December 2013

New Year's Resolutions: A Musician's Guide to Self-Improvement

December 31, 2013 20:44

Happy New Year! (Photo by William Warby)

Happy New Year! (Photo by William Warby)

Making New Year’s resolutions is a social trend that has become more popular throughout the last century. Is becoming a better musician on your self-improvement checklist for 2014?

To help you in your quest to take your performance to a new level, here is a MUSICAL interpretation of some of the nation's most common New Year’s resolutions out there.

Get a better bod.

  • Improve your left and right hand technique.

  • Focus on posture. Stand up straight.

  • Develop muscle memory through repetition. (Think sets of pushups and situps.)

  • Exercise (i.e. practice) three or more times a week.

  • Warm up before you play.

  • Join a musical sports team: an orchestra, quartet, or other performance group.

  • Train for a marathon (i.e. a recital or concert).

Have a more positive attitude.

  • Refrain from throwing your instrument when frustrated.

  • Believe in your ability to achieve your performance goals.

  • Repeat encouraging mantras. (“I can do this.” “Never say never.” ““Success is not obtained overnight.” ? Israelmore Ayivor)

Make strides in your career.

Do well in school.

  • Take private lessons (if you don’t already).

  • Do your homework (i.e. practice).

  • Keep a practice journal.

  • Make sure you have the right school supplies (i.e. accessories).

Do something you’ve never done before.

  • Play a new piece.

  • Play with new people.

  • Practice outdoors.

  • Compose music.

  • Listen to new artists.

  • Try a new instrument.

  • Practice new techniques.

Get organized.

  • Prepare and decorate a comfortable practice space.

  • Keep your practice room, case, and music collection uncluttered.

Reduce stress.

  • Don’t take practice too seriously.

  • Take breaks.

  • Play more ballads.

  • Get back and shoulder massage to loosen your playing muscles.

  • Set reasonable goals.

  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.

  • Keep your love for music alive.

Improve time management.

  • Set aside time to practice.

  • Breakup practice time dedicated to specific pieces and exercises.

  • Be realistic with your schedule.

  • Keep a planner and mark your calendar with rehearsal times and events.

Read more books.

  • Expand your sheet music library.

  • Learn about composers.

  • Study music history.

  • Learn how to expand your creativity. (You might try The Artist’s Way).

Do more community service.

  • Perform at nursing homes and hospitals.

  • Do “show-and-tell” performances at preschools and elementary schools.

  • Support musical organizations that need funding.

  • Organize a concert to support a charity.

Find love.

  • Develop an intimate relationship with your instrument.

  • Get obsessed with a composer.

  • Ask someone out on a date to an orchestra concert.

Photo by Josh James

Music is good for the heart! (Photo by Josh James)


Need reminders to keep your goals? Print out this list and hang in your practice space. Best of luck as you strive to improve your musicianship!

Note: Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind the value of patience, persistence, endurance, and a commitment to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and recommit to your artistic goals throughout the year. As Richelle E. Goodrich says in her book, Smile Anyway,

Do it again.

Play it again.

Sing it again.

Read it again.

Write it again.

Sketch it again.

Rehearse it again.

Run it again.

Try it again.

Because again is practice, and practice is improvement, and improvement only leads to perfection."


Happy New Year from all of us at Kennedy Violins!

3 replies

Gift Ideas for Classical Musicians

December 2, 2013 14:38

You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music--even if you're not a preteen schoolgirl!
You might scream when you unwrap a book of Taylor Swift sheet music--even if you're not a preteen schoolgirl! (Check it out in our online store.)


Don't stress. Yes, it's coming. Yes, there may be expectations to meet--real or imagined. Either way, gift-giving should be a pleasant activity; preferably, not something that leaves you popping Advil to keep your holidayess-induced migraine at bay.

Music is a great gift in so many forms. If you're wondering what to get the classical musician in your life, check out this list of gift ideas that will bring a smile to any musician's face. Happy Holidays!


1. Sheet Music – Like the Taylor Swift collection.

Come on. You know you love her. And so will your violin-playing daughter for that matter. But beyond T-Swift, there's plenty of sheet music out there (including Christmas tunes!) that will liven up the season!

