Learning Strategies for Musical Success

Review: The Music Trust, June 1, 2014 by Inge Southcott 

"Terrific...eminently practical...excellent discussion...I came away inspired and excited, and I heartily recommend it." - Inge Southcott, The Music Trust, Australia.

"This book really does deliver...a great resource on a piano pedagogy list...wonderful support for the teacher." - Dr L. Scott Donald for American Music Teacher.

Review: Victorian Music Teachers Association, July 7, 2014 by Robert Chamberlain

"A deeply impressive work, the breadth of research is fascinating! It is Griffin's combination of his many years of practical experience as a music educator and consultant, with his broad overview of research and primary sources, that makes this book so valuable and unique. A combination of big-picture theories and ideas with immediately practical strategies and examples." Robert Chamberlain, Monash University Piano Staff, for VMTA.

View an image of the book cover.

When it comes to musical skill, why is it that some people achieve so much more than others? We are frequently led to believe this is because of a talent hardwired into their DNA. Now, music educator Michael Griffin dismisses that age-old notion in favor of another known factor: practice. His new book, Learning Strategies for Musical Success illustrates how the quantity and quality of practice is the greatest predictor of musical success so that aspiring musicians of all ages and abilities can best bring about expert performance. This inspiring, accessible guide will equip students, teachers, adult learners, and parents with the methods and mindset to improve the likelihood of learning music successfully. 

Learning Strategies for Musical Success is guided by the philosophy that achievement in music, and, indeed, most other pursuits, is largely a result of intrinsic belief mindsets coupled with the quantity and quality of practice.By creating the optimal circumstances to retain and further accomplishment, any student can further their skills and abilities dramatically. This includes not only effective practice methods, but also the “soft skills” that enhance the process, including motivation, intelligence mindset, and self-discipline. In doing so, Griffin covers all aspects of musical training, from the appropriate age to start learning to the ways that parents can help motivate their children to remain committed to practicing.   

He distills effective methods of practice, including distribution of time, repetition, sleep learning, chunking, slow play, expression and more. The book then elaborates on the value of soft skills, and how they can create a setting conducive to a student reaching metacognition, or intrinsic motivation. Griffin also thoughtfully assesses playing music with the whole brain; music creativity; as well as the role of music in human intelligence. In addition, the author draws from the lives of highly successful musicians like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Coltrane, and The Beatles, as well as his own personal experience, sports analogies, neuroscience, psychology, and research results. The book also imparts useful facts, such as the direct relationship between musical achievement and hours of practice.  

An original medley of timeless wisdom, proven strategies, and encouragement, Learning Strategies for Musical Success will provide students of all ages, teachers, and parents with invaluable insight on perspective and practice, the essentials of musical excellence within anyone’s reach. Changing your tune on how you go about it may just change your musical life. 

US and international online purchases here.

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Kirkus Review - November 2013

"Music educator Griffin aims to help readers understand the science behind “practice makes perfect.”

While Griffin’s new book doesn’t go so far as to guarantee perfection for its practitioners, he does make a point to debunk the myth of natural talent, arguing instead for the unmatched importance of time spent practicing. With regard to so-called child prodigies, Griffin writes that what distinguishes them is that “they are constantly compared with children their own age, rather than with others who have accrued similar quantities of practice hours, similar opportunities, and family support.” Still, parents of would-be child prodigies can learn plenty here about how best to nurture their budding musicians. Griffin’s six well-researched, in-depth chapters are explained well for lay readers, translating studies in mathematics and neuroscience into comprehensible pop psychology with plenty of valuable “learning strategies for musical success.” Griffin also offers worthwhile information for non-musicians. Particularly interesting are his notes on selecting background music for study, considering volume, tempo, tonality and texture. “Extrovert teenage boys are,” perhaps not surprisingly, “most at risk to choose poor study music.” Ultimately, rooted as it is in research and experience, much of Griffin’s advice comes down to matters of common sense, such as the need to strike a balance between encouragement and critical instruction. Figuring out how to do this is, of course, a bit trickier, so musical educators and parents of young music students alike will be grateful for Griffin’s valuable insights and the supporting information he’s gathered. A helpful guide for anyone looking to understand musical success." Kirkus Reviews.

