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Friday, December 31, 2010

January 1, 2011: The 100 Days Challenge

Welcome to 2011! Happy New Year!

I just love the start of something new, don't you? The start of a new year, or new semester, or quarter, or month, or week. It's such an opportunity to regroup and rethink the current path we are walking and adjust our focus and direction as we make our way along our life's pathway. Sometimes we make minor course adjustments, and other times we turn entirely toward a new direction. Sometimes our new direction takes us along a parallel path to our original, but sometimes we blaze a trail toward something new and unfamiliar. And that's the beauty of "living." Not just living to eke out an existence but living to experience our lives to the fullest, to the utmost.

Now that I've waxed eloquently about the possibilities of the new year, let me turn to the business at hand. I promised you a practice challenge for the new year, and here it is: The 100 Days Challenge. You can start this challenge whenever you are ready.

The challenge is to practice 100 days in a row, with no skips or misses, for at least five minutes at a minimum. (See? I told you everyone could do this!). Just five minutes? Yup, that's right, just five minutes. Because everyone can find five minutes every day. Because five minutes is a small enough amount of time that no one can justify an excuse to miss it. Yup, five minutes is E-A-S-Y!

Now, what do you practice? Doesn't matter. It's your choice, as long as you do something related to whatever is your practice. That's another great thing about the 100 Days Challenge. You can do more than one challenge at a time and include other things, although I would wait to explore such fancy footwork until after you have mastered one challenge first. You can use the challenge for your music practice or for a health habit (like walking everyday).

I find this challenge to be very useful for my parents of new students. It helps the parents to build up a practice habit. At first the parents do the challenge for their benefit, but often the students themselves opt to continue the challenge for another 100 days. I had one student who did the challenge along with me, and we continued past the two year mark.

Here are some specific rules. There are no skips or misses. If you miss a day, you must start over. My studio likes to follow the "biblical rule": if we forget, but the sun hasn't yet risen for the new day, then we can quickly go get our 5 minutes in. Once I forgot but got up at 5 am to take the dogs out and go for a run. The sun wasn't due up for another hour, so I was able to quickly add my 5 minutes of scale practice in before the run. Of course, I also had to do another five minutes later that day for the new day.

Everyone can use this challenge, not just for practicing, but also for other life areas. For example, you can use the 100 Days' Challenge to effectively build a new habit or eliminate an old one (although I recommend you build or substitute a new habit rather than wrestle with eliminating a bad habit). Here are some examples
  • add daily exercise: in this case, substitute the appropriate amount of time you would like to aim for daily exercise, e.g., 15 minutes of aerobic (walking, running, biking)
  • make a dietary change: add 1 green vegetable daily or stick to a minimum goal of a specific caloric intake number (make it a reasonable one and not too restrictive; we want to succeed)
  • Make a lifestyle change: how many days can you go without eating sugar (or any food product that has sugar listed in the first five ingredients), or smoking, or drinking, or watching TV for more than one hour, or staying at work late (or more than 1 hour late)?
So if you are reading this blog post on January 1, jump right in and join me in the 100 Days Challenge!

P.S.: In case I have to state the obvious, you are permitted to practice longer than five minutes. You may even do a lot of five minute practices in one day. The five minutes suggested for the challenge is the absolute MINIMUM that you must do. There is no limit to the maximum. Funny thing, but once you start your five minute practice, you tend to keep going longer than five minutes.

Be sure to log in that you are participating in the challenge by answering the poll question in the right margin.

If you are a teacher or parent, I have added a page just for you. Please check it out.

Practice Challenge for 2011!

Don't forget to check in on January 1, 2011, for my practice challenge! This challenge will work for students, parents, and teachers, and everyone is able to succeed. Don't miss the first day on January 1! That's tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Intonation, part 4: a Hodgepodge

In addition to our previous discussions about intonation, I have included here a mixture of additional ideas for practicing intonation. Please leave me a comment about your own personal favorite intonation exercises.

Drones: Have a note playing like a drone while playing scales or some passage. Most tuners are capable of sounding a note like a drone. At first play the tonic note as the drone. Later play other important notes in the key, such as the dominant or subdominant notes. When the exercise seems fairly easy, try playing to a drone note in an unrelated key, e.g., drone E natural while playing in the Bb key, or drone F# while playing in C major. It is also possible to play and use one's own open strings as a drone during practice.

Fun with Scales: Have someone whose intonation you trust play a scale a major third below you. For example, if you are playing D major, have the other person play Bb at the same time. I got this idea from a scale book entitled "Scales Plus!" by William Starr published by Alfred Music Publishing.

Have someone play a scale a major second below you. For example, if you are playing a D major scale, have the other person play in C major. This is another idea from William Starr.

Doublestops: Have the student do extensive practice with doublestops. There are several possible books that one can use:

A popular book for intermediate and advanced students is "Scales for Advanced Violinists" by Barbara Barber published by Alfred Publishing. For each key, Ms. Barber has provided the basic scales for doublestops in thirds, sixths, octaves, tenths, fingered octaves, and harmonics along with the basic major and melodic minor scales, broken thirds, and the general arpeggio routine through all the arpeggios related to the major scale (tonic minor, tonic major, submediant, subdominant, subdominant minor, diminished, and dominant seventh).

"Melodious Double-Stops" by Josephine Trott, volumes 1 & 2, published by G. Schirmer, Inc. Initially Ms. Trott presents doublestop etudes that incorporate the open strings, but the volumes progress in difficulty. My students generally like the tunefulness of the melodies versus just practicing scales alone.

"Quint Etudes for Violin" by Shinichi Suzuki, Revised Edition, published by Suzuki Method International. This book is my personal favorite. Dr. Suzuki discusses the difficulty of keeping the fingers in the correct placement across the various four strings. As the fingers move from one string to another, they may not land in the correct placement because the student's perception is inaccurate due to the finger angle changing. And, if the student has another problem, such as not moving the elbow under the instrument to accommodate the various string levels, then the fingers will not land in correct placement. The Quint Etudes address and correct these problems, and the etudes use perfect intervals such as fourths, fifths, and unisons to strengthen the student's ear. I have had great success with this etude book in identifying left hand placement issues and in strengthening the student's ear.

