week Ultimate Vibrato Workshop.

Until next time, enjoy your violin journey!

~Bill Alpert

Dec 21

Happy Holidays from the Alpert Studio

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , Studio News

It’s our first Christmas on the Central Coast! We’re thrilled to bring music lessons to Morro Bay, Los Osos, Cayucos and all of San Luis Obispo County!

For our violin and singing students: No lessons the week of December 21 and December 28. Lessons resume as normal on the week of January 4.

Enjoy your holiday! We’ll see you in 2015!

Thinking about Singing Lessons? New violin under the tree?
If you’re looking for “singing lessons near me” or “violin lessons near me” were currently enrolling for the 2015 term. Call the studio at 805-254-2704 for more information!

Bill Alpert at the Hollywood Bowl
Apr 20

The Joy of Performing

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , Events

One of the joys of being a musician is the ability to be part of a special experience for a live audience. Today’s Easter Service at the Hollywood Bowl was such an occasion for me. Sharing your music with 15,000 people at once may not happen every day, but when it does, it’s a unique thrill. And yes, performing can be stressful to be sure, but the transcendent moments when you’re truly in the zone, are the moments your remember.

Whether you are performing for thousands or just for a few friends, whether you’re paid for your work, or just performing for the love of it, being that musician in the center of a live performance is unlike anything else in day to day life.

Most of all, as a performer and a teacher it is an honor and privilege to be able to share great music with others. I always hope that my audience (and my students) understand the motive and spirit behind what I do. Music is transformative in every sense of the word. When all is said and done, making the world more beautiful is the ultimate legacy for a true musician of any level, age, or genre. It is our reason for being.

Oct 21

Michael Feinstein and Terry Gross On George and Ira Gershwin

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , Reviews , voice

Ira Gershwin and Michael Feinstein

This fascinating interview from NPR’s Fresh Air, recounts singer Michael Feinstein’s years of working with the Gershwin family. Over this period Feinstein cataloged much of the Gershwin discography, and in the process unearthed a treasure trove of wonderful stories.

The interview coincides with the release of Feinstein’s new book: The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs. Feinstein writes firsthand about the musical world of the American composers and brothers, George and Ira Gershwin. The book includes a CD of rare performance including “Strike Up the Band,” “‘S Wonderful,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” “They All Laughed,” “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Embraceable You,” “Who Cares?,” “I Got Plenty of Nuthin’,” “They Can’t Take Than Away from Me,” “I Got Rhythm,” and “Love Is Here to Stay.”  The studio recommends it as a must-have collection for anyone who loves the Great American Songbook!

Feb 14

Romeo, Juliet, Love, Work and Music: A Valentine’s Day Message

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , violin

Last week I played Romeo and Juliet, a piece about love. It’s music I first played in a youth orchestra more than 40 years ago. To me today, the Tchaik is about more than romantic love…

It’s about love and passion for your work. Performing that overture was a huge challenge for a high school aged violinist. Last week I had the pleasure of working with a stand partner half my age, but with obvious great devotion to music and the craft of playing the violin.

It all brought me back to the start, and why I became a musician in the first place. It’s the love of the music, love of the violin and love for doing the work, just for the simple joy of it.

So to all my friends and readers who are musicians, may your Valentine’s Day be blessed with love in your personal life, as well as a renewed and great passion for the art you create every time you practice, perform or teach.

And to my friends not lucky enough to be musicians, may you find art and beauty wherever your life takes you. Happy Valentine’s Day!

May 24

Listening Opportunity: violin and voice

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , violin , voice

Sunday, June 12, 4:00 p.m. broadcast on KUSC-FM 91.5 & KUSC.ORG

(Originally performed on May 12-15, 8:00 P.M. – Walt Disney Concert Hall)

Dudamel conducts Mackey and Brahms

Artist Information:
Los Angeles Philharmonic
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Leila Josefowicz, violin
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, music director

On the program: the west coast premiere of a contemporary piece for violin and orchestra by Mackey and the famous Brahms Requiem. It’s a fabulous opportunity to hear and see world class performers performing great masterworks of music. Tune in!

Jan 10

How to buy a cheap violin without getting burned

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , violin

I recently received this question from an adult violin student:

Thanks so much for your help. I am a 54 year old male … who in Sept. 2010 began playing the violin in a group strings program at. We have group lessons twice a week. I had decided to begin learning to play the viola also and need to buy a viola, 16.5 I think. There are so many brands including Franz Hoffman, Klaus Mueller, Palatino, Yin-Yin,  etc. I need an inexpensive instrument and was considering the Yin-Yin or Mueller Prelude, or Franz Hoffman. Shar Music has Franz Hoffman, Instrumental and Southwest have the other brands but I can’t find any kind of review of the various brands. Can you help with a resource for reviews or give me some direction in this? –John

Thankfully, today there are more resources than ever to obtain a quality violin or viola on a tight budget. This is especially true since factory made instruments imported from China have dramatically improved in recent years. This article from Strings Magazine tells the story, as directs you to additional resources that you’ll find helpful.

Remember, it’s easy to be fooled by appearances, so if you’re not certain about the craftsmanship of any instrument, be sure to have it checked by a luthier or professional player/teacher who you trust. The cost to remediate a poorly made violin can easily exceed what you paid for it. I’d suggest avoiding private party sellers on e-Bay. Stick with a known dealer with a clearly defined return or trial policy.

Apr 22

Performing in the Now

By billalpert | Bill Alpert Journal , violin

The panicked questions arrived:

I am 14, I and I will be taking my ABRSM Grade 8 exam on Thursday and I am very worried about it. My pieces are fine, my scales are o.k…
I am a very last minute person, yet a perfectionist which is what I absolutely hate about myself. I am terrible at sight reading and I did my Grade 5 Theory when I was 9 and got a Merit. However five years later, I can’t remember anything at all and it has affected my Aural Training where I am required to recognize Cadences and Modulations. I don’t even know why I’m telling you all this but I’ve resolved to Google to try and solve my problems because I am in absolute desperation. My teacher is quite pleased with my work and everyone keeps telling me that my exam will be fine but I keep doubting myself and I really don’t know what will happen.

My question now is, How can I “get into the music” when I’m playing? When i play I stand up stiff as ever, occasionally I sway and my eyes are always closed but I just don’t know how to feel the music… Any suggestions?

There are many resources to help us relax and focus while performing. Yoga, meditation and breathing practice as well as jogging are helpful. A good diet, and avoidance of caffeine also help. Avoid eating just before performing. A light meal 3 or 4 hours before works well for me. Books such as The Inner Game of Music and A Soprano on Her Head are worth reading.

Learning how to practice correctly is HUGE. Last minute is not the right approach. When you’re on stage, what you are playing should be comfortable in every sense of the word. Avoid performance situations that are likely to go wrong. Yes, take chances on stage, but make them sensible. Practice only so long as you getting results and feeling focussed.

Go deep in the music you select. Choose pieces than inspire you. Learn a lot about the composer and his world.

Beyond that, I hear a lot of stress in this violinist’s question. As a musician, are you willing to accept where you are now? To be OK with what you’ve accomplished to date, and have faith that others will enjoy what you alone can share musically? It’s *you* that must be pleased with your work. Release any attachment to how you think you should be playing and go with the way things are NOW. Fighting with the present only makes the present worse.

Your teacher should help you select music that is appropriate for your current level of technique and musical maturity. Go on stage ready to enjoy the performance, and just let the music happen. In short, play what you can play well, and be happy.