Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Practicing Game

Some of you may know, most of you don't, but I'm having a BABY!  What does that mean?  It means that I've been sick for a month now and not feeling up to doing much of anything....including practicing.  I'm sure my daughter doesn't mind, but in the back of my mind I feel like a hypocrite for having a blog all about practicing when I'm not practicing what I least not lately.  I WILL get back into the routine again sometime soon.

I've spent some time adding some practicing charts to the website that I've had stored on  my computer for months.  So, if you go do The Practice Shoppe website and browse around you may find some new, helpful charts.  Here is a game I found that I used a while back with my little one.  It's a basic chart, so you could make up your own rules.

One way: fill in the boxes with songs that need to be practiced and just start from the beginning and use some sort of marker (these fun erasers work wonders) and proceed one box at a time until you get to the end.  I let my daughter choose what to play on the butterflies.

Another way: fill in the boxes with songs that need to be practiced and make some cards with ways to move across the board (move forward two spaces, move back 3 spaces.)  Include some other fun cards (give a kids to mom, play the next song outside, etc.)

Like I said - simple....we moms don't have time for anything too elaborate.  But perhaps this will put some spice in your practicing this week.  I think I may use it again.

Find this chart HERE!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Are you listening?

This post was contributed by the lovely Tabitha Ricks!

This month's post is on the three types of listening. Edward Kreitman says there are three types of listening: passive, parallel, and active listening.

Passive Listening
This is the type of listening done in the car or at home...or anywhere where it's not the primary activity going on.

This is the way the student learns melodies, quality of tone, and intonation.

Another good idea for this type of listening comes from Michele Horner. She calls it "listening like a maniac." Each day, you listen to the song you're on at least 10 times in a row, then switch to the next song 10 times in a row, and finally the song after that 10 times in a row. Michele Horner did this with her own daughter and was able to learn faster. I have been doing this with Seth, and it has been much easier to for him to learn the next song. One thing to mention is that it's important to listen to the rest of the CD and the other CD's also.

Parallel Listening
This type of listening is listening to the higher books while you are in a lower book. For example, listen to book 4 while you're in book 1. You should listen to all books as early as possible.

This listening builds great vision for the parent and the student (and they will know the pieces much better). It is also good to hear other classical music as much as possible.

Active/Targeted Listening
This is where you have the student listen specifically to one part of the music during practicing and hear specific detail to learn from listening.

This has been helpful to us for a couple of reasons. It has helped Seth learn the song easier, it gives him a break of playing during practicing, and it is training his mind to listen to the details of the piece. When he was learning Humoresque, I had him listen specifically to the order of the piece with the music in front of him. Since he is learning to read music, having him look at the music and identify the sections gave him confidence in reading music and added visual input to help him learn the piece. He played it in the right order a lot easier than some of the pieces before that.

Here are some examples of other questions you could ask:
"How many slurs do you hear in each line?"
"Do you hear the 1st or 2nd ending here?"
"Does this section repeat?"
"Where does the first part end?"
"Do you hear legato or staccato bowing?"
"Are the notes on or off the string?"

You can even point to the music to show how the slurs are or the staccato bowing is written...where the repeat is, or where the 1st or 2nd ending is.

All in all...KEEP might save you from going crazy!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bravo Bingo again

I made this Bravo Bingo chart a while ago and it's so cute!  I updated it from the Maurer's String Book.  However, I'm finally getting around to using it with my daughter and I can see that some things need to change.  Most of all it needs to be customizable (is that even a word?)  So, I've attached it as a Word document on the Practice Shoppe website so you can download it and put any sort of exercises you need in the different spots.  My daughter's favorite square is "Hug mom."  Probably because it's the easiest - but I like it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pictures From Lessons

I love using my iPhone during my lessons to take pictures and videos of my students.  I also use it at home when practicing.  This is a great visual for students to see exactly what you mean when describing something.  I m have a thing with heads and I really think a student looks better when their head is tall.  Here are some before and after pictures I've taken of my students in the past year of their before and after heads.  This way they can see what I'm talking about when I ask them over and over to keep their head up.  I hope this gives you some ideas to use while you are practicing or teaching.







Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Music in Practice

I recently discovered a great website  This is by a teacher who has really put some thought into some of her products and ideas.  She has great motivational articles - some of which I really want to use in some of the SAU publications.

You can receive this free set of practicing games by e-mail if you visit her website.  Here I have printed everything out, laminated it, and cut it.  Now I have a lovely set of practicing cards that I can use in many different ways.  Half of them have different things a child can do or say that just break up practicing and make it fun.

There are some blank cards where you can write in different practicing pieces or points with a dry-erase or wet-erase marker.

