How will you spend the new year?

Every year I resolve to not have new year’s resolutions. Most of the time it’s because I come up with resolutions that are completely unrealistic and destined to fail. You know, like practicing my scales on a daily basis, or working out every day. Yeah, not so much.

To avoid failure, I usually just promise myself not to make any promises in the new year. This has worked quite well in years past. But this year, things are a’ changin’.

This year, I’m going to make some new year’s resolutions, but only two. I’m going to write them here today so that they are on record and therefore, I will have to follow through.  Here they are. Drum roll please…

  1. I will write the first draft of that book I’ve been promising to write, pretty much most of my life. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be written.
  2. I will spend more time sharing my music. Whether its a session, a show or a street performance. I will play out more than I did in 2011. (This is a round about way of pushing myself to practice more – but hey whatever works).

So now that I have written down my new year’s resolutions. Tell me what yours are.

Top 10 Gifts to buy an Irish musician

With Christmas fast approaching and panic starting to set in, you may be wondering what you should buy for your fellow Irish musician as a gift this year.

Here are some ideas to help you out:

  1. Patrick Ourceau’s Live at Mona’s CD – One of my all time favorite albums. It’s a recording of a live session at Mona’s in NYC. If you listen closely you can hear people shooting pool in the background, telephone’s ringing, etc. It’s kind of like you’re there listening to it, well, live.
  2. Tickets to Lunasa for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day concert at the Flynn Center in Burlington – It should be a great show!
  3. Gift certificate to a local music shop – Strings are expensive and we’re all pretty particular about what strings we use. It’s much easier to let us pick them out ourselves.
  4. Gift certificate to iTunes – a musicians best friend.
  5. Subscription to Fiddler Magazine.
  6. Humidifier for instrument case – This is a must-have, especially in Vermont in the winter.
  7. Metronome – Heck, we could all use a timing check.
  8. Rosin – You can never have enough.
  9. Music stand – Although most traditional musicians learn tunes by ear, it’s nice to have a stand when you’re practicing your, ahem, scales.
  10. Tuner – We all sound better when we’re in tune.

I hope that helps. Have a very Merry Christmas!

When is a good time to quit?

Learning an instrument takes time and patience. I mean let’s face it if was easy everyone would be doing it.

There comes a time though, when you’re learning a tune and you just can’t quite grasp it. So what do you do?

Quit, I say. Just quit!

Not forever of course. Only for the moment.

Believe it or not, sometimes its better to walk away, put down your instrument, play another tune or just quit for the day. You’ll actually play it better tomorrow.

Recently NPR’s show, Radio Lab, had an episode on Sleep that confirms ‘sleeping on it’ actually helps you remember things. “Sleep helps you remember by forgetting.”

There is a limited amount of space in the brain. Every experience you have during the day uses up this space, making it difficult to focus on one thing, like, say, the tune you’re trying to learn.

During sleep, waves of electrical activity wash over your head, and over the course of the night the waves wash through the experience of the day, settling everything down.  This allows your mind to rest  and your head to be cleared so you can play better tomorrow.

So if you’re having trouble with that one elusive note, or you just can’t quite grasp the rhythm of that tune, put it down and quit for the day. You’ll be better tomorrow.