As Suzuki used to say, “Knowledge plus 10,000 repetitions is skill.” Creating a practice habit with the 100 Days Challenge seems to me to be a good start.
Last summer I came across a very inspiring book called the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. I was enchanted to read that in order to turn information into a habit or skill, we really do need to practice doing it many thousands of times.
Here’s how it works. To carry out an action or even to think a thought, the brain has to send instructions along the nerves. Now, it is a biological fact that every time we fire a nerve circuit, it becomes coated with a thin layer of fat called myelin. With new layer of fat, the circuit gradually becomes a superbly fast and efficient. There is absolutely no getting round this fact, so you need to commit to daily practice if you want to learn easily. I find that the sooner families do this for their children, the easier it becomes in the long run.
Some studios run a 100 Days Challenge with rewards such as parties and or trophies. If not, get together with some friends who are also having instrumental lessons and start your own.
100 Days Challenge is a very simple programme. Just practice and listen to your repertoire every day and keep a record so that you don’t miss. Take it in small sections to start with, 10, 25, 50 and 75 days for example. Celebrate each milestone of your 100 Days Challenge with recognition at the studio and a treat.
I know of a studio where the parents provide photos of their children. These are moved up a 100 Days Challenge practice chart at the studio each week during the challenge.
Some summer schools and institutes recognize students who have done the 100 Days Challenge by inviting them to walk across the stage to rapturous applause. I have even seen kids at the American Suzuki Institute acknowledged for 10 years of practice.
What constitutes a practice?
We practice to make it easier, therefore if by doing careful correct repetitions, you have made your set Practice Task(s) easier, you have done a practice. Day one of your 100 Days Challenge, accomplished!
Suzuki said, “Only practice on the days when you eat,” but obviously there will be some days when fitting practice into the daily schedule will be a challenge. The rule is 100 days in a row so don’t make exceptions. You don’t want to have to start your 100 Days Challenge over. On these days, think small and perhaps play a review piece or two with great love and care. How about taking one small thing that needs improvement and work on it with that target in mind, or asking your teacher to set you something for a tiny emergency practice. Just ask.
Always do your listening. It is a huge practice motivator even though it doesn’t constitute a practice by itself. It is much, much more easy to learn to play a song when you already know it. Just have the recording on in the background on a low level so that it just sinks in. It’s easy to listen while traveling with MP3 players. All you have to do is plug them in and your kids will look cool while they do their listening. One of my most successful students started her 100 days by listening. She was “allowed” to listen to an WP3 player as a “special treat” on the way to and from school. All the other children thought that she was terribly lucky to have a mum who allowed such privileges. What they didn’t know, was that the only tunes on the MP3 where from her Suzuki repertoire played quietly so as not to damage her ears. Her listening assignment happened automatically. The 100 Days Challenge became an easy add on, gifting her with a lifetime practice habit.
If you can’t take your instrument on holiday, you can still complete the 100 Days Challenge. You can often rent at your destination. If you can’t, practice bow holds, bowings, fingerings and reading games. There’s a lot you can do with a box and a stick. Pianists can make a cardboard keyboard.
Once you and your child have made it to around 10 or 25 days without missing you will probably find yourselves unable to stop. I am always delighted at the improvements that my students make to their playing by achieving the goal of the 100 Days Challenge.