Creating a Practice Habit with Our Grand Practice Adventure by Sue Hunt, Music in Practice
All of these students started with a goal of 100 days of practice. Many refused to stop and kept right on going.

As Suzuki used to say, “Knowledge plus 10,000 repetitions is skill.”  Creating good practice habits with Our Grand Practice Adventure is a great way to achieve your goals.

When 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 correctly 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 each new layer of fat, the circuit gradually becomes a superbly fast and efficient and we soon notice that the action (or thought) becomes easier and easier.  There is absolutely no getting round this fact, so you need to commit to daily practice if you want to learn easily.  It is never too early to learn that ability comes from focussed practice.

Many studios have started putting on a Grand Practice Adventure for their students with practice advice for the parents and games and rewards for the students.

Our Grand Practice Adventure is a very simple programme.  Just practice and listen to your repertoire every day and keep a record so that you don’t miss out.  Take the adventure in small sections to start with, 10, 25, 50 and 75 days for example.  Celebrate each of the milestones 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 a 100 Days Challenge by inviting them to walk across the stage to rapturous applause.  I have even seen students, 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 mindful, correct repetitions, you have made your Practice Task(s) easier, you have done a practice.  Day 1 of your Grand Practice Adventure, 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 only rule for those taking part in Our Grand Practice Adventure is 100 days in a row, so don’t make exceptions.  On tricky days, think small and perhaps play 1 or 2 review pieces with great love and care.  Perhaps you could take one small thing that needs improvement and work on it with that target in mind, or what about 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 music 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 enjoy looking cool while they do their listening.  One of my most successful students started her Grand Practice Adventure by listening.  She was “allowed” to listen to an MP3 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.  Her Grand Practice Adventure became an easy add on, gifting her with a lifetime practice habit.

If you can’t take your instrument on holiday, you can still go on a Grand Practice Adventure.  You can often rent at your destination.  Even if you can’t, you can still practice bow holds, bowings, fingerings and reading games.  There’s a lot that string players can do with a box and a stick.  Pianists can make, or buy a keyboard roll or just use a table top.

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 was delighted to be recently asked to present prizes to students who had so much fun, that they kept going for a year after starting their Grand Practice Adventure.

Do join us and help your children to create their own success stories.


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