Hand in hand with the Quint Etudes, I have used the "Position Etudes" by Shinichi Suzuki, Revised Edition, published by Suzuki Method International. As a student plays progressively higher in pitch up the violin fingerboard, the tonal quality of the notes sounds thicker to the ear, and students can become confused about the correct pitch. This etude book can help to address that problem by progressively exposing the student to each position using a song that is very familiar to Suzuki students, i.e., "Perpetual Motion." Suzuki students learn this basic tune in book 1, but later in book 2, students are introduced to a transposition of this song into Bb. From that transposition, the students learn the basic fingering of the song beginning with the first finger. This fingering is then used to introduce the students to each successive position, still using the melody of "Perpetual Motion."

Playing Along: My husband is a professional trombonist, and I was curious as to how he worked with his students to build proper intonation, as the trombone seemed similar to the violin in terms of how easy it would be to "land" on the incorrect pitch. He told me that he plays along with his students constantly at their lessons and is relentless about having them match pitch.

We Aren't Finished Yet: Finally, the subject of intonation is more complex than I have presented here. So many areas of a player's technique and general life condition can have adverse effects on pitch, including improper posture, lazy ears, sloppy practice and listening habits, health considerations (waxy ear build up, or a cold or sinus infection), and less than stellar equipment (false or old strings and lesser quality instruments). And I haven't even touched upon the advanced tuning strategies that professionals employ to fine tune intonation in performance. The ideas included above are just a few of the many possible ideas I know about how to address intonation problems. I like to think of these ideas as arrows in my quiver: I have many different arrows stored up for use depending on the particular student and his or her intonation problem.

I look forward to hearing from you what ideas you favor and find useful that I may not have included here.

We are winding down 2010. Just a few days left to vote in the polls printed here in the right sidebar. Let your vote count! New polls are coming in 2011.

Stay tuned for the new year on January 1, 2011, because I will be issuing a practice challenge. You won't want to miss January 1st and my practice challenge! Everyone can do this!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Last Monday Morning: Is it Worthy of You?

This will the last Monday morning in 2010, so let's make this the most worthy Monday morning for ourselves. After all, who cares the most how our life turns out besides ourselves? 

We've looked back on this past year and ahead to what will be coming in 2011. Now is the best time to consider whether we have structured our coming year to embrace our goals and aspirations. Let's look at five basic areas and see if we have included a goal plan for each of these areas. I will include some basic questions in each area to get your creative juices flowing regarding your plans in each topic area.

Finances: The Finances topic seems to make everyone's top 10 list of important goals or resolutions. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself.
  • How much money do I want to earn next year? How does that break down into quarterly amounts? Monthly? Weekly? Daily?
  • What are 20 different ideas I can come up with to earn more money?
  • What will I do with more money? Be specific.
  • What will I need to do (what first steps do I need to take) to start making more money?
Health: Health is the second most important goal that people have.
  • What changes will I make in my health plan? Why do I need to make these changes?
  • What steps do I need to take to improve my health?
  • Are there any steps I need to take to substitute a new habit for an undesirable habit?
  • What are 20 different things that I can do to improve my health or take me a few steps closer to attaining my health goal?
Home: Folks may neglect this area in favor of some other goal-setting topics, but home life is important to our overall emotional health and sense of well being.
  • What changes will I make to improve my home life?
  • What are 20 activities I can engage in on the home front that will improve my home life?
  • Are there any steps that need to be taken first before I can complete the activities I listed above?
  • Are there people I need to spend more time with, whether in person or by some other means of communication?
  • What are some activities I can engage in that will improve my home life?
Work: Here are some things to consider regarding next year's work scenario.
  • What are my plans for next year? What do I need to accomplish?
  • Are there expectations or quotas related to my job that I need to fulfill?
  • Are there any promotions or projects that I want to complete?
  • What are 20 steps I can take to improve my work environment or position?
  • Are there any steps I need to take first before I can complete any of the steps I listed above?
Spiritual: Perhaps this is the most important goal area to consider, but I saved it for last. After considering the other previous goals, sometimes the spiritual goals take on more significance or clarity.
  • What spiritual goals do I wish to complete next year?
  • What are 20 steps I can take to improve my spiritual life?
  • Are there any steps I need to complete first before I can complete any of the steps I have listed above?
These are simple, basic questions, but often we don't take the time to ponder the answers to these questions. Starting with Monday, we have five days left in 2010. Ideally, we can think about the answers to the above questions in the next five days and come up with a goal action plan by Friday, December 31, 2010.

In addition to specifically teaching the Suzuki violin repertoire, I'd like to focus on the following topics in 2011:
  • vibrato
  • left hand position
  • bow hold and the job of each finger
  • shifting and position work
  • how to practice
  • how to learn a new piece
  • five types of memory
  • how to find a (good) Suzuki teacher
  • better parenting
  • performance anxiety
  • bowing skills
  • review program
  • how to analyze repertoire for teaching purposes
Be sure to leave me a comment about any area of teaching that you would like to see addressed. I'll also be putting up new polls in the sidebar. We have five more days to vote. Right now the vote is 60-40 in favor of regularly writing down goals. I'd like to see that number improve significantly by the end of the voting in five days.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Intonation, part III: can you spell Ševčík?

I've been talking to several of my colleagues about how they address intonation issues with their students. Most of the answers or suggestions I have received have to do with giving the student feedback "after the fact." This is indeed a useful way to alert a student to the fact that intonation is less than stellar, but I would like to focus my efforts and this discussion on how to teach a student to learn for themselves what is correct intonation. I want to introduce my students to ways that they can identify intonation for themselves without having to resort to external feedback exclusively. Although I realize that we all decide "externally" what intonation is correct by using our ears to evaluate the produced sound, what I'm referring to by external is another person providing the feedback. I'd like my students to learn how to play in tune by whatever means are available without having to resort to another person. Why? Because if my students only learn correct intonation when I am there to provide them with immediate feedback, then that means my students are probably only learning how to play in tune one day a week at their lesson. This is not the ideal situation in my opinion.

I've talked about some ways to hear and see tone, which generally leads to a student's seeing and hearing what correct intonation is. I would like to focus on some ways to hear and feel correct intonation on the fingerboard, and I'm going to suggest that the student use a tuner for the purpose of this exercise. Yes, I realize that the intonation discussion is much more complex than just using a tuner and focusing on tempered tuning. That is certainly a worthwhile discussion for another day. As a violinist, I realize that a C# and a Db may be located in slightly different places on the violin fingerboard depending on the context of the melody I am playing. I also recognize that I must adjust my pitches to accommodate the piano's tempered tuning if I am playing with a pianist. When I play with the Artisan Quartet, I need to make other types of adjustments depending on what role my part plays in the overall harmonic structure. In the beginning, however, when I'm working to help a student learn how to do this alone, I find a tuner to be a good starting point.

