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I offer lessons in:

  • Jazz Flute
  • Classical Flute
  • Irish Traditional Flute
  • German for Singers
  • Improvisation
  • Basic Music Theory
  • Jazz Saxophone
  • Irish Traditional Tin Whistle
  • Voice - Maritime Songs
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    Aaron CleggOffering private lessons in
    Santa Cruz, California
    About MeContact MeBlog

    Slick way to learn tricky rhythms
    Posted by Aaron Clegg - November 2, 2012 - 3:56 PM

    If you are having a hard time learning to play a tricky rhythm, try this.

    Make up a word or phrase that has the same rhythm as the phrase you're trying to copy.

    For example, right-click (PC) or Ctrl-click (Mac) and open in a new window or tab to look at this example. It's from a cool book called You've Got Rhythm.

    Basically this can help your right-brain get hold of a pattern in the rhythm, instead of just counting like crazy. You'll start to hear it and feel it easier.

    For a more difficult example, right-click or control-click on this excerpt.

    Reading the first two measures (melody line only), I counted this out, slowly, then fit this phrase to it: "I'm a cool dude, don't you give me trouble." This won't make any sense by itself, so listen here:

    Sometimes this is hard to do on your own, but a good music teacher may be able to do this for you. Later on, once you get some of these under your belt, you'll be able to do them yourself.

    Yo! Keep on with the soul of the music!


    Soul of the Music vs. Technical Circus
    Posted by Aaron Clegg - May 14, 2010 - 9:36 PM

    You can be an excellent technical musician and still not connect with people. Why? It might have to do with your inner attitude or stylistic choices.

    A lullaby performed with a bright and loud soprano opera voice will probably not put the baby to sleep. Oregano is a brilliant herb, but it doesn't really taste good in rice pudding. Is this starting to make sense? There are always choices to make about the ornamentation, style, flavor, and so forth.

    Then there are the showoff performers. Some people play as if they're cooking a soup with EVERY spice in their kitchen. Yuck! I say, "Good for you - you own some coriander. Now learn when to use it and when not to." Same goes for ornamentation in music. Don't bury the tune in auditory showmanship.

    Sometimes less is more.

    That being said, don't be afraid to experiment with weird combinations. Raisin and garlic bread might taste good - you'll never know until you try it. Same can be said of an operatic "Smoke on the Water." But really notice how it the music feels. Stay conscious.

    Breathe. Connect. Find the soul of the music.


    Can Practice Be Fun??? (Yes, and Effective!)
    Posted by Aaron Clegg - May 14, 2010 - 9:16 PM

    We've all run into the situation of not wanting to practice. But maybe that's because we're not practicing in the best way for our brain!

    Here are some practice techniques that bring some brain awareness.

    My rules for practice are:
    1) Music should be fun. If it stops being fun, set it aside and come back to it later. Frustration does not lead to success, in my experience.

    2) The LEFT hemisphere of the brain is responsible for the SEQUENCE of notes (or chords), which can be studied analytically with the mind, broken down and understood piece by piece. When learning a tricky passage of notes, play each note in sequence, completely ignoring the rhythm.

    3) The RIGHT hemisphere of the brain is responsible for RHYTHM, and as such rhythm is best learned in a holistic, auditory way. You can learn the rhythm by hearing a recording, or you can use your sheet music to break it down analytically and then CLAPPING it or HUMMING it to get it into your auditory memory.

    4) Now the magic happens! When learning, start with the note sequence and no rhythm to program the notes into the left brain. Then isolate the rhythm by humming the music, and get that rhythm deep into your soul. Finally play the notes in rhythm at a very slow pace. This programs the muscle memory. Gradually increase the tempo until you can play it at performance tempo. (This process will span minutes, days, or even weeks, depending on the piece.)

    5) If you have to work on a tricky spot in the music, do the same as in step 4 but focus on just the measures of music that need work. Gradually lengthen the stretch that you're working on, so that you start to learn the tricky spot in the context of the rest of the piece.

    6) Know when to stop practicing! When you work on a certain stretch for a while, it solidifies it by forming new connections in your brain. But once you've gone over it enough, you'll feel your brain start to fatigue or "zone out." That's a clear sign that it's time to move on to a different part of the music, or put the instrument down for a while. If you continue too much into that "zoned out" space, you won't be learning as much, and it probably will kill your fun, too.

    If, at any point, it stops being fun, set it aside and come back to it later. (I know I already said this, but it warrants a second mention.)

    I have many more precise and refined tips for effective practice, tailored to suit your individual needs.


    Amazing Student Recital Recording at UC Berkeley (Irish Wooden Flute)
    Posted by Aaron Clegg - May 14, 2010 - 9:02 PM

    This spring I have been working with a particularly advanced student at U.C. Berkeley. Check out her recorded recital.

    Yes, you too can be this good one day, if you are as dedicated as she is!


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    4 postings total

    Slick way to learn tricky rhythms
    November 2, 2012
    Soul of the Music vs. Technical Circus
    May 14, 2010
    Can Practice Be Fun??? (Yes, and Effective!)
    May 14, 2010
    Amazing Student Recital Recording at UC Berkeley (Irish Wooden Flute)
    May 14, 2010
    View All Blog Postings