More Focus, More Harmony - How Adults Can Benefit From Playing The Violin

We don't have enough focus. We don't see eye to eye.

You've heard these two phrases, or something similar, spoken at work or in an organization you volunteer for.

Lack of focus, and lack of interpersonal harmony, are two of the biggest reasons we don't take action in our places of work, our social organizations, our churches, and our governing boards, on the things that could move us forward.

Think about your work, both professional and volunteer. Do these two issues come up?

You can probably think of several reasons why there is lack of focus or disharmony. A lot of the causes seem like they are "out there" somewhere. Institutional problems, politics, bad attitudes, outdated regulations, that guy who is nothing but a windbag in meetings, the out-of-touch manager. There are a million different things that cause us to get off track with our focus, and a million more that can get in the way of us getting along.

The problem is, we can't control the external environment. We can't change other people. However, there is something we can control, and that is our own brain. We can change ourselves.

Executive Function and Social Synchrony

There are two Right Brain characteristics brought forward by playing music that will help you with achieving focus and harmony. They are outlined in the journal "Frontiers in Neuroscience":

"The notion of executive function refers to the cognitive processes orchestrated by the prefrontal cortex that allow us to stay focused on means and goals, and to willfully (with conscious control) alter our behaviors in response to changes in the environment (Banich, 2009). They include cognitive control (attention and inhibition), working memory and cognitive flexibility (task switching)."

"Furthermore, musical activities are often social. Indeed, it has been proposed that the evolutionary function of music has always been to increase cooperation, coordination, communication, co-pathy, contact, social cognition and cohesion between the members of a group (Koelsch, 2010). It seems that one of these effects is the fact that a certain form of social synchronization is instilled, implying the respect of and adaptation to each other. In fact, in empirical studies it has often been described that acting in synchrony with a partner may increase prosocial commitment (Kokal et al., 2011), social affiliation (Hove and Risen, 2009), trust (Launay et al., 2013), cooperation (Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009) and feelings of compassion (Valdesolo et al., 2010; Valdesolo and Desteno, 2011). When playing music in a group one has to automatically synchronize to the other musicians. The state of synchrony is therefore generated naturally."

Could your life improve if you played a musical instrument? When you look around and see a need for more focus, when you experience a lot of negative, argumentative meetings, consider this: music might just be the solution you've been missing.

When our children take music lessons, we're glad to know they are getting this kind of brain training. Staying focused on means and goals combined with the ability to create social affiliation are important developmental areas for children. 

But let's expand our thinking to our adult world: a great deal of problem solving could be accomplished if we all had better executive function and social synchrony.

Who would have thought? Playing violin could be the thing that helps you develop professionally. If this rings true for you, don't wait to inquire. It could be life changing.

Talk with Edward about adult lessons



How To Gain True Devotion - Let Them Invent

Butterfly Scroll

One of the ways we unwittingly destroy motivation in children is by teaching them that there is only one right answer.

Usually, in music and in life, there is more than one answer, more than one approach. When children are allowed to explore all the options available to them, they can take personal ownership of them in a deeper way.

Children are more likely to engage and commit to something they have discovered on their own. If they are allowed to experiment and realize for themselves what is good, effective, beautiful, they are more likely to engage with it and remember it long term.

Because beginners don't know the technical skills required for getting started, these must be taught and practiced. By necessity much of this teaching is done in a "do-it-this-way" approach. But this rule-based way of doing things needs to be replaced as quickly as possible by a more exploratory framework, or the creative soul of music is dulled.

Moreover, many children are perfectionists. They already assume without our telling them that there is one right way, and immediately feel like a failure when they don't get it. That's a sure way for them to lose motivation and stop practicing.

By recovering a spirit of invention and exploration, you can overcome this loss of motivation. By changing the framework. you will make it easier for your child not to assess self-blame, and eliminate the fear of doing it wrong. 

Letting your children invent is an important life skill. They will use it not only in music, but in every other area that they are trying to learn and master. By framing goals in terms of creating, exploring, and moving toward what is good, instead of only conforming to what is correct, we establish a long-term mindset that guarantees true devotion and love for one's work.

The Many Benefits Of Group Class

Why is it important to play in a group?

Playing in a group provides many benefits:

  • Energy - the spark of others’ presence

  • Anti-apathy - a healthy sense of not being lazy around one’s peers

  • Motivation - seeing the results of hours of solo practice

  • Belonging - feeling a part of something larger than “me”

  • Fun - group dialogue, humor, games, interaction

  • Musicality - listening to others and awareness of blending

  • Reassurance - knowing that others have similar challenges with playing, memorizing, or technique

  • Repertoire - more exposure to diversity of music, more chances to review known pieces

Group class provides many things that compliment individual lessons. They work together to establish a well-rounded player.

And, it is seriously a lot of fun. Don't miss the next opportunity for group training!

Contact Edward about joining the next studio group class.

How to Beat Performance Anxiety

We have all felt it.

The dry mouth, the shaking hands, the sudden loss of words. Performance anxiety is no fun. And when it comes to music, performance anxiety can kill good musical expression.

Here are five ways I've found that lessen performance anxiety:

  1. Adequate practice.  A "polished piece" is one that has been mastered to a level that can be played with ease. Sometimes this takes weeks, and sometimes months! Depending on the level of difficulty, you may need more practice to get to a level of polish than you first think. Remember, learning the notes is only half way.
  2. Plenty of rehearsal. A rule of thumb I have started to follow is to formally rehearse the piece twice as much as I initially think necessary. That includes scheduling extra time if needed with an accompanist (I say "no" to the performance if this is not possible), and playing through it at least twice in the space I am going to perform in.
  3. Memorization. Reading notes that are not well internalized is a distraction when performing. Over-reliance on note reading is a sure way to destroy good musical playing, because the brain is engaged in reading rather than expressing. Sheet music can be used as a safety net for a performance, after memorization has taken place, but only as a prompt for the real purpose, music-making.
  4. Routine. Do everything the same way as you set up, each time you play and rehearse. This applies to everything from checking your tuning to the initial placement of your bow.
  5. Take your time. When getting set, take time to play the beginning mentally, get back in touch with what you are trying to do musically. Breathe, allow your body to settle as much as possible.

Dealing with fear is another aspect of the process that I'll cover in future posts. But if you'll do these five things consistently, your performances will go better and you'll feel less nervous.

You can conquer the fear of performing. Remember, the more you do it, the easier it gets, and if you take the right intentional steps, you will get there.

Violin Angst

The highest gift in life

Music has always been a communal activity.

It allowed the earliest humans to become social. Music, then and now, places us into a larger whole. It situates us in a shared space, one that we actually crave: the space of connection and bonding to other humans.

When we speak the language of music, we truly harmonize and flourish as a people. Sharing our love of music together is motivating and fun, and we help each other get over the fear and nervousness of playing in front of people. 

But more than that, we connect as human beings, and we discover an aspect of ourselves that wants to belong with others, to nest into an ecosystem, and to see the good in giving for others’ sake.

Isn't this one of the highest gifts in life?