I have my own series of finger patterns, and I am saving that discussion for a future set of blog posts. So for right now, I'll use the Ševčík, op. 1, book 1 exercises:

Ševčík, op. 1, book 1, #1 (initial 3 measures)
Taking the first measure, I ask the student to play the first pitch until the tuner shows that the pitch is in tune. Then I ask the student to move on to the next pitch and tune it, and so forth until the notes in the measure are in tune. I ask the student to do this a few times until the student is accurate. Then we stop focusing on the tuner and increase the tempo while playing the notes with separate bows:

·    quarter notes: play the measure 2 times
·    eighth notes: play the measure 4 times
·    sixteenth notes: play the measure 8 times

Then I ask the student to focus back on the tuner and play the initial four notes once more to see if the correct tuning has remained in place. I ask the student to work through three-measure segments of the Sevcik and follow the above pattern. After the student completes a portion of the page, we return to the beginning of the exercise, but the student slurs the increased tempo notes.

It amazes me how quickly students learn to hear the correct intonation, even if it is tempered tuning. The tuner also helps the student to produce a more even tone quality with the bow, as every little uneven bow speed or weight will alter the pitch in some way. Even my youngest students can learn to tune their instrument with a tuner and simultaneously learn to control their bow speed and weight. I enjoy watching my students work through the first set of Ševčík exercises and make their own discoveries about pitch accuracy. The students realize fairly quickly what the "in tune" note requires that was missing when the tuner registered the pitch as "out of tune."

If a student combines these exercises with the exercises in my earlier intonation blog posts, the student will make considerable improvement in the area of intonation.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Intonation, part II: Ringing Notes and Super Ears

In my last discussion, I talked about improving intonation by improving tone. Today I want to talk about awakening the student's ear and kinesthetic sensations related to pitch. I do that by using the 9 natural ringing notes of first position and helping the student to hear tone and sympathetic vibrations. Along with seeing and hearing, I try to incorporate references to touch and sensation as well.

There are nine notes on the violin that naturally ring with a little extra sparkle in first position. They are those notes that bear the same names as the open strings: G, D, A, and E. These notes are:

©Paula E. Bird 2010

Use the fourth finger to play the D, A, and E. When I ask my student to play each of these notes, we note that the open string that bears the same name will sympathetically vibrate at the same time. If the student plays with a full, warm tone, the open string will vibrate with a greater width to match the depth of tone quality. This all presumes that the student is using the left hand properly and holding it in a way that allows the open strings to ring freely. A student who holds the left hand too low for the string to sound, will not hear the extra sparkle in the note's timbre.

Students of all ages seem to enjoy this exercise, even my really young elementary students. All students have been capable of seeing and hearing the sympathetic ringing of the open string.

This exercise can also be accomplished using octaves, e.g., the third finger G on the D string sounded alongside the open G string, the third finger D on the A string sounded alongside the open D string, and the third finger A on the E string sounded alongside the open A string.

I put together a simple exercise that displays various combinations of these notes and fingerings to give the student an opportunity to learn about these ringing notes through a systematic exercise or etude:

©Paula E. Bird 2010

I also use various finger patterns as drones, but I'd like to save the drone exercises for future discussions about using finger patterns, because drones are just one example of the types of benefits that one derives from the use of finger patterns.

Although the purpose of the exercises described above is for the development of the student's ear, the exercises also serve another purpose in that they awaken the student to the kinesthetic qualities of the sound as well. When a string sympathetically vibrates alongside a note of the same name, the extra "sparkle" that the student hears is also felt as an extra "umph" of physical vibration to the student's body. When we hold the violin, we are subject to several points of contact between the instrument and the body, and these are points that will connect the vibrations of the pitch to the student's body. I try to alert the student to these other sensations as well as to the pitch so that the student becomes more aware of the kinesthetic feeling of the correct pitch. There are many times in big symphony works when I cannot hear my high note pitches well above the fortissimo brass blow across the orchestra from me. I can still feel the kinesthetic sensation of the pitch vibration in my body through my contact with my violin, and I can still tell that I am in tune with the brass (although perhaps not heard as well).*

One last note relates to something I call "headphone syndrome." I was first alerted to this problem through a publication called Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole Brain Learning by Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D. and Gail E. Dennison, published by Edu Kinesthetics (June 1992). You can still find this book on Amazon.com and other places. In a footnote under one exercise, the authors mentioned that some students might have a particularly difficult time hearing well if they have been relying on headphones to a heavy extent. I'm not going into the reasons for this phenomenon, but I will state that I have observed similar difficulties in my teaching experience. Students frequently spend large amounts of their day with headphones or ear buds over or in their ears, so this "syndrome" is more than likely.

I find that one of the exercises mentioned in the book helps to awaken the ears. I call it wakening up the "super ears." Hold your hands out in front of you, palms facing forward. Then while holding that palms-forward position, bring your hands back behind your ears until the hands are behind the ears and the thumbs are in front of the ears. Then gently rub the ears' edges and lobes between the thumb and the other fingers. Start at one end of the ear and work around to the other edge, trying to roll out the curled edge of the ear. The ears will tingle. They will also "come to life." Students seem to hear better, perhaps because they are more aware of their ears. It's a simple exercise, but the ears really get a workout.

If you study the book, you will learn that this exercise has many other added benefits to it in terms of integration between the brain and various other body systems or parts. I highly recommend this book. There are many interesting exercises that would work well in group class settings.

We are coming to the end of the year 2010 although we are only at a midpoint in the school year. Still, I enjoy this time of year when I get a few extra moments to relax and ponder my upcoming year of teaching and playing. I'm sifting through various ideas about goals and enjoying the planning process for addressing my goals.

If I don't have a chance to continue our discussion in the next three days, let me wish "Merry Christmas" to everyone. I'm off to play another "Nutcracker" ballet with the Austin Ballet.
* I'm referring to a few moments that occur in Respighi's "Pines of Rome."

©Paula E. Bird 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dreaming Your Life with Mad Libs

In past blog posts, I've talked about the importance of writing goals down and about framing your goals in a way that creates a picture in your mind. I thought I'd help you dream your future life and have fun in the process. All you have to do is fill in the blanks!

