Book Review - Zoom88 (How to be calmer and improve your music making) by Rosemary Wiseman.
When I am not busy performing or writing music books, a fair amount of my time is devoted to teaching music, both ukulele and classical guitar. As such I am always (hopefully like any good teacher should be) on the lookout for resources to hone and further my teaching skills. With this in mind I happened upon a book entitled ‘Zoom88 – How to be calmer and improve your music making’ by Rosemary Wiseman.
Rosemary is a very experienced music teacher and performer and her book has one main aim -to improve any players ability. Her main aim with Zoom88 that it ‘will help us all to get more enjoyment and pleasure from making music’.
The book begins with a short history of Rosemary and how she came to write the book. As a child she suffered with RSI but I love the part where she described becoming the ‘one handed cellist; - so great was her determination and grit that for many hours she would just practice with her hand that wasn’t suffering from RSI.
The book then moves onto its main focus – how to improve yours and your students playing and performing. Much of the book focuses on TFT which is Thought Field Therapy and how this can be an aid to teaching and learning. Throughout the book Rosemary’s experience as a teacher shines through. An valid example of this is when Rosemary writes about when her teacher once told her she was playing ‘like a cart horse’ and how imperative it is that as teachers we need to be careful of comments made to students. Rosemary’s whole approach to teaching is to ensure that ‘both I and those I teach get pleasure from making music’. If I put my teaching hat on for a moment, I must say large parts of the book really resonated for me. Throughout the read, I often found myself saying ‘ain’t that the truth’ or ‘wow yes I have heard my students say that so many times’
Zoom 88 has many great practical tips for lessons. Rosemary often breaks maters down alphabetically giving reasons for each letter. For example A is for Affirmations and her Rosemary quotes from Dr Brian Roet, when it comes to musical performances, ‘The most important words you’ll ever hear are those you tell yourself’. You will only perform best when you are focused and absorbed in the music itself.
B is for Be Sure and Rosemary describes how in music there is always an answer and guessing must be ruled out. F is for Freeze and here Rosemary explains how when teaching she will sometimes shout ‘Freeze’ and get the student to look at their hand position and assess how good or bad it is themselves – what a great idea and definitely one I’ll be adopting. R is for repertoire and Rosemary suggest ‘Always have pieces in your repertoire, which you can play well at short notice’ – again obvious, but great advice. So much of the advice in this book is sound (no pun intended). .
My favourite chapter is the S is for Slow chapter. I learnt a lot from this. Rosemary regularly does a whole lesson where the student is encouraged to play slowly throughout the whole lesson. As Rosemary states often mistakes are made as we practice ‘too fast’. The chapter outlines reasons for and ways to do slow lessons and I found this very useful. As Rosemary states ‘Slowest Playing = Fastest Progress. I totally agree when Rosemary states ‘ Playing slowly or slow practice gives you time to think, concentrate focus, listen and look at the music. Its surprising how when students play slow they get often then get everything right and can start to feel a sense of achievement. I would be surprised if after reading this Chapter any teacher did not adopt doing the occasional ‘slow’ lesson.
Zoom 88 is littered with useful tips like R is for record your practicing and R is for Repeat Repeat Repeat. When the music is correct – repeat repeat repeat.
I also really enjoyed the chapter on Mistakes. The chapter outlines ways to try and learn from and slowly minimize mistakes. Its general theory is that ‘Whatever you practice you get Better at’. It is, as Rosemary states, important that as teachers we make sure any lesson is a safe place where mistakes can be made.
Overall I found Zoom 88 to be a great resource for teaching. The Chapter I learnt most from and have deployed most is the chapter on encouraging students to play slowly. This has definitely helped me. I highly recommend this book. You can purchase it at www.RosemaryWiseman.com