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 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.


You only get one chance…

…To make a first impression. What will that be, positive or negative? Memorable or ho hum? It must be the best we can craft, for it will last.

AS A READER – do you judge a book by its cover?

In a book shop a cover or title sparks our eye. We skim-read the back cover, then open at the first page, taste a few pars. This is usually enough to decide if we want to spend time with that author and that story. We lead busy lives and throw aside a boring book.
In my writing, of books, articles and speeches, I seek a tantalising hook.
As a musician, I focus on a wonderful entry of sound.

FOR WRITERS: How to hook publishers and readers

Authors hear horror stories that a publisher may read a precious manuscript for one page – at best – before rejecting it. Make that a paragraph, even the first sentence. Poetic flights of imagination in chapter two are lost if people don’t read that far.

We sweat over our opening phrase, for it has to catch the reader’s eye, prick interest.

My past decade has been absorbed writing a narrative nonfiction around family stories which morphed into memoir. I’ve changed the starting point many times; different chapters took their turn to usher potential readers into my story. My writing buddy switched on a light-bulb when she suggested ‘Play your strongest card first.’ I wrote a new chapter, praying for a ‘killer opening sentence.’ But before submitting to an editor, I still polish these pages, the voice, the tone – to ensure it will be read!


My music student is delighted with her recent exam results – perhaps because her lesson before was one of those frustrating ones. You know the type? The teacher spends half the lesson on the first line of the first movement. ‘What about the modern work, the rhythms and ensembles are so tricky!’ I hear her think. True. But I know that if she can catch the examiner’s ears, start strongly, she will ride through further difficulties on a wave of confidence. For didn’t we spend the past months smoothing out such issues?

AS A PERFORMER: (picking up my clarinet)

Carl Maria von Weber wrote some of the clarinet’s most satisfying repertoire. His second clarinet concerto asks the soloist to make a loud dramatic opening on a top note. In this case, I attack it with the fingering that speaks easy and safe, with no risk of squawk.

Yet Weber asks me to creep in on a subtle pianissimo in his other two works for solo clarinet. To avoid an undertone on this most vulnerable, touchy note, I need just the right angle of instrument and just the right reed. Before a recent performance my practice alternated a dozen reeds, narrowing down to a few in the pre-concert rehearsal in the venue. Obsessive? Possibly. But it pays off, because I know if the first note sings out beautifully, the rest of the performance will flow with ease. I can relax and enjoy the music.


As an adjudicator I see and hear the value of a positive first impression. As I wrote in my book Confident Music Performance:

A positive opening is crucial The first notes or words are very important for your own confidence and the audience’s appraisal of you. If your initial sound is squeezed out with strangled tension or a miscalculated projection, your stomach will plummet. You will think, ‘Oh no, this is going to be a fiasco!’

If that first note or word sings out beautifully modulated with seemingly effortless ease, your confidence will soar with it. First impressions linger in listeners’ appraisals. In most auditions, a few seconds are enough to tell the panel if they are interested in the applicant. When I adjudicate, I notice constantly that a player’s control of their first note or lack of it is usually indicative of their whole performance. On the other hand, if you suffer an initial mishap, don’t give up. Many players warm into their presentations.


When I coach people with their presentation, we may spend two-thirds of the time working on their opening sentence. We reword it for arresting impact and to avoid words that may stutter. We identify crucial words to colour with voice tone; to highlight with a pause and breath. We practise delivery and projection to increase impact.

From Don’t Freak Out – Speak Out: Public speaking with confidence

The public speaker must capture the audience in that first tantalising sentence. Many listeners give undivided attention only at the beginning and end of a speech. Choose your opening gambit with care, condensing into it your most arresting statement or an intriguing question, a quotation or startling fact, or a story. People of all ages love stories, but they must be relevant.
If your take-off is smooth the rest of the flight usually flows with fewer bumps. Navigate your course with a clear focus on the horizon – your audience – rather than dwell inward on your own queasy stomach and sensitive ego. Most fears are self-centred. Keep looking out! Most listeners will empathise with your agonies but would prefer not to suffer along with you. They are there to enjoy themselves, to be enlightened, provoked or touched by your content. Rather than wish you ill, they want you to succeed. Adopt a friendly face from the audience and pretend she is your grandmother in whose eyes you can do no wrong. Speak to her.


Whether we present words or music, read or spoken, never underestimate the power of a positive opening. Our listeners and readers respond to those first moments; if they are arresting, powerful, beautiful, we hold our audience in the palm of our hand.