How A Musical Earworm Can Make Your Practice Awesome!

Those insinuating riffs that get stuck in your head. Usually people have a negative connotation with musical earworms, but I propose they can be enjoyable if it’s a song you like. And even if it is not a song you like, with these tricks you can make it fun.

Musical Earworm for Today

Ready to be infected?

What Does The Fox Say?!?!

It’s in your head now.  (You can say that sentence ‘it’s in your head now’ with the same rhythmic pattern. did you notice that?)

Turn The Beat Around (Love to hear percussion…)

Now that you’ve got this ear worm riding around in your head, how can you use that to benefit your practice?

  1. Transcribe the riff. Find those pitches on your instrument and write them down.
  2. Extra credit: notate the rhythm too.
  3. Use this riff as an exercise for tonguing. doo-dah-dit-dah-dah. Play the articulation slow, medium, and fast. repeat repeat repeat. That’s how you exercise the tongue muscle and that’s how that muscle gets strong.
  4. Use this riff as an ear training exercise. Play it in every key.
  5. Use it as a long tone exercise. Play it slowly in upper octave of your instrument and also lower octave. Take your time with each note by sinking into the tone. Listen to your tone. Is it steady? Is each pitch in tune?

To paraphrase Matthew McConaughey, “Alright, alright, alright! Now we’re having fun with our music practice!”

If you liked the way we turned an ear worm into a fun part of your music practice, you’ll also like Truly FUNdamentals, the most FUN musical warmups ever.  Click over to the website and get your copy today. Start making every practice awesome!

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  1. Sometimes, for me, getting students the music they want entails me transcribing a particular pop song for them, that involves a lot of decisions for me about trying to be true to the original melody so the students can play along with the track (key, rhythm, register, etc) or transpose the piece to an easier key and with a simplified rhythm which will enable them to play it more easily. Sometimes giving them a very difficult transcription which is clearly beyond their current abilities is an excellent motivator, and sometimes it isnt, every student is a unique individual who responds to a wide range of positive or negative reinforcements- some will rise to the challenge and work their butts off to be able to conquer the piece and some will curl up in a little tearful ball and quit. One parent came up with an excellent motivator for her daughter (who was a very commercially minded girl), she paid her $5 for every day that she practiced on her own for 30 minutes or more- but at the end of the week the child had to pay for her lesson herself. Pretty quickly the student realized that if she practiced 7 days a week she would be turning a $10 profit weekly, and promptly doubled her efforts at home. Everyone is different, and part of our job as teachers is learning what makes each pupil tick, and helping them develop good discipline which will reward them with a wealth of achievements, both in music and life. This is the way we do it at my studio, anyway…

    • Edward,
      I appreciate your comments about how to motivate students to practice. The $5/practice session is certainly creative. You’re right that what works for one student may not work for another. I would start to wonder about the quality of her practice. Was she just putting in her 30 minutes or really making progress and utilizing her time well?
      And regarding the challenge level of transcriptions, at our most recent student recital, each student did their own transcription of a jazz solo selected by me and then performed the tune with a full rhythm section. Some solos were harder to transcribe than others. Some were harder to perform than others. But each student did their best with the material they were given.
      One student, who prior to the recital I didn’t think had much of a feel for jazz, performed with a great swing feel during the recital and stayed on the changes. Whereas another student who is a very good reader, wasn’t able to feel the changes and stay in time. You never know what will come of our efforts as teachers. And a lot of this is experimenting! 🙂

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