Browsing Tag


Why Music Theory Can Be A Waste of Time

Why Music Theory Can be a Waste of TimeBack when kids still asked what Google was, a lot of us had to take music theory classes. Now, I can still point out which fingers Schumann cut off. Maybe some people will point out that they were paralysed, but to a pianist, the fingers might as well have been cut off if you can’t move them.

I can’t remember how many years he spent torturing his fingers, but Google can. And it was a waste of months of my time, memorizing mundane details about composers’ lives, about which years they wrote which letters to their secret lovers, that happened to influence their music a little.

I wouldn’t have done it if the music curriculum didn’t require it to get a piano diploma.

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How to Practice Less and Get More Done

How to Practice Less and Get More Done

Ever feel like there’s just so much music to practice?

Or do your students not practice piano?

We’re so hung up on practicing that we forget WHY we practice sometimes– to improve.

That’s why most practicing is a waste of time.

No joke.

I remember when I’d sit at the piano, “practicing” for hours. At one point, my teacher told me that I need to put in at least 5 hours of practice each day. I was a highschool student and I liked staying near the top of my class.

Needless to say, life was stressful and blurry.

Until I found out that most of what I did at the piano was a waste of time if I wanted to polish the piece.

And that’s why I’m telling you, practice less and get more done instead.

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Secret to Getting Fans: The 60-20-20 Rule

Secret to Getting Fans

Finding fans is an art.

Wouldn’t it be great if people supported anything you did?

Once you get the motion started, people will flock to you.

No kidding.

The Secret’s Story

I’m going to tell you the man who inspired this.

He sat in a wheelchair and I don’t remember his looks, but I’m never going to forget what he brought. The strength and energy he spoke with, the way he let his words run loose, he was reaching out to us with his heart.

He connected to us through his story and his storytelling, the way he controlled his audience and knew when to do what.

He gained a lot of supporters that day and I’m almost sure that it happens every time he really speaks; his message was Don’t drink and drive, but it was deeper than that.

His drunken driving killed his legs and his friend who was in the car beside him.

But it was the exclusive message afterwards when I learned how he reached out to us.

He told us his secret to getting fans. It works for everyone, whether you’re raising money for a cause or performing live next week.

The 60-20-20 Rule

We were a group striving for social change, and his exclusive talk helped us a lot.

The man taught us the 60-20-20 rule to getting fans and running amazing events, and this is something I still use today.

Secret to Getting Fans: The 60-20-20 Rule

  • 20% of people support you already. In our case, these were the people in the class, our friends, our families, and possibly the teachers.
  • Another 20% of people will be against you; usually it’s not personal– they just don’t want to listen. In our case, they didn’t attend our events, they were negative about our initiatives, and were passive to our messages.
  • And here’s where it gets interesting: the remaining 60% just don’t know. They don’t know if they should support you or not, and they’re lingering on neutral until either group convinces them. This is the group that we target our campaigns to.

Some people will always stay in the neutral 60% group and that’s why we have publicity campaigns for every event out there.

The man recognized his 60-20-20 in the audience and reached out to his 60% (which I was part of– I didn’t know what to expect), winning over hearts and supporters.

What does this mean?

With any audience, you start off with the approximate ratio 60-20-20 until either of the 20% groups gains more fans.

When you focus on convincing the 60% portion of people to support you or even join the always-supporting 20% of people, you’ll make a lot more progress because your efforts are targeted.

These groups are flexible and some people might go back and forth. However, the 20% of people who start out against you are difficult to change and under most circumstances, it’s best to leave them alone.

You’re probably thinking, ‘But Grace, isn’t it more effective when you target more people because there’s a bigger chance of gaining more supporters?’

Sounds logical, but the opposite is actually true: the more targeted your audience is, the more supporters you’ll gain. Why?

  • It’s quicker and easier to focus on the people who might already be interested in you.
  • Jumping from (sometimes extreme) dislike to like is a big step and most people aren’t ready to change at all.
  • People who are against you (or what you work for) start out with a plethora of preconceptions and it’s both time-consuming and difficult to change them. Why don’t you focus your time and energy on people who deserve it instead?
  • When you target a certain audience, the way you connect with them is more focused, and you can create a type of ‘intimacy’ (more on that below), adding to your supporting 20%.

