Category 32nd Notes

Practice vs. Practish

A great former student of mine, Kurt Zimmerman, once said something amazing. He said, “There’s a big difference in the way people practice. Some people practice and some people practish.”

Just think about the staggering simplicity of this phrase: Practice vs. Practish.

“Ish” is part of our culture now, even part of our language. If you look up “ish” on, this is what you’ll see:


1. A suffix used to form adjectives from nouns, with the sense of “belonging to” (British, Danish, English, Spanish); “after the manner of,” “having the characteristics of,” “like” (babyish, girlish, mulish); “addicted to,” “inclined or tending to” (bookish, freakish); “near or about” (fiftyish, sevenish).

2. A suffix used to form adjectives from other adjectives, with the sense ...

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The Magic Board of SOLFEGE

When I was in college, we practiced interval training for sight-reading using this chart. I’m sure it’s been around forever. It’s called the Magic Board of Solfege. I used to have a big poster of it, and point to different scale degrees in patterns to familiarize the choir with intervals. Then at one point I used an overhead projector. I had one plastic sheet with a staff and one with the circles, so I could move the chart into different keys. These days I use a smart board, so I included the notebook file if you could use it.

This is one of the best ways to sharpen singers’ ears...

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We are in the listening business

Let’s face it people, we are in the listening business. In order to be great singers, we have to listen all the time. And I’m sure you understand there is a big difference between listening and hearing. Hearing is just the main physical activity where sound is processed into your brain. Listening is actively scanning that sound for content.

To what should you be listening? How about…

-The director

-The tonal center

-The singers around you

-The vowel shape (formant)

-Entrances and cutoffs

-Music you love

-Music you don’t love

-Music you don’t know

-Other groups like yours

-Multiple versions of the same song: multiple ensembles performing the same song in the same style or the same song covered in different genres

-Static noises around you like the refrigerator, the air conditioner, th...

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Twists on taking attendance…

How do you take attendance? I’ve run across a few ways, maybe one will work better than your current plan.

-Numbering: every student gets a number. Start class, have everyone number off. The secretary (or you) catches those not present and logs those numbers into the records. Fast and easy. Make sure everyone in the program has a unique number, then you can do it even at mass rehearsals when needed.

-Pull your tag: every student has a tag (or poker chip, whatever) that is velcro-ed to a board that shows your seating chart. Singers pull their tags off the board on the way into rehearsal and drop them in a bucket.

-Metronome: set a metronome at something like 80 bpm. You call last names and the students shout “here” on the beats… Anderson – HERE! – Baker – HERE! – Calland – HERE! etc...

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Thirty-second notes

I have a Springpad account where I store a bunch of my thoughts. I store them like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter. The notebook is called “writing thoughts,” and every so often I dip back in there to see if there’s something that would make good fodder for a section of a new book, a blog post, or what not. Well… right now I don’t have a cohesive thread for another book. Some things seem to be about blog post length, and I’ve been posting those.

Many things, however, are just little bits of stuff. Little analogies that hit me or just thought-provoking topics. Since they aren’t really enough right now to justify a whole post, I’ve decided to create Thirty-second notes (32nd notes). I’ll just drop them in place and then… they are what they are. They are not life-changing...

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