by Khoo Hui Ling
I had a love-hate relationship with Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. Those consecutive thirds in the first movement, they eluded me. Almost everyday from 2013-2014, the practice rooms in the University of Oregon resounded with those thirds. They were like a majestic announcement of my presence, except I felt deeply apologetic to those practicing next to me, for having their ears relentlessly pulverised by those thirds.
It was during this period of time that I turned to journaling my practice sessions. I had run into brick walls before, but this time was different. This time, I felt like I was up against the Berlin Wall! Journaling was crucial in helping me overcome the practice rut I had strayed into.
Recently, I’ve found myself encouraging students, especially adult students, to keep their own practice journals. It helps to clarify one’s thoughts and objectives, and is an especially cathartic exercise if the practice session had been frustrating. And if the practice session went well, then journaling becomes a form of self-encouragement.
I was thus inspired to write this post on how I use my practice journal, and I hope it ignites some ideas pertaining to journaling your own music journey.
by Khoo Hui Ling
How many of us have practised whilst mulling over dinner possibilities? Or perhaps have unknowingly slid into ‘OCD’ repetition mode during a practice session? Surely we have at some point realized with a jolt that we are forgetting to listen intently to ourselves?
We’ve all been there, because we are human. However, students often get lost in there, the doldrums of unfocused practising, unable to find their way out. To help students navigate out of this vicious cycle, I have to script their inner conversation.
For inside each of us, there lives a little voice. We are always having conversations with this little voice. It is a way of perceiving our surroundings, a means to making decisions. Teaching students to be aware of and to use this inner conversation is the key to effective and efficient practice.
How To Develop An Inner Conversation
The skilful use of concise language to teach is imperative in developing a strong inner conversation for students. Professor of Piano at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Thomas Hecht is a master at that. Dr. Hecht is a very dear teacher who apart from imparting enduring life lessons, also taught me how to listen and not merely hear. In a recent presentation entitled “Launching My ‘SMART’ Piano Studio”, Dr. Hecht showed how his teaching concepts have been economically abbreviated into interactive ‘apps’ which are screened onto a wall right in front of students in his studio. The Gattacca of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory!
By Goh Ruyin
Humans learn every day. Our brain is constantly processing old and new information, and making connections between them. As we gain experience, more information and activities that we engage in become familiar to us, and it takes less and less effort to understand and engage in these activities. The more familiar the task, the higher the chance of running on auto-pilot. We go into auto-pilot when we are doing very familiar tasks like brushing our teeth, but we are hyper-aware of our senses and actions when we are experiencing something new and novel, like skydiving in my case. When we visit our favourite restaurant but order the one-time special, we feel comfortable in the same environment, but titillate our taste buds with new flavours from an unfamiliar dish. All these activities and experiences fall into what I like to call the spectrum of consciousness. The amount of “consciousness” we experience is directly correlated with the amount of new information being fed into our brains.