"A must buy for every music teacher and music student. Bravo on a most stimulating read. This draws together old wisdom and the latest research. I am re-reading this excellent book for the third time, highlighter pen in hand." 5 stars - William Bruce, Head of Strings Junior Department, Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

"Super Book! I am so impressed with this book! It's the best and most thorough in helping students and teachers of music to understand how the whole 'heart' is involved in teaching and practice." - Donna Michaels, Music Teacher.

"Such a practical book! Full of very useful information and sound advice. SO glad I purchased this...much food for thought" - Jocelyn Beath, NZ.

"A most stimulating read that has given me a great deal to  think about." - Nicholas Carpenter, Prebendal, UK.

"Fantastic book...simply brilliant!" - Ian Cooper, Norfolk Music Service, UK.

"A must read for all music educators. Michael Griffin has collected lessons from his own experience - which is extensive, and pertinent, recent research to provide a detailed overview of how we learn, and how students can be empowered and trained to become effective, efficient and independant learners. The book is well documented, making it convenient to go on to further reading about the topics of each chapter. The language is concise and easily understood, yet deeply practical and useful." - 5 stars Robert Adams, Music Educator, New Haven, USA.

"I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio. The students are enjoying some of the practice techniques with successful results." Beth Cruickshank, Past President - Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

"I loved it. I found it extremely helpful and quite inspiring." Cheryl Livingstone, Australia.

"Don't miss this opportunity!" - 5 stars Mary George, USA.

"The best resource for music teachers" - 5 stars Andrew Heuzenroeder, Australia.

"Both my son and I love your book. It's awesome! I want to recommend to every teacher I know." Michael Williamson, Australia.

"The most helpful book for anyone who wants to improve." 5 stars. Teko, Amazon Reviewer

"Michael Griffin has produced yet another excellent resource for the music community. Very rarely do I come away from reviewing a product feeling so inspired. If you’re a music educator-or maybe even hold another occupation-I believe you will find this book incredibly beneficial. The book is nicely laid out into six chapters and thoughtfully divided sections. It includes numerous illustrations, making it reference-friendly." Naomi, Music Matters Blog, April 16, 2014.

Download the podcast: Learning Music: Practice and Performance (6.5mb, 16minutes)

Podcast comments

This podcast taught me that it's not just playing the piano itself that makes me better, but different things I can do everyday. I can improve my piece by taking a closer look at my music, playing on an imaginary piano, going over the song in my head, humming or singing it, counting out loud, and other ways. I learned that repetition is a very good strategy used by all successful performers, teachers, and students. Another interesting fact is that the average piano master plays 3 hours each day or 20 hours each week. I'm strongly encouraged to go back and practice my pieces from years ago, and split the piece into parts to memorize and master each area. Now I would recommend students to get a metronome, and turn it to the slowest tempo and take it up a faster pace after they master the previous speed. I learned that this will help me accomplish my goals set for that piece of music. I think that this podcast is very encouraging to anyone that is involved in playing an instrument. This also helps anyone struggling with their musical performance to "get back on track" not only with their instrument and what they play, but for everything they do. Thank you for the wonderful podcast! - Hannah, 13, U.S.A

Thanks ! This podcast really helps!!! Now I can try to practice better when I'm playing my instruments. - Katherine, U.S.A

The best post I've come across in the past couple of weeks was from Michael Griffin at Music Education World. In this podcast he sums up an approach to practice which very closely matches our own ethos here at HTP. 

This is a fantastic article on the brain and music learning. Just a few days ago, the very excellent iSchoolBand Blog published a guest article by Michael D Griffin entitled How to Learn Music Properly. In his article, Griffin draws many of the same conclusions that I have discovered in my own personal research of modern neurology and how it affects music learning. I agree that most performing music programs never teach their students how to practice or how to think meta-cognitively. As science begins to understand how the brain functions with new scanning technologies, we as music educators need to pay attention and apply those findings. I highly recommend this article. Be sure to give it your attention. - Thomas J. West Music.