Some of the blank ones have stars.  When playing this game at my group lesson the one with a star had to be a solo by the person who picked it.

Some of the blank ones have a treasure chest.  Perhaps there could be some sort of surprise if the child gets a treasure chest.  In my group class, I was giving out Bach Bucks to people who chose a card with a treasure chest.

Sue, the author of the website and creator of these great cards, has six different practice suggestions on how to use these cards.  This is how I used them in group lessons for my Book 1 students, but this could easily be adapted to private practice or lessons as well.  I put the cards in a circle, face down.  We started with the first one and played that piece.
The kids then took turns rolling the dice and moving our little Panda around the board and turning over a card.  We did this for half of the group lesson and the kids loved taking turns rolling the die, playing the songs, and doing the activities.  It was a fun group lesson and would be a fun practice idea as well!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two Ways to Use a Deck of Cards

My daughter's teacher has a studio mom who e-mails some practicing ideas each month. Tabitha Ricks gave these ideas on practicing with a deck of cards.

The Lay Down Game
The parent/teacher lays down a card every time they hear what they are looking for (i.e. ringing notes, shifting in tune, stop-stop bows, eyes on highway, straight bow, notes in tune).

The child can try to beat what (s)he got the last time or the day before.


If parent holds up an "A" (which would be "1"), child plays soft. The higher the number, the louder they play, so 10 is loudest.

This is good for scales, tonalization, and pieces. You might even ask what number they think they should start/finish at.
Thanks Tabitha!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perpetual Motion

Here is a chart on of my student's mom made for her when she learned Perpetual Motion. She made up some really cute words to go with it. Try it out!

Roller coaster
See it climb clim
Climbing up to reach the top top

Roller coaster
See it climb climb
Getting ready to roll down down

Roller coaster
Going faster
Racing down to reach the bottom

Roller coaster
Going faster
Racing down to reach the bottom

Roller coaster
So exciting
Do you want to
Go and ride it

Roller coaster
So exciting
I can't wait to go and ride it!

Roller coaster
Now I'm climbing
Climbing up to reach the top top

Roller coaster
See me climb climb
Getting ready to race down down!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Practice Book

The start of the new school year has brought a new level of motivation for me and my kids. I've been thinking of making this practice book for a long time for my students, but I didn't know how well it would get used. So, I decided to make one for my own daughter and see if we liked it. If it's successful I may pass it on to my students.

First of all, I made the cover using one of my photos with her and her violin. This is a cute one from her solo recital last year.
Right at the front of the book, I put the calendar for the whole year through next August. I'm going to use this calendar to put her violin dates (since my calendar is full of our family's activities) so she can see for herself when she has lessons and group lessons. As a kindergartener this year she will be learning a lot about calendars. We will also put a sticker on each day that she practices so she'll have a visual of how much she practices

The bulk of the practice book is the 52 blank practice guides. I have lots of different practice guides, but since I'm sure she'll be in Book 2 before next August I wanted to ensure that this book would last all year.
One of our goals this year is to play every song in Book 1 100 times. This should be a pretty easy goal considering that we play every piece at least every other day. But it sounds like a lot and I'll come up with some sort of reward when we're finished. What I used here was a Book 1 review chart with 25 boxes and I copied it 4 times.
After the Book 1 review chart are a variety of other charts just for fun in case we want to use them. This is one reason I was debating whether or not to bind this or put it in a 3 ring binder. I know that we will want to use other charts throughout the year. But I liked the idea of a spiral-bound book because it will all stay together and it will be easy to fold back so it'll fit on my lap or my stand easier.
And the very last page is a picture that I let my daughter draw so she feels like this is HER book instead of my book. She loves looking at it!

Overall, laminating the front and the back and spiral binding it (I made the copies on my home copier so I'm not counting that cost) cost me $4.50 at Alphagraphics. I hope this will motivate us to practice all year long!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Etude can be Easy

There are various ways to learn and remember Etude - that song in book 1 that is a nightmare for some kids to learn....and remember. This latest paper was given to me by our violin teacher and really helped my daughter and my students learn Etude. All my girls sang it after a while, including my 2-year-old and 9-year-old in Book 6. When the 9-year-old reviewed the piece after learning this song she played it perfectly with all the parts in order. Give it a try...the kids love it!

