July 30, 2014

Make your mark

There are a number of basic things that we can do to help us learn music, play better, and have an easier time of getting from one to the other.  Usually these things are simple, easy really.   Marking your music is one of those things.  So why do so many people skip this important step?

Ok, I don’t have an answer for that, maybe because it seems difficult?  Or because we never want to do the fundamental work which looks easy but usually is anything but?  Since we don't have an answer, instead let’s focus on what marking your music can do for you (besides get you from first look to easy playing!).  Here are six reasons to mark up your dots!

  1. Marking your music requires that you read through the music first.  I always tell my students that reading music is like reading Greek – if you keep practicing it, a little at a time, it will get easier. Practice enough, it will become effortless.  
  2. Writing in reminders (in pencil – things change!) will help you remember!  Pencil in your fingerings and placements until you’re comfortable (then you can erase and fill the space up with phrasings, dynamics, tempo changes, and other notes.
  3. Mark your lever (or pedal) changes.  You might think you’ll remember to make the lever change, but when push comes to shove, the reminder is good to have (it also helps your remember to practice the change as part of the music not as an afterthought).
  4. If you’re in an ensemble you can mark reminders of what other players will be doing.  Or you can pencil in changes the director adds to your notes.
  5. You can mark passages you are having difficulty with and need to practice more – you can break them down, rearrange them, and mark how you’d like to proceed.
  6. You can also mark to remind you when you get to your lesson of specific questions you’d like to ask.

Never forget that you have the dots in front of you to help you remember.  Adding marks to the dots will allow you to remember more.  Marking in pencil gives you room to develop, grow, learn and change how you play.  And remember -- the marking is there as a guide – nothing is sacrosanct about the marks – just erase when you’re ready to move along!  Enjoy making your mark!

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