How it Works

Let’s put this into context. I have two examples for you…

Example #1: Projects that Change the World

Secret to Getting Fans: The 60-20-20 Rule

Going back to the leadership class, one thing separated the most successful event organizers and the students who jumped around helping one cause after another: the leaders were passionate about one (or two) causes and focused all their energies on those.

So when someone started planning a project that was even remotely related to clothing, my name came up, even amongst the teachers. “Oh, you’re doing a project with clothes? Why don’t you talk to Grace? She’s done projects like this…”

People consulted me for their projects, and I actually got invited to participate or lead others’ projects, because of my experience with clothing; sock drives, charity button (the type you pin onto your clothes) making, Hunger Games (charity event), you name it.

  • I gained a lot of supporters over the year; people would follow my progress and projects or offer to help.
  • I always got the number of volunteers I needed for my projects because I’d established a fanbase of people who were shared my goals and were actually interested in the projects.
  • My event turnouts increased as the year progressed, and by the time I graduated, I was almost sad because my initiative wasn’t a club and it most likely would not continue after I leave.
  • By narrowing my focus, I actually gained more supporters because I became the go-to person for that type of project. Unknowingly, I targeted a narrower field in the 60% of neutral people.

Example #2: Teaching Piano

  •  As a piano teacher, my 20% of supporters are my existing students and parents.
  • The 20% of people who aren’t with me don’t necessarily have anything personal against me; they just don’t believe in piano and the arts in general.
  • If I wanted more piano students, there is a whole 60% of people out there who might pass by the studio and come in for a quick chat, or hear about the studio from a current student/parent; I might even put an ad in the newspaper or put up posters around town.

As you can see, the 60-20-20 rule is applicable anywhere.


  • Focus on people who are already interested in you; determine who your supporters are and identify the neutral 60%.
  • Target your campaigns on the neutral portion (60%) for maximum results; these people can also turn against you, so they’re important.
  • Don’t forget about your supporting 20%; these people are special.

Practicing for Smooth Performances with Erica Sipes

Musicians teach great lessons and tell interesting stories; the level of talent we have amongst us is simply amazing– you’ll be surprised at what you learn from another musician.

To celebrate our unique ideas as musicians, we’re going to feature different artists from around the world, inspired by the Olympics.

Erica Sipes is a seasoned pianist (and closet cellist) whose journey in music has taken her all over the world. She’s an adjunct faculty member at Radford University and she’s an accompanist, coach, and teacher.

Practicing for Smooth Performances with Erica Sipes

(Edit: She also has a master’s degree in Piano Performance from the Eastman School of Music, for you curious folks.)

I stumbled upon her blog through a mutual friend and I was pleasantly surprised; her untraditional bio rejects “virtuosic madness” while supporting values that I believe in too.

She’s such an intriguing person that I thought her voice would be perfect for Artiden– and I was right.

Read on to see what Erica says about performing with her successful practice style.

“… I practice in such a way that I rarely make the same mistake twice.”

— Erica Sipes

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How to Succeed With Olympians’ Winning Ways

Succeed Like An Olympian

Musicians are athletes in lots of ways.

We train endlessly for a few important competitions or we might play what we love, just for fun, and it all comes down to enjoyment and fair play.

The Olympians are living their dreams and it’s no wonder– with the right mindset, healthy habits, and such willpower, they deserve it.

Here’s what you can learn from the Olympians, because their winning ways and inspiring stories will help you in music too.

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Muscle Memory: Only for “Smart Musicians”?

What can you tell us about muscle memory? I was given a piece that I haven’t played in 12 years and it was like my fingers knew where to go without my knowledge!

–Marla Maertin

I can definitely tell you lots about muscle memory!

It can improve or worsen your playing without you knowing it.

Let’s take a look…

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How to Warm Up Quickly on the Piano

Warm Up

It’s no secret that pianists need to warm up before the playing gets good.

But how long it takes to warm up varies.

This little tip will speed up your warm-up routine by at least 15%.

Having Stone-Cold Fingers

A few days ago, my piano performer friend came to me for advice on warming up.

She complained that her fingers felt constantly cold and she played 50+ minutes of warm up exercises before circulation in her fingers flowed enough to literally warm them up.

(Yes, I know that feeling! Stiff, frozen fingers…)

As a busy pianist, her long warm up routine cuts into her practice time and adds a lot of stress.

She can’t play properly with stone-cold fingers.

And, playing the same warm ups for an hour every single day gets boring.

Does this sound familiar?

I have a simple solution for warming up quickly– it works perfectly every time, and it’s free.

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