Peanut butter peanut butter sandwiches are good to eat with watermelon watermelon
let me have some peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter sandwiches are good to eat
with watermelon watermelon let me have some more please with some
jelly beans all rolling to my tummy and some
peanuts, popcorn, pickles, pudding YUMMY YUMMY!
Peanut butter peanut butter sandwiches are good and sweet oh what a lot to eat!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Practicing Cards

I use practicing cards a lot with my own children as well as my students during their lessons and group lessons. Basically, the practicing cards are cards with the names of all the stuff you're practicing on them. I love to use these adorable cards from Meredith Strings for the Suzuki pieces, but I've also found that I need to make my own set of cards that include the Suzuki pieces, extra pieces, and scales, exercises, etc. I just make them on index cards and get an index card box to store them in. The Meredith Strings cards fit well in a Really Useful Box (really, that's the name) found at any office supply shop.

There are lots of ways to use these cards during practice.

  • The parent or teacher lays out the things that need to be accomplished during a practice session so that the child can see everything and take turns choosing what to do and then take that card away. When the cards are gone - practicing is done! I like to take turns because if the child chooses all the time the hard stuff will be left to the end when they are getting restless. If I had to choose all the time the child might think it's not fair or fun.
  • Today I practiced with my daughter by pulling out the things she absolutely needed to do, which were her new piece, last three songs, and scale. I put the rest of the cards in a stack and told her to separate them into two piles. One stack today, one stack tomorrow. I shuffled all the cards up and she picked the top one up and did it. This way it was a mystery to both of us what she would play next, but everything got done.
  • In a group lesson setting, I put all the cards that I'm willing to play in the group, but since there is no way I will get to them all I let the kids take turns choosing the cards and we play those pieces.
  • Combine these cards with other practicing cards that may have a posture point or a particular way to play. Cards could include Keeping Eyes on the Highway, Straight Bow, Bent Thumb, and Straight Head. It could also include fun things such as Standing on One Foot, Bow Upside Down, and Play with Eyes Closed. Pick a piece card and an action card and combine the two. This would be most effective with review in a practice or group lesson setting.

What are some other ways you can think of to use these practice cards?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Can I be like her?

Why do we encourage our students to attend concerts?

Last night, we heard Jenny Oaks Baker perform at the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute. Jenny was absolutely stunning, not only in how she played but in how she looked. My daughters were enthralled during the whole concert. In the middle of the concert my 8-year-old daughter whispered, "Mom, do you think I could play like her when I'm older?" "Of course!"

No amount of practicing will motivate a young child to learn to play beautifully than seeing someone they admire play. Go to concerts! Experience performances of exquisite beauty! Let your children see what they are capable of!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Report on 2-a-day Practices

I have been doing 2-a-day practices for the past two weeks with my two daughters. Here is my report...


This is definitely going to be our new practice routine - especially next school year. My kid's school is early enough that they don't have time to do all of their practicing in the morning, but I am a believer that morning practices are the best. I have broken up my children's practice list by morning and afternoon. They practice their new material in the morning when their mind is fresh. They practice review in the afternoon when they can just play for fun. It's been amazing at the practice quality from my 8-year-old in Book 5. She's diligently working on her new stuff and has rapidly progressed. However, the review has not gone by the wayside. She's done more review these past few weeks and has even polished her Seitz concertos once again. Here is a picture of the practice list I tape to the wall next to her music stand.

My 4-year-old Book 1 daughter is doing very well also. In our first practice session she plays her 3 newest pieces plus her new finger exercise (this week it was blue finger pattern 10 times.) This takes about 10-15 minutes. By then she's happy to take a break. In the second practice session of the day, we use this chart and she puts magnets on the pieces she's played. When the chart is filled she's finished. Awesome practicing this week!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Another Post on Listening

I love a quote from the SAA Journal I got in the mail yesterday by Debbie Meece, "Not listening to the CD is like putting a baby in a sound-proof room where he cannot hear his language spoken. He will not learn to talk without listening to his language. And so it goes that the young child will not learn to play music without hearing music played."

My baby is just learning how to talk, and like with each of my other children I'm amazed at the progress. The other day she came up and pointed to my elbow and just said, "e bow." Each day I point to her body parts and say the name. It's starting to click.

I have some people ask how my daughters move so fast through the Suzuki literature. I'll admit - even though I have this practicing blog - we are not amazing practicers. I contribute most of their success to listening. They've been listening since they were born - we listen when we are in the car - they hear my lessons when I teach. My 4-year-old whistles pieces way beyond her level because she knows them.
My 8-year-old is now learning Vericini Gigue from book 5. After one week of preview spots she played through the piece almost flawlessly. She was so happy and exclaimed, "Mom, forget everything I said about listening (referring to her grumbling when we turn it on every day in the car). This is awesome! I know this whole piece because I've been listening to it."
Listen listen listen! I cannot say it enough!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another repetition idea: blocks

Practicing with my 4-year-old has become increasingly difficult. She gets all grumpy and her bottom lip sticks out and she refuses to do anything. Today was actually a good day of practicing so I knew I needed to get stuff done while she was happy. She REALLY needed to practice the C section of Perpetual Motion because she kept slopping through it - never getting it right. I pulled out the trusty bead counter that we use so often and ...what!....rejection!!! She refused. Am I such a pushover that my child gets her own way? Well, I can't force her arms to move and I can always get mad, but what good will that do? So, I'm frantically looking around quickly for something that will motivate her to practice this section over and over. What do I find? A box of blocks!