Health & Fitness: how you will be looking and feeling when you have reached your desired level of health and fitness

I am full of full of energy. My _____ [body part] looks and feels like __________ [enter description]. I enjoy playing _____ [sport] and look great while doing it. My clothes fit _____ [describe]. I enjoy eating healthy foods like _____ [examples], along with my workouts _____ [how often].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Family: how you will relate to your partner, children, and parents

I enjoy spending time with _____ [insert names]. We spend time _____ [insert activity]. We talk to each other _____ [how often] _____ [how you communicate]. I make time to be with _____ [name] and plan activities such as _____ [activity] to do together.

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Friends: how you relate to your friends and vice versa

I enjoy meeting up with _____ [names] on a regular basis of _____ [how often]. We like to _____ [activity] and make time to do so on a fairly consistent basis. I frequently tell my friends how much I enjoy their company and look for ways to spend more time with them. My friends often tell me that _____ [describe] and look forward to our planned activities together.

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Home: how your perfect home will look and how you will feel about living in it

I own a home in _____ [describe]. It is located in _____ [type of area], so we can enjoy _____ [what is specific to the area]. The home has _____ [number] of bedrooms and _____ [number of bathrooms]. We can fit _____ [number] of cars in the garage. In the backyard we have _____ [describe]. We are located near to _____ [describe]. We own about _____ [number] acres of land, which we use to _____ [describe]. We enjoy living in our home so much. When we are there, we _____ [describe activities].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Career: what are your skill sets, strengths, and feelings about fulfilling your purpose

I am a good _____ [describe] because I am good at _____ [describe]. I use my skills to _____ [describe]. People call me to work for them because _____ [describe], and I enjoy helping them because I can _____ [describe]. My career perfectly fulfills my purpose of _____ [describe] because _____[describe].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Finances: what your financial situation will be

In 1 year, I will earn _____[$]. In 5 years, I will earn _____ [$]. By the time I retire in _____ [number] of years, I will be worth _____ [$]. I earn enough money to live a rich and full life. Because I am financially independent, I am able to give gifts or offer my talents to benefit others, such as _____[describe].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Spirituality: how you connect with your God, church, church community, higher power, or something larger than yourself

I enjoy spending time _____ [describe]. This puts me in touch with _____ [higher power]. I enjoy spending time with my _____ [organization]. I have made several good friends, and we spend time together _____ [describe activities]. I offer my gifts of _____ [describe], and I am asked to use my talents of _____ [describe] to benefit the lives of _____ [describe community].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Leisure: what are the activities outside of work that you enjoy

In my free time, I now enjoy _____ [describe]. I have time to do _____ [describe something you have started doing again], and I can now enjoy _____ [describe].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Community: what your neighborhood and your community way of life look like

I live in the _____ [describe neighborhood area, city, or country] where I enjoy _____ [describe something about the neighborhood], which enables me to do _____ [describe activity]. My neighborhood also allows me the enjoyment of _____ [describe].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

World View: how the world would look if everything were perfect and what your role in the world would be

The world around me is more _____ [describe]. Everyone is more focused on _____ [describe] rather than conflict. We work together to _____ [describe]. My place in the world now is as a _____ [describe], and I _____ [describe activities]. I have the full support of _____ [describe].

__________ [insert any other description specific to your situation].

Life Purpose

If asked today, I would say that my life purpose is to _____ [describe].


After completing the above exercise, consider how different your life now might be from that described above. Do you have a purpose or vision statement? Do you dream about anything now that isn't reflected above in the description of your dream life?

We are entering into the final countdown for the year 2010. Today is day 12 in the final countdown. Counting today, we have just 12 more days left in this year. Why not use these 12 days to think about those steps we can put into action to build some of that dream life we described above?

Do you have a list of goals for the coming year? Will you be ready to start living your dream life come January 1, 2011?

I have updated my "About Me" page to include several links for more information about the Artisan Quartet and me, and I have added a link to a media presentation about my full life with music and my dogs, alpacas, and donkeys. Check it out and leave me a comment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Intonation, part I: Orange Peel Tone

Intonation is a huge topic, at least from my perspective. It is a broad subject area that involves many different inter-connected problems. I find that intonation isn't just a particular situation of the fingers, but that it often involves a combination of tone production, volume, bow usage, left hand position, posture, head-phone ear syndrome (my expression), and several other possible issues. Each student has his or her own unique combination of possibilities for good or poor intonation. As a teacher, much of what I do is to uncover the combination of issues and to develop a plan for systematically addressing each area until the problems are corrected or the student has learned to teach him- or herself in this area.

So, what is intonation? Whereas linguistics experts use the term to refer to the variation in tone used in speech, musicians use the term to refer to the accuracy of pitch. How does a musician know when something is "in tune" or not?  Just as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart knew pornography when he saw it[1], so musicians know bad intonation when they hear it. But how do you teach good intonation? How do you help students learn how to hear when intonation is good or bad?

In the beginning, we teachers often put some sort of tape markings on the violin fingerboard to give the students (and their practice partners) an indication of where a particular set of pitches should be when the fingers are placed on the those taped spots. That works well in the beginning, especially for parents and visual students. Tapes do go awry over time, however, and students look at them less frequently. Students learn new notes and begin to encounter new difficulties of playing in tune in different keys. Time to remove the tapes. Then what?

In my teaching, I contend with different issues depending on whether I am teaching a university student or a private student. I encounter one set of issues with my university students and another with those students that I have "grown" in my private studio. In this part I, let me address the intonation issues I work with most in the university setting, although I occasionally run into these same problems in my private studio. The university students either come to me from other teachers or they come from a string/orchestra/
Mariachi program with no background of private instruction. The students may have intonation issues, but these issues seem directly related to the fact that the students cannot hear themselves play. The tone is weak and the volume is soft. By improving the tone and volume quality, the students will then begin to correct their intonation automatically. I ask them to play a lot of open strings before beginning to play a passage and to imitate the ringing tonal quality of the open strings when playing the passage. This is a technique I learned from Dr. Suzuki's Method ("tonalization").

Another issue related to the quality of tone production is the student's propensity to practice too fast for his or her ear to hear accurately. I have observed personally that those students (and sometimes professionals) who tend to practice at high speeds most of the time without spending much time at lower speeds will have a fuzzy tone quality. The pitches may be correct, but the overall sound is as if someone threw a sheer curtain over the tone. You can see through the curtain but the visual clarity isn't there. I can hear the music but the clarity of sound isn't there.

