“If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly. If you learn something very quickly, you forget it immediately.” Itzak Perlman.
In the 21st Century, we are bombarded with quick results, instant gratification and quick fixes.
If we are feeling low or frustrated, there is probably a pill to fix it.
If we are overwhelmed by learning to do something new, why persevere? There is bound to be an instant solution out there, for making music fun, preferably one which doesn’t involve any hard work.
First, we need to look at the hard facts.
- 1 Playing the violin may look easy, but it is widely known as the most difficult activity in the world. Learning to play the violin can not be rushed.
- 2 This activity is made up of many micro skills: for example, standing correctly, holding the instrument and bow and making the tiny adjustments necessary to play in tune.
- 3 In order to internalize the skill so that you can repeat it with unconscious competence, it needs to be repeated correctly at least 10,000 times. This is not an overnight exercise.
The enormity of this can be quite daunting to a small child and the parent who is helping out with practice.
So, what can we do about this? Just how do you help your child to keep the ball rolling? Are there really secret music activities for children to make music fun? Let’s deal first with two stumbling blocks.
1 In my experience, the number 1 stumbling block is giving a small beginner too much to do at once. To avoid this, we really do have to chunk the foundation stages into micro-tasks. Think of the number of elements that go into making and sustaining a good bow hold. The shoulders and bow arm have to be relaxed, the rest in the back hand have to be flat and the placement of each finger is a micro skill in itself. That’s only the beginning as you have to be able to sustain a beautiful bow hold when your mind is split between posture, violin hold and wiggling the violin fingers and the bow at the same time.
2 Chunking everything down, brings us to the 2nd stumbling block, which is getting a small child to perform each micro task correctly around 10,000 times. To a small child, these micro-skills apparently have no relationship to making beautiful music. By the 4th or 5th repetition they can become, at best, an irrelevant irritation.
The secret to making music teaching fun is threefold:
1 Keep practice specific. Focus on a concrete goal. You and your child have to understand exactly what your teacher wants you to do and exactly how to do it. If you just don’t get it, ask! Have faith in your teacher, please don’t ask why. “What” and “How” are all you need.
2 Always practice at Practice Tempo.
Q. What is PRACTICE TEMPO?
A. The speed at which nothing can go wrong.
When Leila Josefowicz was a 12 year old violin prodigy, a friend asked her mother how she learnt new pieces so fast.
Her reply was, “The way Leila practiced, was to never play something more quickly than she could play without any errors. That way she never learned mistakes.”
3 Play practice games. Once you have got the “Whats” and the “Hows” sorted and you understand the importance of Practice Tempo, you need to think of ways to get your child to perform instructions slowly and with great focus. Again, a small child won’t understand this and will need help, to keep going. If you haven’t signed up for my 6 Free Games and Practice Advice, do so NOW, at the top right hand corner of this page. Download, print and cut out the games as they come and take them to your child’s lesson, so that your teacher can help you to write practice instructions on the cards. Once you have done this, you will be ready to try the other games at Music in Practice.
Of special interest to parents and teachers who are working towards daily focussed practice, will be the 100 Day Practice Journal. This comes in daily emails, packed with practical advice, charts, certificates and fun.
There you have it. The secret to making music fun, is to play the fun music games, following your teacher’s specific practice instructions, at Practice Tempo. When you do this, you will find yourselves starting to move slowly, but surely forward. You will NOT find yourselves overloaded, bored, or unmotivated. My students, who habitually play fun music games, are all highly motivated by the progress they are making. In fact, it has been reported to me, that they like practice much better than school homework. Little do they know, that the superb focal skills gained in music practice will be hugely beneficial in their school and adult lives.
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