"How about every time you play this section we add a block to the stack? Let's see how high we can make it before it tips over."

Her eyes got wide and she smiled. Aha! I got her. Sure enough, she did the section over and over successfully and really improved the song during that practice session. Sometimes we just need to add a little variation to the routine and it doesn't always have to be a big planned event. I have a feeling we'll be doing overs and overs with the blocks for the next few days.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beethoven's Wig

Do you hear your kids sing songs they hear on the radio? Sometimes you may notice that your children know all the words to a particular song and wonder how they learned it....did they study it? No, they probably just listened to it over and over and over again. This is one of the fundamentals of the Suzuki Method: LISTENING!

I have found an awesome CD to listen to in the car or in the kids' rooms. It's called Beethoven's Wig. There are four different CDs (I checked them out from the local library, but you can also look online to buy them.) This CD puts creative words to popular classical tunes. The words are hilarious and fun to sing. I have found that after listening to all of these CDs a lot while driving in the car my kids have a huge repertoire of classical music in their heads. It brings me so much joy to hear my kids whistle a little Beethoven or Liszt. They'll know this music for the rest of their lives!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Day 1 of Two-a-days

Success!!! My 8 year old practiced her new pieces and scales before school. She was surprised that it didn't take her as long as she thought (she's so used to a long practice.) Since she had no violin lesson today and I didn't teach, her second practice session was before dinner. Again, she did everything on her list for afternoon - basically review and note reading - and this time I was surprised that it didn't last forever. It felt so good to know she did a full days practice today without it taking the whole evening.

I also tried this with my 4 year old. It's more common to have two-a-days with younger children because their attention span is shorter. But this time was more productive to me than it has in the past because the first practice session worked on her newest piece, scale, and the two pieces she's performing on a recital on Wednesday. We were finished before we knew it! The second practice was after dinner and it was a fun practice where she played every other piece in Book One.

Two great practices in one day! Hooray for me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Two Practices per Day

My lovely 8 year old is waiting until the last minute of each day to practice.  It's getting on my nerves because the practices are anything but productive when she's rushing through each piece to get done before story time.  I've tried to instigate the after school practice, but she's so exhausted from the day at school and I believe she needs down time.  Unfortunately for us - after her down time is when I start to teach and I'm not there to monitor any sort of practicing.  I've been reading the Maurer's String Book and they mention practicing twice per day.  This is my project this get her to practice twice: before school, and after dinner.

New Piece
Previous Two Pieces

Etudes/Note Reading

I'll let you know how it turns out...

House Tour

Yesterday I waited until the 5:30 on Saturday evening to practice with my kids. What a terrible time to practice! They had just had a fun day, the weather was perfect and they wanted to play outside, it was the weekend so they wanted to watch a movie. Something they didn't want to do: PRACTICE! So, I had to shake it up a bit. I told my 4 year old that we would work on one song in every room in our house and when we had no more rooms we were done! In addition, I let her stand on the furniture to practice. We ended up having a great practice!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bribes vs. Rewards

At my presentation at the Suzuki Association of Utah Convention recently I described the difference between bribes and rewards. I realize that I made a post earlier where I mentioned that I bribed my daughter to practice. I've started to take a new approach:

BRIBE: Something offered to a person to influence that person’s conduct.
For example: if your child is acting up during a practice session and you tell him that if he finishes the practice he can have a prize. You are offering him a prize after he had bad to good behavior. Perhaps the next time he wants a prize he will remember that he had to act up before you consented to give him a prize for being good.

REWARD: Something given in recompense for worthy behavior. For example: before you even start a practice session tell your child that he will get a prize after a good practice. He knows he can't act up or he won't get the prize. In the future, he will know that if he wants a prize he will have to have good behavior.

Bribe: If you practice I will give you _____________.
Reward: When you practice you will earn ______________.

Bribe: If you have a happy practice I will give you _______.
Reward: After your happy practice you can have _______.

Bribe: If you practice every day this week I will give you ______.
Reward: After you practice every day this week you will earn_______.

Start thinking about how you are addressing this issue with your children. I know I have caught myself wanting to say "if you..." but practicing (and other hard things for children, such as chores) goes so much more smoother if I offer rewards instead of bribes.