One of my favorite tone builder suggestions is to ask my student to peel an orange several times throughout the week. It amazes me to discover how many mothers out there actually cut their child's orange rather than allowing their child the experience of peeling it for themselves. But for this assignment, I insist that the student do the peeling without a parent's help and to start the peeling with the right hand. I want the student to experience the sensation of digging the right thumb under the orange peel, because that is the feeling involved with producing a good tone with the bow. The right side of the body should be relaxed from the shoulder down to the hand, and the bow hold should be turned on. By turned on, I do not mean that the bow hold is gripping. I mean that the bow hold is engaged and the thumb is turned on rather than limp or soft. Like Atlas holding up the world on his shoulders, the bow hold thumb should be holding up all of the weight of the arm, elbow, and hand, and the thumb should be turned on to receive this weight. The feeling in the thumb should resemble that of peeling an orange.

Usually when a student returns to the lesson after the orange peel assignment, the tone has improved because the student now uses the thumb more appropriately. I am then able to refer to "orange peel tone" in future lessons as a reminder of the right thumb's occupation.

To summarize part I, I sometimes begin my work to improve a student's intonation by working on improving the student's tonal quality with the bow. I work to develop the proper use of the bow hold thumb in order to produce "orange peel tone." I have the student do a lot of open string playing before and during his or her work on a particular passage, and I encourage the student to imitate the ringing quality of the open strings.

This is my first step. For step two, I work to develop the student's ear and kinesthetic response to pitch. I'll discuss this in part II in a future post.

Remember to vote in one of the two polls situated to the right of this column. Please write a comment below to let me know what difficulties you encounter with intonation issues. Perhaps you have a particular teaching problem related to intonation that you'd like to address.

[1] "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." (Justice Potter Stewart, concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Morning, where did the time go?

I actually started writing my Monday morning spiel last night, but then I realized that what I had started to write would take a while to complete and would be best left for a future Monday morning.

Before we begin our usual Monday morning thinking ritual about goals, go grab a piece of paper and your favorite writing utensil (pen, pencil, crayon). Don't underestimate the power of using an alternative writing source. Although I think quickly with a computer, I don't think I quite get the reflective time I need from using the keyboard because I type so fast. I find my thinking has more depth when I write by hand.

Anyway, are you ready to go? Do this next part quickly.

1. Write out your three most important life goals at this moment in time. Do this quickly.

2. Write out a list of 10 goals (minimum) of things that you would like to accomplish in this next year. Use the present tense and start with "I." Choose upbeat language.

3. If you could actually have any one of the above 10 goals by tomorrow, which one would you choose?

4. After completing numbers 1-3. write out what your major definite purpose in life is.

5. What stumbling blocks will you have to cross over to achieve this goal?

6. What additional skills or information will you need to accomplish this goal?

7. Is there someone you need to contact for help to accomplish this goal?

8. What is your deadline for achieving this goal?

9. What steps will you need to take to achieve this goal?

10. What one action could you take right away to achieve this goal?

Now go back through your answers to #1 and #2 above and decide which of the goals is very important (A), important (B), or just nice but unimportant (C). Write out a list of your A goals.

Now go through this list of A goals and number them starting from number 1 in order of the most important to the least important. #1 should be your most important. This exercise organizes your list of important goals by order of priority.

This is a great first step to setting up a comprehensive action plan for your important goals. I will be curious to see how many of my readers actually do this exercise and what they discover along the way.

Remember the process of successful goal setting begins with 3 basic steps:

1. Think of a goal.

2. Write it down. Try to create a picture in your head of what the goal looks like when you succeed.

3. Repeat the goal or read it often. You can keep a special notebook or journal for this purpose. Every day write out a list of your goals. I used to keep a list hanging on the inside of one of my personal bathroom cabinet doors. I opened that cabinet door every day and read through my list while I was brushing my teeth. You could also use the inside of your closet or another place of your choosing.

It's getting near the end of the year. Please vote in one of the polls listed to the right of this blog post. Be sure to leave me a comment about your goal setting experience.

Tomorrow I plan to start a discussion about intonation. It's something that has been on my mind quite a bit in the past few weeks. I'm eager to share what I know and look forward to hearing from others as to how they tackle this thorny issue.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Posture Followup

Remember in my previous blog post discussions about posture when I discussed my student Joseph (not his real name)? Joseph's story was that he had slumping posture and did not exude confidence. He did not pass his upper level university jury at the end of the spring semester. Joseph then undertook this past summer to address the concerns that the faculty expressed and to learn how to stand up tall and straight. I reported that this fall semester, Joseph looked like an entirely different person and he walked with an erect and confident posture. Many folks noticed and commented on the transformation. The upper level jury exam still loomed at the end of the semester, and this time would be Joseph's last opportunity to pass it.

I am writing with good news. Joseph passed his upper level today. He walked into the jury room with an erect posture and a good attitude. He respectfully answered questions or greetings from faculty jurors, and he spoke in a sure voice. And he passed! As one faculty member put it, "he did it with a home run."

Congratulations to Joseph and to the other three students who also passed their string upper level juries today!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rooted in Austin: newly launched online magazine

Please visit the newly launched "Rooted in Austin" online magazine. I was blessed to be included as one of the first profile stories in the "Faces" section, along with my menagerie of animals, the Artisan Quartet, and my Ornati violin. It's got video and photos of everything and everyone, including the alpacas.


Clash of the Personality Titans, part III -- how to relate to students and parents

In a previous blog post, I've talked about my experience as a teacher relating to Sanguine and Choleric students and parents. Now I will write about my experience relating to Melancholy and Phlegmatic students and parents.

The Melancholy student is a joy to teach from a teacher's perspective because he or she is unafraid of repetition and hard work. This is the student who thrives on doing something 10 or 20 times. I bring out my "Ten Times Perfect" abacus bead counter, my 1-20 die, or my pack of repertoire review cards, and I can easily fill up 30 minutes to an hour with the Melancholy student. It's all painless from a teacher's point of view.

The two tricky areas I have encountered when teaching the Melancholy student is that sometimes this student will not venture into new territory right away. The student may watch me demonstrate a new skill set but won't try it. The student may need to take the lesson home and live with it for a week before coming to their next lesson and playing it for me. I believe this behavior is due to the Melancholy's need to feel comfortable by thinking about something in great detail. As a Choleric teacher, this behavior may surprise me. The Melancholy student and I could be rocking along having a great lesson with lots of interesting new things going on, and all of a sudden the student seems to "shut down." I have learned over the years to watch for the signs and to be sure to give the Melancholy student plenty of time to absorb new concepts in small steps.

