Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Practice the REALLY Hard Stuff!

I've written a lot about practicing with my 3 year old and 6 year old.  I don't have much to say these days about my 10 year old because she practices on her own.  It's been a rocky road transitioning from my practicing with her every day to her doing it on her own.  It wasn't up to me, but it's a good thing for her and our relationship.  When she was little she used to get very frustrated with me whenever I'd correct her.  Since she's grown older I don't tolerate her yelling at me like I did when she was little so we've come to a mutual understanding that if she wants my help she can't get mad at me.  She's mature enough to know this and only asks for help when she really needs it (which is about once a week - it's kind of like a mini lesson between her real lessons.)

My amazing daughter (I can say that because she's mine - right?!!) is part of an amazing group called Rocky Mountain Strings.  They perform a lot and go on tour every Spring.  Sometimes it's just local and every few years they venture out of the country.  They really are quite an impressive group of performers.  This year they are learning two really hard pieces, a Paganini Caprice and a Bach Partitia.

To musicians this may seem like an obvious way to practice pieces like this, but everyone needs to learn how to practice this way - it's what we've been working on for a while.  With pieces that have complicated fingerings like these pieces they need to be practiced very SLOOOOWLY.  The old adage says, "If you want to play fast you must practice slow."  (Actually - is that an old adage?  I don't know.) My darling daughter has really been good at practicing this way lately.  She has her metronome right on her stand and plays 1-4 measures with the metronome very slowly and increases the tempo slowly until it's at a comfortable fast pace.  I'd say she plays each section about 100 times before moving on.  It's incredible and she even tells me after practicing how good she feels about her playing.  She practices about 45 minutes on one piece which is incredible stamina for a girl her age, but she's actually enjoying it (most of the time.)  I tell her she needs to practice at least an hour a day which, if she really did everything it would probably be more like 3 hours - but she has lots of other interests including talking on the phone with her friends.  So, in this respect other things aren't getting practiced (ah-hem, Christmas music - the concert is this week!!)  We are doing the best we can and she's nothing short of amazing for all that she can do on her own.

Does it sound like I'm bragging about my little girl.  I am!  But I hope that maybe through this post you'll remember to practice slowly - lots of repetitions - and see the progress that can be made.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pre-Twinkle Practice

This is how we are practicing this week with my Darling 3 year old!  For the last two months she's been a happy practicer, begging me several times a day to practice.  This week we experienced the first moments of resistance.  I'm pretty sure one of the problems may be because I was frustrated one day and snapped at her during practice.  I regret it and have tried to stop practicing before I get upset.  It doesn't happen often, but when the baby is crying and I have lots to do and she's rolling around on the floor or has a bad case of practicitis (I'm thirsty, my cheek itches, my foot hurts, look at my owie) I tend to get frustrated.

This, in conjunction with actually having to play her violin more than sit is causing a few groans around our house.  Back to my good ol' bead counter.  She now knows 6 pre-twinkle songs and I've told her that after she plays 10 songs she can have a piece of candy.  She's still restless and doesn't stand for that long so in-between songs we do bow games, sing songs, practice our rhythms, etc.  I let her choose which songs she plays.  Today she played "All the Pretty Flowers" six times and each of the other songs once.  Sometimes it's spread out more equally.

Here are the songs we practice:

Eek the Ants
Pop goes the Weasel
Dirty Doggy Scrub Scrub
Elephants and Ants
Little Mice
All the Pretty Flowers

I have a handout with all my Pretwinkle songs that I'm working on.  Hopefully I'll have it online soon!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Practicing Lots of Pieces

We've been in need of fun practicing ideas at our household this week.  The holidays are here and my kids don't want to practice.  My darling 6 year old has SO MUCH to practice each day, but her attention span is really only good for about 35-45 minutes.  So, we get done what we can in that amount of time.  She's learning to read clocks at school so I tell her where the hand will be and she can be done.  I don't always make my kids practice for a set amount of time - in fact most of the time we just practice until we're done.  Lately, looking at the clock works for us.

One of the many things she needs to practice at this time of year is CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!  She needs to practice 15 Christmas songs and instead of droning through the list we made this chart together.  I've assigned each of her songs a number and she randomly picks a number on the chart and plays the song assigned to that number.  We then put a sticker on the number.  When she's finished (hopefully by the end of the week) I've offered her a piece of candy.  Just as simple as that and she's happy to practice her Christmas music again.

You can assign your own pieces 1-15 and play this with your children.  This would be a great way to review!  I also made one for a list of 10.

Find these charts here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Witches Dance

My 6 year old is a great player by ear.  You can ask her to play just about any song and she can figure it out.  It cracks me up when she starts playing Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.

This can, however, be difficult sometimes when it comes to polishing pieces.  With Witches Dance in Suzuki Book 2 we went over the tough fingering sections one week and then one day she just played the whole piece - with a lot of "blips!"  I thought this might go away after practicing it, but she still can't seem to play through the whole piece without fumbling up her fingers.  She's never really taught her hand how to play - she just plays it by ear still.

So, we need to do more overs and overs.  I created this chart for Witches Dance.  The piece basically has four different sections (the BOO!, twirling witches, scary witch, and the ending) and she needs to play each section 5 times to fill in a circle.  There might be some sort of reward for finishing the chart - but maybe not.  It's just motivating us to concentrate on smart practicing.

Today we spent a good 15 minutes just on this piece.  It improved SOOOO much and she was even having fun.  I used a bead counter to count each 5 times and then she'd fill in another circle and choose which section to play next.  She was skipping around and ended up playing each section at least 10 times.  At the end I told her to play the piece though again and she only did one little "blip."  It'll be extraordinary after we finish this chart!  
I can't wait!
(Find this chart here)