2. A Spotify Membership

If you haven't tried Spotify, you should. It's amazing. With a monthly membership, you can access pretty much all the music in the universe with unlimited streaming and the ability to download music to your personal device. You'll never have to buy a CD ever again and can discover new artists so easily. A monthly subscription makes a great gift for a music lover.

3. A Performance

The best gifts don't come wrapped in paper and topped with bows. A personal performance for someone--or a group of someones--is super, super special and something that won't be forgotten. It doesn't have to be spectacular either, perhaps something as simple as a Christmas Carols sung on a front porch. Other ideas?

  • Get a quartet together to play for your family, at your Church, a nursing home, at a school function--whatever.

  • Prepare a recital to give during the holidays.

  • Organize a family concert with a Christmas theme.

  • Compose a piece and perform it for someone.

  • Teach your children Christmas songs.

4. A New Violin

Seriously, a new instrument one of the best gifts you could ever give or receive. No matter how old or young or experienced or inexperienced someone is, they will be absolutely enamored. It's amazing to see the look on a person's face when they hold a new violin in their hands. A thirty-year-old and a ten-year-old will have the same giddy expression of awe. Ditch the jewelry and jigsaw puzzles and puppies (too messy)! Give a gift that has unlimited potential as both a work of art and something to do (practice!) when the holiday parties are over.


5. A New Case

If you or your loved one already own a great violin, a new case is another great idea. Cases wear out and get tattered like old sweaters--especially cheap cases. Go for a full-suspension case that's both durable and easy on the eyes. Bam cases are totally fun with a selection of bright colors. They're super strong and popular.

6. Mozart Balls (Mozartkugel)

These European chocolates are a total classic with such an original taste. One feels very classy whilst eating Mozartkugel!

7. Concert Tickets

It is such a pleasant surprise to open up a Christmas card or envelope and find a pair of tickets to the symphony, ballet, or any kind of concert. Giving an experience if often more meaningful than giving an object. Find out what's going on in your (or your loved one's) community and pick out an event that suits your giftee's taste.

8. Cross Stitching

Whether you cross stitch a kit or give one as a gift, there's something charming about good-old-fashioned embroidery. Check out music-themed cross stitch kits on such as this "Music is Harmony" pattern. Grandma-chic is totally in!


9. Accessories: Metronome, Tuner, Music Stand

It seems that musicians can never really have it all--there are always accessories and upgrades that can enhance one's musical life. Carbon fiber bows, shiny new rosin cakes, or even violin pickups can be exciting and original gifts!

10. Carbon Fiber Bow

Speaking of carbon fiber bows, I know it may sound strange, but these space-age bows (not to be confused with fiberglass bows) are like the iPhone of violin accessories--modern, high-tech, effective, sleek, and useful. Check out the Giuliani Carbon Fiber Bow, comparable to the Coda Bow brand, but more affordable.

11. Artwork

Prints, artwork, statuettes, crafts for display with musical themes are memorable items--you could even paint something yourself!

II painted a violin to give as a gift to a violinist1=.

12. Headphones

Classical musicians can be gearheads too! Just because we're all old-school with our sheet music (paperless concerts, anyone?) and archaic wooden instruments doesn't mean we don't love a good listen with a pair of awesome headphones--think Bose. There's nothing like sinking into a recliner, leaning back, closing your eyes, and enjoying a Beethoven Symphony with amazing clarity. Sometimes digital recordings offer even more acoustic clarity than you might experience in a concert hall.

13. Spankin' New Strings

It's amazing how many violinists play on old strings without changing them for years. Fresh strings can completely transform the sound of an instrument. A sampling of various string brands would make fun stocking stuffers!

14. Cheesy T-shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, etc.

Check out's selectiong. They're worthy of White Elephant Gift status at the least.

15. Christmas Ornament Sets

You'll find plenty of ornament collections available online like these violin ornaments on Cute, pretty, cheery. Just gift them before Christmas so they can be admired on the tree.


So get out there and tackle that Christmas list! You can do it! It's going to be amazing! But if the thought of shopping is just too much, no worries. Just give someone a hug or (even better) directions to stand under the mistletoe. After all, nothing beats good, old-fashioned, warm fuzzies.

Happy Holidays!


The KV Staff

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