The other tricky thing is that the Melancholy student thinks very deeply about things and often changes whatever instructions I give into "to do" items. I marvel at how much a Melancholy student can transform my simple instructions into complex directions with a completely different set of words. The Melancholy has the uncanny ability to mutate my instruction of relaxation into a direction of tension within seconds. For example, if I ask the student to let the shoulder relax, I find that the Melancholy student may translate that instruction into an action step like "lower my shoulder." I am very careful when working with a Melancholy student to focus on language such as "let go" rather than "do" something, and I frequently ask the Melancholy to speak back to me and tell me what he or she is saying inside his or her mind so I can monitor for this situation and gently redirect the student.

I shouldn't be surprised by this behavior, as I have been married to a Melancholy personality for decades. One of the personality traits of a Melancholy is something called "selective hearing." I have come to understand that my Melancholy husband has heard me, but he has analyzed what I have said to such a complex depth, that he has completely reworded my original statement. As a teacher, though, the Melancholy's ability to work through an instruction to such a complex level of detail can frustrate and thwart the teaching point.

As an added note, I am a Choleric and can be way too powerful and overwhelming with my energy, self confidence, and quick thinking for the more sensitive and complex Melancholy. So I am careful to watch for the signs that I am coming on too strong for my Melancholy student, such as the student's backing away from me inch-by-inch or turning slightly away from me. I have one little Melancholy student who will suddenly put her violin on the little table next to us during the lesson. I have come to understand her gesture as a clue that she has reached the saturation point for that lesson and needs to stop and process everything we've worked on. I may be ready to take the next step, but my student has just indicated to me that she is not ready.

A Melancholy parent is a joy to work with from a teacher's perspective, because he or she is very careful to follow directions exactly. The Melancholy parent takes detailed notes at the lesson and follows through on assigned homework. The Melancholy parent does have a tendency to get so bogged down in detail that the child gets bored, so I keep an eye on that possibility. I am also careful to consider what personality match I have before me with regard to the parent and student. A Melancholy student paired with a Melancholy parent works well, but a Choleric or Sanguine student would get impatient with the Melancholy's frequent need for monumental amounts of detail and precision and seemingly slower pace (it's not a slower pace, but a deeper amount of detail). I might have to suggest that the Melancholy parent allow their student some "fun" time with the violin, which is a period of time at the end of a home practice session when the student is allowed to experiment with new material or some other activity without the parent's direction. A Choleric parent might seem too pushy and a Sanguine parent might seem too unfocused for a Melancholy student. A Phlegmatic parent might seem too easy going and too easily satisfied with less than stellar effort, which a Melancholy student would not enjoy.

The other issue I frequently face with a Melancholy parent is that they are sometimes reluctant to move forward with a new assignment. I have been heard to tell a Melancholy parent that they are "holding their child back." Because the Melancholy has a need to master whatever they are working on, they may not move forward until they are certain that they understand every nuance and facet of the assigned material.

The Phlegmatic student is very easy going and friendly. They want to please, but they aren't too excited about doing a lot of work. As I do with the Sanguine student, I look for ways to make our learning activities seem more like fun than work. Despite the attractiveness of playing games though, a Phlegmatic does not always respond to this tactic. Just like the physics principle that "a body at rest tends to stay at rest," the Phlegmatic at rest tends to stay at rest. Even playing a game can seem like too much effort to the Phlegmatic student. What I try to do is instill the life lesson that good quality and efficient work early and consistently will save lots of frustration and labor later. Efficiency is a lesson to which Phlegmatics can relate. Show them how to practice less, and a Phlegmatic is all over that lesson plan. The trick is to reiterate the lesson that "practice makes permanent" (not "perfect") and show the tricks to practicing correctly ("first time correctly, every time correctly"). Also, Phlegmatics tend to have one thing in their life that they are especially interested in. Find out what that one thing is, and you can focus on it and relate everything else to it to the delight of the Phlegmatic student.

There doesn't seem to be much that motivates the Phlegmatic student. They are very easy going and relaxed. Sometimes they look lazy, but I think that behavior resembles that of my cats: relaxed but ready to respond if need be, just conserving energy for the time being. Phlegmatic students are the watchers of the personality styles, and they are content to take a back seat to someone else in group situations. They will rise to the occasion if asked to lead in a group situation, so the burden is on the teacher to draw them forward.

One thing I have to be especially wary of is my Choleric tendency to push through a point with my Phlegmatic student. A Phlegmatic student considers such a tactic to be on the level of "nagging," and the Phelgmatic's stubborn streak will then rise to the occasion. A Phlegmatic student is a master of stubbornness, so I frequently remind myself to gently urge progress with my Phlegmatic student and not goad him or her into action.

The Phlegmatic parent is sometimes difficult to work with because he or she is so relaxed and easy going. I have to follow up to make sure that the Phlegmatic parent's student completes assignments, and I may have to encourage the Phlegmatic parent to take on the sterner stuff of parenting. I have to be clear about my expectations that the parent follow through on my assignments with their child. Aside from that, everyone generally likes to spend time with the Phlegmatic parent and student and their good sense of humor. A Phlegmatic parent or student seems to hold the group together. The Phlegmatic's presence helps to make a Melancholy or Choleric student or parent seem less intense, and a Phlegmatic personality may help a Sanguine tone down his or her cheerful enthusiasm to a more manageable level for the other personality styles.

To summarize the various personality styles, I would like to come up with a two word description:

Sanguine - the Cheerful Talker
Choleric - the Powerful Do-er
Melancholy - the Sensitive Thinker
Phlegmatic - the Easy-going Watcher

We've spent several blog posts discussing the various personality styles and how a teacher can relate in a more effective way to each individual style. The subject is much broader and detailed than what I have written here. I hope you have enjoyed reading and thinking about this subject as much as I have.

Be sure to vote in the polls listed to the right of this column, and if you have a particular topic you'd like me to address in future blog posts, be sure to leave me a comment or question below.

Thanks for your support. I am amazed by the number of folks around the world who have been reading my blog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clash of the Personality Titans, part II -- how to relate to students and parents

In the last blog discussion about personality styles, I talked about how the styles related to calendars, scheduling, and planning. This week I'd like to talk about how I relate to students' and parents' personality styles when teaching as it relates to Sanguines and Cholerics.

