Ms. Crotchet calls time on tutti

Group vs. individual music lessons?

Kudos to colleagues who teach mixed groups of instruments, standards and ages as their norm. I know some who battle groups of 30 Bb/Eb clarinet and sax beginners. They’re braver than me!

So I’m blessed…

That last week, in a group of three, some Year 4 clarinet beginners managed a few opening notes of Pink Panther in their third lesson. I was as surprised as they were. With help from parents who play a little clarinet, they managed the first phrase next lesson. Are they practising? Heaps!

But I am OVER mismatched groups!

I sent an email to parents last year:Ruth + Student_6921

“Dear parents,

To best realise your child’s potential and optimise your investment, consider:

GROUP LESSONS – Pro and Con:

  • Group suits family budgets.
  • They nibble a teensy taste of music.
  • It’s sociable – if players are well matched and compatible.
  • BUT age, instruments and standards often vary.
  • Little scope for timetable changes, or adjustment.
  • 2 students in 30’ group = 15’ each.
  • 3 students in 30’ group = 10’ each. Pieces chosen for the group pace.
  • Time goes on aspects where Matt struggles but Jake plays easily.
  • Fingers twiddle while Mr. Quaver fixes a student’s bent key.
  • If a student misses a lesson that others attend, there’s no scope for make-up.
  • Exams aren’t feasible for groups with little time to cover all aspects. Ms. Crotchet talks staccato sfz, marcato, V between brows.
  • Presto to hear what students practised and give new pieces.
  • If no time to play all they prepared, why practice next week? They lose interest.

Practice dwindles > performance nervespractice

They need Ruth’s books (check the half-price deals and class sets).

Capable students stop lessons if frustrated, wasting talent and parents’ investment.


  • Negotiate timetable for premium times in break/before class.
  • Make-up lessons if 24 hours’ notice of illness or tests.
  • With teacher’s undivided attention, students move at their own, faster pace.
  • Ms. Dolce chooses pieces and styles they like, is enthusiastic, relaxed and fun.
  • Exams and competitions are well prepared, so high results are likely.
  • Students set and meet goals, enjoy challenges, realise potential and SHINE IN PERFORMANCE!”


Andante con momentum

It was a risk. But this year, Mrs Dolce’s schedule is full, her days long, but she emerges grazioso!

Win Music Books for Book Week

Sure, there’s Harry Potter. But what about books for music students? Surely there are some? Yes. And here’s a Book Week special; autographed copies of two of my books for young musicians – at a 2 for 1 deal.

Spring special – Motivate Practice and Empower performance

The books are:

• Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act

• Confident Music Performance: Fix the fear of facing an audience

The practice book:
• tackles head-on students’ excusesG# melodic
• highlights classic time wasters
• shows how to set goals and plan practice time
• how to program the brain for success
• fix mistakes and rhythmic glitches
• jazz up stale practice
• demystify and face scales

Order online in the next week and receive 2 books for the price of 1

Practice Cover

“Stimulating, thought provoking, and engagingly written by an experienced professional musician and teacher … highly recommended for music teachers, parents and music students.” – AccessEd

This book is non-threatening and easy to read. The author is aiming at students, but the psychology behind her wise words would be helpful to many parents and teachers as well. Ruth Bonetti has inspired me. I’m off to make music.
-Good Reading

More reviews at Good Reads and Amazon Where you can get my eBooks

  • Music Scales: Tips to Make Them Happen
  • Speak Out: Don’t Freak Out
  • Sounds and Souls: How music teachers change lives
Post reviews there and WIN 3 copies as thank you

Email me the link and your address, and receive 3 books:

  • One for you – because these books don’t return when lent!
  • One for your most motivated student as a reward and to lift them higher
  • One for that – um – student…


But your students are motivated, they perform with confidence, right?

If not… Here are solutions and doable tips.

Tips to ace exams & auditions

Recitals may seem confronting, but the presence of a live audience usually buoys us along. Subconsciously, even consciously, we respond to the interest and empathy from our listeners that may spur us on to play at even higher levels. But what of exams? And auditions for musicians and actors?


An audition or exam is often in a small room, where scribbling of comments seems painfully obvious. In our highly sensitised state, we often assume they’re writing “Mistake in bar 5” when they may be praising our great projection or fluent finger work!

Or a panel?

