Monday, August 1, 2016

A Fun & Easy Tranformation Exercise (Great for all musicians!)



Here is a fun and easy transformation exercise you can try yourself, with students, or anytime you want to show someone how to break through perceived limitations. A number of my favorite authors and speakers share this exercise and I'm excited today to share it with you!

Hopefully, you are some place where you can read one step at a time and really try it before reading the next one. If not, maybe save this post for later when you can actively participate. 

First Step: Stand with both feet apart and plenty of space around you for movement. Find something to look at directly across from you in the room, lift your right arm up and point at that thing. Then, with your feet still planted, twist your upper body as far as you can to the right, following your pointed finger with your eyes. When you've twisted to the right as far as you can, look at the new thing you're pointing to and make a note of it.  Next, come back to facing forward and relax your arm back to your side. 

Second Step: Close your eyes and imagine doing the exercise again. Visualize bringing your right arm up and pointing at the first spot and pretend you are actually twisting to the right again. In this imaginary version, see yourself twisting past the original landing point and going a little further. Then, imagine yourself returning to your original position. Repeat this two more times, going even further in the second imaginary version, and going super far the third time. 

Third Step: After opening your eyes, really do the exercise again.  This will be the second time you've really done it, but the fifth time you've gone through the process if you count the imaginary versions. Notice the new spot you are pointing to when you finish. Really try all three steps before reading any further!



 
I love this exercise!  I've tried it with a lot of students this week and every single time, they were pointing significantly further to the right after the visualization rounds. I reminded them that the instructions said to go as far as they could the first time and asked why they could go so much further when they did it again. The general response from all the students has been so simple... 

"Because I saw myself doing it!"

Remember this exercise next time you are facing a perceived limitation in your practicing, performing, or life. If you can see yourself doing it, that will go a long way toward actually doing it!

Happy Practicing!
Terri Sánchez

P.S. Want to read more about breaking through perceived limitations? Learn how to complain specifically and convert those complaints into practice productivity by clicking HERE.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Learning From My Students: A Flute Teacher Takes Her Own Advice




It's always so amazing to me how much I learn in every flute lesson I teach. By prompting my students to let go of limiting beliefs, break every complex task into user friendly baby steps, and make connections in every way possible, I remind myself to do the same. In fact, it's funny how much I like to give my students advice about the very things I need to work on myself!  

Some great examples of this are the lessons I am learning as I finish preparing my book for publication. The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion has been in the works for two years now. This project has gone from ideas written on a poster in my office (and flute exercises I wrote during hours of what I affectionately call "productive procrastination") to a real rough draft, to an edited rough draft, to a completely different rough draft, and now a third completely different rough draft currently in the editing and formatting stages. I've wanted it to be done for so long that I sometimes lose sight of the real meaning of the project and find myself wanting to hurry up and finish. 

During one lesson this week, I listened to a student who was busy convincing themselves that they could only handle a certain tempo of double tonguing. I knowingly smiled and reminded the student that it's not just about muscle memory, it's about attitude. Later, I realized the irony when I sat down at my computer and felt like it was just too hard to finish my book goal for today. It's not just about getting it done, it's about attitude, I reminded myself.

A few days ago, I taught a student that seemed paralyzed by the perceived difficulty in a new piece she was learning.  I looked her in the eyes and said firmly, "I'm not letting you bail. You can handle this!" I stubbornly insisted that she break the most challenging passage down into the smallest baby pieces, repeating each until they felt easy, then coached her while she put the pieces back together.  

I teased her, saying, "See? I knew you could handle this!" The next day, I found myself really frustrated as I tried to figure out some formatting elements for one of my exercises, not having much luck. I found myself staring at the computer screen, yet again, feeling more and more sorry for myself. I'm not letting you bail. You can handle this! I remembered telling my student.  Humbly, I took a deep breath and kept experimenting until I found my solution.

Just now, when it was time to write this blog post, I found myself thinking, I don't have to write this today.  I'm in charge of when I post and when I don't, why don't I just skip it for now? But I also remembered a personal goal I've set to post something every Monday unless I've taken a specific break or vacation.  I don't like the feeling of letting myself down, so I searched for a topic I could get excited to write about.  