The Sanguine student needs spontaneity and fun. They do not like repetition for repetition's sake. I can get the Sanguine student to do a lot of repetitions, but I have to disguise the repetitions as part of a game or contest. As a teacher, I may get tired of having to come up with new things, but I have discovered that I can then turn the burden of creating a fun game over to my Sanguine student. They are happy to invent new ways to make "work" and repetition more interesting. My Sanguine students have created elaborate treasure hunts around their homes with various skill set repetitions stationed in interesting places. I have provided many styles of dice, colored spinners, and plastic poker chips or other colored plastic counters to my Sanguine students, and they have created and constructed many creative uses for these tools in practice. I also make liberal use of stickers and colorful checkmarks on the student's handbook or music book.

The Sanguine parent can be a little tricky to work with, because they tend to seem a little flighty and disorganized. I have to make sure that they understand the value of each assignment I give and that they will follow through. If I don't stress the importance of an assignment and follow up on whether the parent actually completed my assigned homework with the student, then the Sanguine tends to skip that part of the practice. I frequently remind my Sanguine parents of the importance of each action they perform; these parents serve as the child's most important role model, and completing assigned homework (or work assignment in later life) is an extremely valuable lesson for the child to take in while they are still in the stage of wanting to please their parents. I frequently remind myself to keep reiterating the importance of everything I do in lessons and group classes for the benefit of my Sanguine parents.

The Choleric student is easy to work with in some ways and difficult in other ways. The Choleric can be stimulated to learn simply by issuing a challenge of some sort: How many times can you play this? Let's see who can play this perfectly the most times (or the first time)? Who can use a slower bow? And I am unabashed about saying, "I win!" in order to demonstrate what the correct "winning" skill is. Of course, as a teacher I have the advantage of usually playing everything correctly or perfectly, so I usually win. But within one or two more repetitions, the Choleric is also winning alongside me. So the dare or challenge is definitely a winner with the Choleric personality style.

Here's the difficult part about Choleric students. They have an "unteachable" streak. They are extremely strong-willed and determined to go their own way. It doesn't matter what a parent, teacher, or other authority figure might say. If a Choleric wants to perform a task in a particular way, however misguided, then that is what they will insist on doing. There are several times that I have sat down with a young (5 or 6 years old) Choleric student and had a serious discussion, often with my arm around them, or with them sitting very closely next to me:

Me: "You know I like you a lot, right?"
Choleric: "Uh huh."
Me: "I just wanted to be sure you remembered that. I think that you are the kind of person who finds it hard to follow someone else's instructions, but I know you can get better at this and get really good at following instructions. So I want to help you get better. Here's what I'm going to do to help you." Then I look deeply into their eyes. "Every time you tell me what we are going to do next, I'm going to say 'no.'"

That's it. It's that simple. At that point, the Choleric student usually growls at me. I'm not kidding. They actually scrunch up their face and make a growling sound. It cracks me up, because as a Choleric I completely understand the feelings my Choleric student is experiencing. All I have to do next is just follow through on my promise.

The Choleric student also have a tendency to behave as if they are the only one in the room. When they arrive at the studio, they might walk through the teaching area to visit the restroom, choosing to walk right through the middle of the lesson rather than walking around the edge of the room. Or they might enter the studio and announce loudly, "I'm here! Hi, Miss Bird!" and completely ignore the fact that there is a lesson going on. Teaching the Choleric the appropriate behavior in various situations is an ongoing lesson in itself.

The Choleric parent can be difficult to work with too. They don't behave as if the rules that apply to everyone else also applies to them. A Choleric parent has a mind of their own, and if they do not think something is worth doing, then they won't do it. In a way, the Choleric's behavior is such that the world doesn't seem to exist until the Choleric enters the room. The Choleric parent is focused on moving forward, so I often encounter bouts of the parent's impatience with the speed of the child's progress. The Choleric tends to think about the bottom line, so they focus on how many songs the child has learned (the product) rather than the quality of skills the child has learned (the process). I spend a lot of time encouraging the Choleric parent to "tone it down" and slow it down. I am generous about the number of achievements to celebrate, since a Choleric tends to not be satisfied but is always looking ahead to the next milestone. I frequently remind the Choleric parent to focus back on the starting point, so that they remember to acknowledge the amount of effort and the ultimate amount of progress the student has made.

As you can see, the study of personality styles is quite involved when put into practice. My discussion here was about the Sanguine and Choleric students andf parents. In my next personality discussion, I will look closely at the Melancholy and Phlegmatic personality styles of students and parents.

Be sure to leave me a comment about your own personal observations as they relate to personality styles. I welcome any questions you might have about the teaching process or any problems you might encounter in the teaching area.

Monday "Morning" KIG (Kick Into Gear)

OK, so it isn't Monday morning anymore. I'll just go on pretending that it is so I can post this goal setting discussion. It's still Monday as I write this.

It's that time of year that all musicians know and love: Nutcracker Ballet, Messiah, Church Christmas programs, Christmas Sing-a-longs, and final semester programs. The university is winding down its semester, and today was kind of like that last day before one goes on vacation. It's amazing how many things need to be taken care of before leaving for the day (and the semester). I thought I'd find a few moments in my morning to post this, but no such luck.

In past goal setting discussions, I've talked about the importance of writing down goals. I wanted to share another humorous personal experience for me. As I was cleaning through some goal-setting materials that I've used in the past, I stumbled across a page in a notebook, which I had written in 2001 or 2002, almost a decade ago. I had written a list of 20 items in answer to the statement: "I want more . . ."

