The rule of…Three!


This is a totally ambiguous, super helpful, and random “rule” that helps both teaching and practice.

Everyone knows the best things come in three:

These guys: 

These things:

This show? 

Definitely this: 

And  Okaay, maybe I got carried away with the “logic” there.

The “rule” of three is:

Say it, do it, and/or play it three different ways.

Pretty simple right?

Here comes the breakdown:

  • Say it three different ways:

This is especially useful teaching or rehearsing. “Hi”, “How’s it going?”, “What’s up?” all pretty much mean the same thing, but they could have slightly different connotations. Also, most of the time in music (at least in teaching) we’re essentially speaking a language only one person understands- so while “Hi” may translate, “how’s it going?” might not yet (“play it louder” vs “play it more forte” if the student hasn’t learned some of the basic terms yet). Sometimes one thing won’t click but another will, and it’s hard to predict what will or won’t for each student. So, just go for a nice selection!

  • Do it or Play it three different ways:

Ohhh, this is my special little happy place right here. This is so useful for just about every situation.

Situation 1: Student cannot (can NOT) get a passage

1. Play it in different rhythms

2. Play it backwards

3. Play it on one leg

Whatever. Just play it different ways. Then go back to the “correct” way. It is helpful to know why the passage is tough for the student- if it’s a rhythmic issue, that’s the thing that can be messed with. If it’s a pitch issue, try singing, playing on the piano, playing in a different position, etc.

The last step is to play it correctly three times… I notice we usually forget this step (get it right, move on). That means we’ve usually played it wrong more than right. Pro tip!