I thought back to a lesson earlier in the week when I told a student of mine, "You are such a great conversationalist.  Bring the energy, personality, and tools you use for that skill to the challenge you're facing right now!" Remembering this lesson helped me stick with my personal challenge of writing this post. I looked at my computer, took a deep breath, and told myself, Bring the energy, personality, and tools you use when teaching to this challenge right now!

And so, I did :-).


Happy practicing this week... students AND teachers!

Terri Sánchez

P.S. Click these links if you'd like to read more about motivation to get started or what to do when you're feeling insecure about facing challenges.

Monday, July 11, 2016

5 Pop Music Flute Descants: Try them all for a super fun and challenging practice session!



The more I practice them, the more I enjoy them!  

If you haven't tried the pop music flute descants yet, you are missing out!  For today's post, I'm providing links to all five previously posted descants in one place for your convenience.

Try them in the following order for a super fun and challenging practice session!

Click HERE to read the original blog post. 

Click HERE to read the original blog post.

Katy Perry Roar Double-Tonguing Fun Exercise
Click HERE to read the original blog post. 

Sia Chandelier Flute Descant
Click HERE to read the original blog post.

Happy Practicing!
Terri Sánchez

Long Tones Boring You? Try these instead!



Long Tones Boring You?

For aspiring flutists, there is no better warm-up on the planet than long tones.  Closing your eyes, inhaling fully, listening intently, and discovering the heart of every long note (especially in the low register) lays a solid foundation for the rest of your practice session.  Long tones are great for breathing, tone production, intonation, embouchure development, consistency, endurance, and lots of other flute playing skills.  

Unfortunately, many flutists have trouble engaging in this magical, therapeutic, transformative practice each and every day, because they feel bored or impatient. 




It's pretty tragic, but true.  

In today's fast paced, instant gratification, gotta get exactly what I want exactly when I want it world, long tones require a kind of stillness and patience that is getting harder and harder to access.

Though I could use this blog post to talk about mindfulness, focus, and delayed gratification, instead, let's just focus on...



 
MAKING LONG TONES FUN! 


Anyone who's read much of my blog knows I'm a huge fan of playing flute with a pop music soundtrack.  A strong beat and a familiar song can make even the most repetitive exercises entertaining and the most intimidating etudes accessible!  
 

Download the descants by clicking the link below!


If you just don't have it in you to diligently practice long tones, and you need something a little more simple than my Epic Warm-up, I hope you'll enjoy these Adele & Pharrell Long Tone Flute Descants instead!  Play them along with Rolling in the Deep and Happy, and enjoy the benefit of long tone practice with the fun and spirit of singing along (mentally) to your favorite tunes. 

Happy Practicing!

Terri Sánchez

P.S. It is much, much easier than you think to practice long tones with ANY song you like!  You can figure out the key yourself (or just Google it) and simply stick to playing notes in that key.  If you play something that doesn't sound right, no worries.  Just figure out what notes do work and enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2016

2 New Flute Pop Music Descants on July 11th!




Taking a month off for teaching, travel, and the July 4th holiday, but I'm excited about my next blog post on Monday, July 11th, which will include TWO flute pop music descants! In the meantime... 

Happy Practicing!
Terri Sánchez

Monday, June 6, 2016

How To Fall In Love With The Metronome



This blog post is dedicated to all the music students (and teachers of those students) that have a love/hate (or just plain hate) relationship with their metronome!  Check out the list of common reasons students avoid the metronome, some creative solutions to these problems, and also take time to watch the incredible movie clip that can shed an entirely new light on the subject!  





7 Common Reasons Students Avoid the Metronome
(with some creative solutions!)



1. It feels restrictive and robotic.

Try pop music as a metronome!  
Click HERE to read a blog post on the subject. 


2. Practicing at slow tempos seems to "take forever."

Create a Flying Fingers Tempo Chart for motivation!
Click HERE to download a FREE chart tutorial!



3. The unrelenting consistency reveals technical and rhythmic inaccuracies.

Go back to basics and improve your comfort levels!
Click HERE to download a FREE "Ultimate Rhythm Guide"
(and also read 10 tips for how to use it)!



4. Breathing and tempo changes become challenging to "fit in."

Practice a strictly in time version of your piece to begin, then enjoy alternating the strictly in time version with the more expressive versions until your interpretation is refined!
If you get frustrated along the way, take a break to read this post on Breaks, Mistakes, and the Art of Stress Free Practicing!