Here are a few of the 20 items I listed:

- more money (I make more than double what I did back in 2001)
- time to write (I'm writing fairly consistently on a weekly basis)
- travel (Since 2001, I've been to Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, London, Wales, Scotland, and Italy, and I have plans to return to Italy in the summer of 2011)
- time to go horseback riding (although this only seems to be available during holidays, I now actually own my own horse and have made friends with several riding instructors; I have spent the past year learning about the Parelli horse training method)
- time to go see my family (I have learned to just take the necessary time; I have seen my entire family in the past 2 years)
- time to do language programs (I completed the Rosetta Stone Italian course before my first trip to Italy in 2009; I successfully managed to survive in Italy on the Italian I learned, even when I got lost jogging in Florence)
- cute little dog (I now own 6 cute little dogs, and I raise miniature long-haired Dachshunds; we are raising 3 puppies currently to be ready for new homes for Christmas)

In another area, I had to write about my "dream state" in 10 areas of my life, describing how I wanted each area of my life to be if I had no restrictions. The 10 areas included: Health & Fitness, Family, Friends, Home, Career, Finances, Spirituality, Leisure, Community, and World View. Here are some highlights from my list of 2001:

- I can run a marathon and do it once a year (I completed my first marathon in 2006, and I have run a marathon and several half marathons or other longer running distance every year except this current one; I have run two ultra marathons of 50K also)
- I am teaching full time at the university (I have been full time since fall 2009)
- I make enough money to play a fabulous violin (I now own two of them) and own a grand piano (bought a few years ago)
- I am able to use my musical talents to benefit my church or other churches (I now have a position playing piano for the Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church in Wimberley
- I enjoy solitude in the country (yup, my home is on a smaller ranch of 16.5 acres and in the Hill Country, about 12 miles from any village or town)
- My music, writing, speaking, and teaching helps to nurture and mature parents and children (I have been giving a parent teaching course for a decade now, and I have received a lot of feedback that the course has helped parents to be better role models and teachers for their children)

Now isn't that just amazing? I don't even remember writing those lists of goals a decade ago, and yet, the written evidence is before me. What is truly astonishing is that I have accomplished so many of the things I wrote about, and in some cases I have achieved even more than my first thoughts anticipated.

Again I'd like to encourage you to write down some goals for this coming year. Try the two exercises I described above. In exercise 1, take a sheet of paper and number from 1-20 lines. At the top of the paper, write "I want more." Then quickly (do not stop!), fill in the 20 blanks. This isn't the most effective list of goals, but it is a starting point of a written list of goals.

The second exercise was designed to get you thinking about a particular picture or image that comes to mind when you think about a particular goal. For example, when I say I want more money, what picture comes to mind? A fast car, a mansion, a fancy restaurant, or a bank balance? These would be effective pictures, and writing my specific goal in terms of the picture I create in my head would be the best way to effectively record my goal. The second exercise helps us to create the picture in our heads because it asks us to describe various areas of our life: Health & Fitness, Family, Friends, Home, Career, Finances, Spirituality, Leisure, Community (neighborhood), and World View. After writing your own life description in these various areas, you can then begin to reflect on how different your dream life looks from your current life.

Sometimes what we need in the beginning is a purpose or vision statement to get us going and give us momentum. My purpose and vision stems from something that Dr. Shinichi Suzuki wrote about not wanting to grow concert artists, but to use the violin as a vehicle for teaching his students to be better human beings and members of society. I totally agree with Dr. Suzuki's philosophy, and I have spent decades trying to influence or inspire students, their parents, and even other teachers to reach out and do the same. Dr. Suzuki's dream was to change the world one student at a time. I agree. As a teacher, I can think of no nobler purpose than to teach a student the process of developing an ability and skill. Whether the student pursues the skill or ability into adult years does not matter as much as teaching the student what the tools and steps are to learn a skill or ability.

This semester (and this week), I have graduated two students from the university. One is an undergraduate music educator who will be an excellent strings teacher, and the other was a graduate student who will bring his skills and abilities to a different cultural realm and location. I am so proud of both students for all their hard work and dedication to the teaching profession. I am so happy to have shared a few moments with both students as they passed by on their life's journey to become future music educators.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Clash of the Personality Titans, part I -- Calendars and Planning

After my exhaustive blog post about the four personality temperaments, I thought it would be fun to discuss the accompanying clashes that occur between different temperaments and the difficulties of teaching to various temperaments.

First, let me be clear that I am basically talking from my own personal experience. I am not trying to turn this entire discussion into a thesis or research project. The following discussion comes from my own personal observations in the workplace as an attorney, a university teacher, and a private teacher for the past 34 years or more. I find the discussion of temperaments to be amusing, but I also find it useful in many situations. Let's look a little closer at the personality styles as they relate to calendars and planning.

Sanguines tend to be unscheduled and spur of the moment. They seem uncomfortable using calendars, if they even own one. I recall during my attorney days that my firm frequently assigned a new attorney to visit with me about time management issues. My first question was for the new attorney to show me their preferred calendar method. Sanguines didn't have any, or if they used a calendar system, it was a colorful one with filings by projects rather than a time schedule. Phlegmatics didn't maintain calendars too well either, but that's because it was just too much work to write things down and then remember to look at the entries. A Phlegmatic found it easier to remember things by memory: who needs a calendar if you can remember things in your head? Sanguines felt more comfortable with a system that lent itself to creativity and spontaneity. Phlegmatics relied on their memory rather than on effort. Hopefully, a Phlegmatic's memory would be strong enough to accommodate little effort.

Cholerics didn't have a time management problem in general. They usually had master plans all worked out with calendars, spreadsheets, and time lines. Remember: Cholerics like action and progress, hence a plan to move forward. If the Cholerics had any weakness in the calendar area, it might be the inattention to detail or to following up on loose ends. Melancholies had detailed calendars too, sometimes to the extent of a calendar entry for every possible area of their life, and each one color coded by area and often indecipherable to the average onlooker. Remember: Melancholies like detail and lots of it. Sometimes it's more fun for a Melancholy to plan for contingencies than it is to actually take the first step. Cholerics are masters of the calendar and master plan. This is what they do best. Melancholies are good at this too, but they incorporate too much detail for other personality styles to appreciate. Sometimes the focus on details can bog down any movement toward action.

Which category do you fall into? Can you see the plus and minus of each personality? Can you understand now how there could be a need for all personality styles in the world? I think the perfect committee would be one that has a representative from each personality style. The Choleric would run the show and demand forward motion. The Choleric would ask for plans and action steps. The Melancholy would evaluate and analyze every possible facet of the issues and generate lists/charts/graphs about the action steps required and the possible consequences of each action taken. The Sanguine would come up with creative project topics, ideas, and solutions but would not give much attention to action planning or calendar timelines. The other committee members shouldn't rely on the Sanguine actually following through on any of the Sanguine's creative ideas. Like the Sanguine, the Phlegmatic wouldn't do much with regard to calendaring or planning, but the Phlegmatic would be the pleasant sounding board for ideas and concerns -- the glue that would hold the committee group together in a friendly fashion.

Next time I'll talk about the teaching and learning environment as they relate to personality styles. Please leave me a comment  or question, and be sure to vote in one of the polls in the sidebar.