Reasons for Practising:
Regular practice is essential if you want to enjoy the benefits of learning a musical instrument. Before committing, pause for a moment to think about your reasons for spending money on lessons for your child. There could be hundreds. Improved self confidence, better muscular co-ordination, quicker neural connections, exposure to a motivated peer group, scholarships, entry to better schools and orchestras, learning a skill which will give pleasure for life and developing a fine young person with a kind heart are just a few. When you find many reasons for doing something, you will find many ways to see that it gets done.
Here are some of the successful ideas and strategies used by my students.
Practice Goal Setting:
The 100 Day Practice Club. We are keeping a record of the number of practices each pupil does. All those who practice 100 days in a row join The 100 Club and do something special together at the end of the term.
Setting realistic goals with your teacher. Discuss what you want to accomplish with your child during the term and break it down into small achievable projects.
A ribbon, rosette or star sheet can be brought to school for “Show and Tell.” The sportsmen of the class do this, who not the musicians?
Does your teacher set a special teaching point each week? Work on it and take photos of the successful results.
Saving Practice Time:
Keep your instrument ready to play. Leave it in a VERY SAFE PLACE, ready to play but with bow unwound, lying in its open case. When your budding musician wants to do yet another practice, all you need to do is tighten up the bow and check the tuning. If you get into the habit of doing this, your tuning skill will also improve dramatically. At bed time, wipe it down with a soft dry face cloth and tuck it lovingly under a fiddle blanket .
Don’t do long practices unless your child really likes getting into it. Keeping going when he has lost focus is a total waste of time.
Practising a string instrument can be very tiring, both mentally and physically. Young children work much better if you keep practice sessions short.
When to do Practice:
Establish a regular time and stick to it. When something becomes part of the regular household routine, it just gets done, like brushing your teeth, feeding the dog, buying groceries, taking the children to school etc.
Try mornings. This sometimes needs military planning but it is worth it. Children are usually more responsive, early in the day. Remember to feed them first.
TV ad Teaching Point practice. How many perfect bow holds can you make during the adds? Keep a record and surprise your teacher. Can you maintain a perfect instrument hold for the duration of the ads? This is an excellent supplement to a longer morning session.
Polish a skill to show off to the non practising parent when he or she has come home from work and has had a chance to wind down. Make sure that your partner is briefed on the importance of keeping all comments positive.
Invite a favourite friend or relation to supper and a concert. Please remind them about positive comments.
Practise with an accompaniment. Use the Suzuki computer software or a recording. A midi disk can be used for work on small spots as well as the complete piece.
Some children like practising in front of a mirror or in front of a blank TV screen. Pretend that it is a real TV performance.
Siblings and Practice:
Make sure you know where your other child is. Is she safely occupied?
A one year old can sit in his high chair for a bit.
Sometimes 2 or more children demand to practise at the same time. If they are quite young you may find that alternating practice tasks between them works well.
Sometimes very young ones are happy to march round the room copying what they see.
Overly critical siblings. If this is a problem, give them the job of noticing everything which is working well: a bent bow thumb, perfect playing feet etc.
Everyone has days, or weeks when you feel that you have lost your sparkle. A collection of practice games will help to pull you through tough times. However, please remember that the most important tool that you can use to make practice a regular success is your unconditional love.
“With love, much can be accomplished.” Suzuki
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