5. It feels like a battle that can't be won. 

Click HERE to read about some common "Musician Failure Mentalities" and some alternative ways of looking at things!



6. It feels basic/elementary and it's too tempting to just get to the "real music version."

It is a HUGE myth that lower level students need the metronome and higher level students don't.  True professional musicians use their metronomes all the time!  Click HERE to read a creative description of common blind spots students don't even realize they have.  After reading, invest in a more inspiring new perspective!



7. Not really sure what tempos to practice!


Try this easy peasy, super reliable metronome strategy!

1 - Choose which type of note the click should represent. (An eighth note? A quarter note?)

2 - Review the rhythms in your passage and remind yourself how many of the written notes fit into each click (i.e. for a sixteenth note passage, two notes would fit into an eighth note click OR four notes would fit into a quarter note click). 

2 - Try any tempo to start and play a sample passage.

3 - Is your playing messy? Try a slower tempo!
Is your playing heavy and lethargic? Try a faster tempo!

4 - Keep refining until you find a tempo that FEELS GOOD for where you are and gives you room for baby steps leading to the tempo you'd like to be at.  (Not sure what tempo is a good goal tempo?  Listen to a recording of your piece and/or Google any tempo instructions like Andante, Presto, etc. to find a traditional tempo range).  

5 - Feel free to change your mind about your tempo as your technique improves, your familiarity with the music is deepened, and as you discover new practice goals!  Practicing at a variety of tempos will build confidence, connection, and flexibility! 


Here is my absolute favorite, truly inspiring movie clip (from the movie Another Earth) that will help your relationship with the metronome from now on!  Teachers, this can be a really powerful teaching tool if you sit and watch it WITH your students!  

Feel free to watch below or click HERE for the YouTube link.





Happy Practicing!

Terri Sánchez


P.S. I've been receiving more and more requests for online flute lessons and practice coaching sessions.  I'm happy to report that I've opened up 5 dates this summer for Skype lessons!  I still have a few spots available for the following Fridays (June 10th, June 24th, July 8th, July 22nd, and August 5th).  Email me at terriflute@gmail.com to reserve your lesson spots! 



Monday, May 30, 2016

Quit Trying to Relax: How to Work WITH Your Tension (Instead of Against It)






This post is dedicated to all students, teachers, and performers dealing with unwanted body tension!


I'd like to begin by sharing a little insight into my perspective on this topic.  As a music teacher, I feel clear and confident with many of the concepts I teach, and often see positive results that give me encouraging feedback about my methods. One area of teaching that has historically been frustrating for me, however, is teaching tense, tight students to release their tension and play with ease.  

Those students that have really "bought in" to my philosophy of flute playing (and been vulnerable enough to immerse themselves in the process of softening their faces, lowering their shoulders, releasing their lower backs, loosening their hands, etc.) have definitely enjoyed the benefits, BUT I have no problem admitting that a good portion of my students still struggle with the never ending battle between tense, illusion-of-control tightness and the seemingly ethereal, zen like relaxation lauded by me and countless other flute instructors.  

In my ongoing search to find real and practical hooks for my students (that don't involve a year of Yoga, Pilates, Alexander Technique, meditation, or massage before they receive any benefits), I am starting to figure out some of the main obstacles to releasing tension and (little by little) learning how to shed light on them in simple, easy language. 

So... without further adieu...




5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Trying to Relax

1 - Forcing yourself to relax causes forcing, not relaxing.

2 - Trying to relax causes trying, not relaxing. 

3 - When a tense, tight musician does anything resembling relaxing based on their current point of reference, it will always have some some kind of a tense, tight interpretation or substitution (i.e. they might release the tension in their hands but substitute it with tension in their neck). 

4. Even if a tense, tight flutist (or other instrumentalist) COULD totally relax, it would be physically impossible to play their instrument without any kind of tension.  Jello cannot play Prokofiev. 

5.  Focusing on relaxing for the sake of relaxing can often take a tense, tight flutist so far away from their frame of reference that they have trouble applying all of the GOOD musicianship skills they already have in the new context.


Before I share with you my thoughts on how to work WITH your tension (instead of against it), I'd like to clarify that, while I'm still exploring this topic as a teacher, I have been to hell and back (and lived to tell the tale!) with this topic as a performer.  