Auditions – the equivalent of a job interview – are a trial for both the musicians undergoing them and for the audition panel. Unfortunately, no better method has been found to assess talent, except occasionally a trial period, if a player’s background and reputation warrants. An audition can only artificially duplicate the atmosphere of a concert, as the specialised listeners are there solely to judge rather than to be entertained. But if they can be entertained in the process, so much the better; they are only human after all!

Who hears us?

On the one hand, the performer is keyed up and nervous, hoping to meet the highest standard on the day. On the other hand, the panel usually consists of hardened professionals who have heard it all before and hope that this one will be worth listening to when so many are not!

How to impress

Panellists do want to hear a good performance, one that will make them sit up and listen. They don’t want to be bored and embarrassed by your work. To the extent that you can hold their attention, you’ve got a chance of getting the job! They seek the best talent that they can engage and they are not concerned with your ego or belief that you should be the successful appointee. They will probably not be aware of the standard you are capable of reaching, though if their intuition suggests you could do better, they may ask you to repeat a passage or to try again at a later date.”

Keep trying

For eight months, Bette Midler auditioned for the same Broadway show, Fiddler on the Roof, every time there was a vacancy. Eventually she got a temporary place in the chorus, which gave her the advantage of knowing the production inside out when she auditioned for a star role successfully. From then, the sky was her limit.

Excerpt from Confident Music Performance 

         With solid preparation, positive attitude and a clear head, you can impress!

Tips for confident music performance

Do you dread that next concert, audition or music exam?

There’s a good chance we will even ENJOY performance if we prepared intelligently and regularly in the months before. We may even manage to shrug off those butterflies and nervous greeblies. The secret is to program our brains for success.

Program your music computer

Think of your practice as computer programming. We feed in correct information about hand positions, the sequence and length of notes. Then, if a wave of panic washes over us early in a performance, it need not dump us. We can surf on automatic for a few moments, knowing that our brain will send messages to our fingers or lips without our consciously driving them. How’s that for a confidence trick! (From Practice is a Dirty Word)

Record and listen back

What passages, bars, sections need most attention? With a photocopy of the part (you do own it, yes?) highlight any mistakes and fumbles. Count the number of highlight splats – and apply most of your practice to these bars. A week later record again and listen back with a fresh photocopy. Have your splats reduced?

Go for goals

Set yourself achievable, reasonable, short-term aims each day. Within each time slot, allow yourself several minutes’ relaxation, movement, a breath of fresh air, and a drink of water. Oxygen and water are powerful brain foods. You will then use work-time more efficiently and minimise risk of repetitive strain injury.

Give yourself the satisfaction of crossing goals off the list when they are reached. Reward yourself with a pat on the back or a treat.

Practise what you can’t play…

…Instead of what you can! There’s no time to waste in reassuring yourself by playing the easy bits that lie under your fingers. Tackle the cross-rhythms or that development section that bristles with double sharps in obscure keys.

Make every minute of your practice time count.

Keep at it! You can achieve wonders with focus and determination.

Do SHAKES rattle your presentation?

What is your deepest, murkiest fear as that presentation, competition or recital looms? Shakes? You’re not alone!

Many performers, whether they present through words or music, have been disconcerted by jitters at some stage. String players dread wobbly bow strokes; vocalists that unintended vocal vibrato. Shaky hands or lips inhibit many instrumentalists. Pity the trumpeters, whose fingers are all too obvious right under their noses! At least public speakers can hide their hands in pockets (NOT a good look, however) or grip the lectern (only minimally better).

It’s all part of the fight/flight adrenalin rush

We cannot rabbit off stage. Avoidance is counter-productive.  Authors may be solitary types, happiest with a pen and paper or a keyboard, but they must face audiences and media on the promo tours.

We need tactics to counter jitters.

SHAKES seem obvious to the performer – small comfort that most listeners are oblivious.

Our society tends to silence problems with pills rather than find a solution.

“Beta-blocker” drugs block the adrenalin reaction and anxiety symptoms by slowing the heart rate to reduce sweating and tremors: they do not stop nerves, but lessen symptoms. Medical prescription is essential as they can be dangerous for people prone to diabetes, certain heart conditions, bronchitis, depression, hay fever and asthma.