As you read the super quick version of my "musician physical tension story" below, keep in mind that today, I play with almost no pain and a feeling of ease and freedom of movement about 95% of the time!  (To see my comfort level with movement, click HERE for a recent performance of my husband and I playing the Martinu Flute Sonata live in recital).


Here is my musician physical tension story:

I played TENSE and TIGHT when I was younger, thinking that this gave me control over my instrument. 

In high school, I suffered various flute playing injuries (pain in hands, pain in upper back, tight jaw, and more). 

In college, I practice much more and caused more severe injuries (same painful areas plus lower back, neck pain, pins, needles, and shooting pains in lots of areas). 

Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, I developed severe carpal tunnel syndrome and had to wear braces on my wrists for 8 months (no flute playing, no driving, no turning on water faucets... no joke). 

Convinced that having surgery was not right for me, I bought a flute with a much lighter touch (I love my Miyazawa!) and COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED the way I played my flute.  I dug deep and, in the course of about a year, I synthesized the information gained from flute professors, Alexander Technique classes, and personal research with my own experimentation and exploration.  Motivated by an extreme desire to avoid any more pain and injury,

I DID IT. 

And, I did it by working WITH my tension instead of against it.







5 Tips For Working WITH Your Tension 


1. Practice in short bursts, with plenty of breaks, stopping frequently to reflect on tension levels in particular areas.  For example, if a "10" is holding on for dear life and a "1" is blissed out zen fingers, what have your fingers felt like for the past few minutes?


2.  Anytime you become aware of physical tension, trade judgment or worry for simple curiosity.  If your tension is a 7, is it possible to release just a little and feel more like a 6? After a couple of weeks of 6 being easy, could you sneak into a 5?


3.  Get curious about what areas of your body you WANT to be tense, firm, or engaged.  For example, flutists can benefit from their core muscles being extremely engaged, but can be held back back their hands demonstrating that same amount of engagement.  Keeping in mind that every flutist and musician will have slightly different lists, here are my YES/NO flute tension lists:

YES for moderate to extreme tension, firmness, or engagment:
Fast Airstream
Muscles toward the center of the embouchure
Core muscles (alternating with relaxed)
The feeling of lift in the ribs/chest
Sometimes thighs/butt

NO to tension, extreme firmness or over engagement
(in other words, YES to relaxing):
Face and Neck
Muscles toward the corners of the embouchure
Upper and lower back (when constricted)
Hands, arms, and shoulders
Feet (tension would be caused by imbalance)


4.  Instead of obsessing about an area of tension you want to get rid of, shift your focus to another area that NEEDS engagement.  For example, shift the focus from tight hands to a faster, more pressurized airstream. 



5.  The best tip of all... 




you've heard it countless times in your life... 




it's tempting to ignore it when someone gives you this advice... 




but it's really and truly the best and ONLY way you will be completely successful with a body tension release transformation... 




seriously, remember that I know what I'm talking about because I've been to hell and back with this topic... 




if I can help even one person to accomplish something meaningful by sharing this ESSENTIAL tip for tension release it will be worth it to me... 




in other words,  I hope you really, really...





FOR REAL...  





believe my final tip about relieving yourself of unwanted tension as a musician...






before you read any further, PROMISE yourself you'll take this tip seriously... 




Here it is...
















You must embrace the process.  






If you are a TENSE, TIGHT musician reading this post and sincerely wanting to transform your playing, somewhere along the way, you'll have to realize that the way you have THOUGHT about your tension has actually been the reason why you have been stuck with your tension. 


Analysis, overthinking, forcing, confusion, impatience, frustration, self-deprecation, insisting on instant gratification and beating up on yourself or complaining when you don't get it IS the very reason that you are having so much trouble relaxing!! 

I'd like to personally encourage you to do your research, take good notes in masterclasses, listen to every piece of awesome body mapping advice any music teacher has to offer you, and ultimately trust yourself to be able to synthesize the new information in your OWN way, patiently, kindly, and with baby steps. 




I'll wrap this post up now by wishing you the best of luck in your tension transformation project and simply saying... 




Happy Practicing!  (Seriously.... HAPPY Practicing!!)

Terri Sánchez