Test suitability well before a performance – rather than discover an unsuspected cardiac or asthma condition onstage. Reported side effects include dizziness, light-headedness, nightmares, hallucinations, lethargy, insomnia, visual disturbances, diarrhoea, drowsiness, cold hands and feet.

Surely there are practical, doable and non threatening solutions? Well, I’m glad you asked…

Channel Adrenaline

Diffuse excess adrenaline with Brain Gym’s “Positive Points” technique. Place a hand on your forehead, inhaling deeply. This simple action encourages blood flow to the frontal lobes where rational thought occurs. It curbs fight or flight jitters, releases memory blocks and enables you to walk onto the platform accessing your whole brain. If memory slips intrude mid-performance, simply pause between movements, breathe deeply with a hand to your forehead and regain focus. Also, holding these emotional stress-release neurovascular balance points of the stomach meridian curbs stomach queasiness.

Try the contrary approach

The more we try to control shaking, the worse it gets. Instead, try the paradoxical approach. Rather than fight against shaking, allow yourself to do so. Give yourself permission to shake. “So, you want to shake, fingers. Well, go on – shake.” Some performers consciously make their hands tremble, their knees shake or their palms sweat as a way of trying to produce the symptom rather than conceal it.

Wiggle your toes

Focus your attention elsewhere. On your toes, as did John, a talented organist and clarinetist I coached in an American summer music program. He admitted to suffering every symptom possible when performing. Soon after his session, he performed creditably. I congratulated him on his poise and calm; if he experienced any jitters they  were not obvious. “Oh,” he said, “my hands shook in the beginning, then I remembered what you said and focused on my toes. When they started to shake I brought my attention back onto my hands, and by then the piece was over.”

Work those fingers

Jittery fingers may be a product of tense muscles or of too much energy as a result of the adrenaline rush. Before going on-stage, shake or rub your hands together. Squeeze your fingers into a tight fist, then release.

Move thoughts elsewhere

Another solution is to direct thoughts onto another aspect of your performance. Our minds just cannot think of two things at once.

Choose to focus not on your weaknesses, but on your strengths. 


Tips to shine in the spotlight

Whether you present through words or music, try this quick-fix tip to boost public performance for


That sea of faces in an auditorium, or colleagues around a board-room table, or even a confronting one-on-one situation – all can be stressful.


…fronts a mic on the PR trail to read their work at a festival or launch.

The MUSICIAN faces an audition, first night or exam.

When examining,the first thing I do to put nervous players at ease is offer them a glass of water. As well as giving them time to relax and regroup, it makes a surprising difference to accuracy and poise!

Under the spotlight, our systems, multiple signals buzz from brain to body. And the electrical and chemical actions of the brain and the central nervous system are conducted by fluid.

Our bodies are made up of about 70 percent water; this is an excellent conductor of electrical energy, necessary to efficiently pass messages between the central nervous system, brain and sensory organs.

In a “normal” day we need at least eight glasses of water – but this should be increased to see us through periods of stress.

A dehydrated performer’s responses become sluggish if fluid is not maintained.

During challenging times, increased water intake improves:

• concentration

• mental and physical co-ordination

• it alleviates mental fatigue

• increases energy levels

• relaxes for improved communication

• it keeps our brain firing.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking! 

The down-side is frequent visits to the bathroom – another nuisance symptom of performance nerves. Many notice that nerves increase their frequency of urination. Why? The smooth muscle of the genito-urinary system contracts when our sympathetic system is activated. Increased adrenaline rush and resulting cardiac racing can cause diuresis. Such issues are eased if we learn to channel that adrenaline away from such symptoms into energy.

We’re talking HABITS here – the weeks and days before performing

Drink plenty of water earlier in the day, then limit the fluid intake in the hour before performing to avoid the need to go to the bathroom. If necessary, relieve mouth dryness with rinses or gargling. 

from Confident Music Performance

Singers and speakers need to maintain hydration of the vocal folds.

Don’t Freak Out – Speak Out advises:

• Increase water intake. Adopt the singer’s maxim, “pee pale, speak clear”.

• Rehydrate the vocal folds with steam inhalations and a humidifier.

• Humidify your bedroom or work environment, especially during winter.

On-stage, I like to have a water bottle discreetly at hand for a sip between music pieces or movements. This eases another problem that besets performers; dry mouth.


“Water is the only drink for a wise man.” Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

OK, after all your preparation you deserve to unwind with a drink  – after the performance.