Saturday, November 15, 2014

Making Goals for Practicing

This is a chart I like to use when I feel like my daughter needs some intrinsic motivation to practice.  I like this chart because I can focus on other things besides the specific practice points that I would use on a regular practice guide.  Here are some ideas I've used and thought of to put on this chart.  Do you have any others?

  • Get your violin out without being asked
  • Play through {this} piece remembering all the repeats
  • Remind mom to practice
  • Practice happily
  • Put rosin on your bow
  • Practice all of your review pieces (this may take a day or two or three)
  • Put away your violin after practice
  • Perform your new piece for someone (dad, grandma, etc.)
  • Practice everything on your chart
  • Remember to say "thank you" after your lesson
  • Practice your scales & warm-ups without complaining
  • more?

You can download this chart here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Enhance Practice with a Cube Timer

Yesterday I shot this quick video during my daughter's practice.  I didn't have time to clean up or do my hair and make-up, it's a raw video, but that is because I had to catch this girl in the moment.  Emma was practicing so well and I went in to check up on her and she had this set up with three different cube timers and a bead counter.  She was practicing spots slowly and over and over and organizing her practice so she could get everything done.  Here it is - it's only 1:15 minutes long.  Enjoy!

Here is another post about the cube timer.

Cube timers are available here on my website!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Some Spirit Stick Ideas

Spirit Sticks have gotten super popular lately.  I have been adding new fun Spirit Sticks to The Practice Shoppe and asked previous buyers for feedback about what I should stock.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  This year in my own studio I gave everyone a Keep Calm, I'm a Musician Spirit ring at their first group lesson.  Each group lesson or recital there is a theme and those who participate get a Spirit Stick.  Also, we have a Christmas recital coming up and when the kids pass off all of their pieces they get a Christmas Spirit Stick.  I'm hoping by the end of the year they will be excited by their collection and remember all the fun times and music memories they made throughout the year.

Here are some things I heard from people who are also currently using Spirit Stick as an incentive:

I like the idea of non-sugar treats!

I think they are very nice and inexpensive ways for teachers to give acknowledgment.

I hand out the spirit sticks when my students bring back a chart completed. So if the assignment is for 100x and they bring a chart back filled in, they get one of the spirit sticks. Most attach them to their violin cases with a key ring and they love comparing them at group class!

I teach college students about how to teach elementary music and consult in schools, helping elementary music teachers, and these are VERY popular for students to earn as rewards.

I have too much fun buying things for my students from your site. I normally have certain challenges or games that I run in the fall and winter to inspire and motivate. Right now we are doing a Bingo Challenge. I think I actually got the idea from your downloads page. I created my own with activities like 100 repetitions, listen before bed, polish a piece, observe a lesson, go to a concert, help someone in group class, etc. I think I will introduce the spirit sticks and give them to the winners. Those who continue to complete challenges on the Bingo card can work towards earning more spirit sticks or other prizes throughout the year.

I love them all !! I am addicted to spirit sticks! I am the mother of three and work full time as a mental health therapist. My client's love to collect them and feel proud to have them as their flags of success or special collectible.

I LOVE the spirit sticks!! I have 10 students plus my two own sons learning violin. All my students are excited about the spirit sticks incentive program that I am going to introduce to their parents at upcoming Halloween recital. Each student will receive a spirit stick for participating in the recital.

 I love the spirit sticks. This year I have a 365 day practice challenge going for all my students. Every 28 days of consecutive practice they receive a spirit stick to add to their collection. Every time they are awarded a spirit stick, it is different from all the others they have earned before. That means I award 13 different spirit sticks throughout the year. The parents in my studio are planning a big party for all the students who complete the entire year's worth of practicing without skipping a day. I have attached the chart that I have given to my students to keep track of their practice days. On it you will find stars for each 28 days set. I have tried to find spirit sticks that roughly match the same color as the star they are working towards. Even if a student skips a day and is out for the 365 days challenge, they can jump back in at any point in keep trying to earn spirit sticks. They may not be able to come to the end of the year party but at least they can keep working towards these small goals.  (Thanks Melanie!!!

I plan to add several varieties of Spirit Sticks in 2015 including Listening Awards, Review Awards, Practice Makes it Easy, Book 1, 2, 3, graduation, etc.  Please let me know if you have any ideas for Spirit Sticks that I can get made.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Caroline's Crazy Game

Now that school has started it's nice to get in a good routine of practicing again.  My 5 year old is in half-day Kindergarten which is perfect for a young Suzuki student because we have all morning free to get our practicing done.  It make my heart smile when I hear my five year old going through all her pieces for fun, even if I haven't asked her too.  She loves to play the violin!  I believe this is why it's important to leave the violins out where they can pick them up and play them anytime.

I made this game months ago.  After several days of productive practice we'll pull out this game as her "reward" for good practicing.  This has a lot of squares specific to what we are working on.  What she likes about it are all the pictures of the dice we use during practicing.  She LOVES to roll the dice!  We get some review done with the Book 1 review dice and Twinkle dice.  We play Roll-10 when she lands on the notes dice.  When she lands on the eighth note we do a little bit of note reading.  Her favorite is making a silly face whenever she passes the silly face half-way through the board.  It's just a silly little game, but it's a great reward practice session!

I have both Caroline's Crazy Game and a blank Crazy Practice Game available to download online.  I laminated my board so we can use and reuse it over and over again without it getting too trashed.  I love these games!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

More Music Dice Games

I've been lucky enough to attend the Suzuki Association of the Americas Conference this week and had a lot of success at my booth!  It was fun to meet so many wonderful teachers from around the world.  I was particularly touched when people THANKED me for being there.  What an honor to share my ideas with these wonderful people.  The music dice were such a success and I had a handout with a bunch of games and ideas for the music dice.  I promised to post them online so here they are!  (I should mention that these are compiled with the help of Dana Rice

Roll 10

*Choice of music dice depending on what needs to be worked on.
*2 players (student and parent/teacher)
*Private lesson or home practice - any instrument
Put 10 playing pieces between the two players (dominoes, skittles, pennies, etc.)  The student rolls the die and names it.  If she can name it correctly she gets one of the game pieces.  If teacher/parent needs to help the parent/teacher gets the game piece.  Continue to do this until all the pieces are gone.  The person with the most game pieces at the end is the winner.  Continue to play this each day until the student can get all 10 game pieces easily.

Grab A Chord
* Lines and Spaces Dice
* Great to play in a group or private lesson - especially piano and guitar.
Teacher rolls the dice and students search for dice to build 3 note chords. Students get one point for each chord. Play several rounds.  The student with the most points at the end of final round wins.!

Roll and Clap 
* 4 Rhythm Dice
* Great to play in a private lesson - any instrument.
Student rolls the dice and claps the resulting rhythm from left to right. If the student is correct, the teacher claps back. If the student is incorrect, the teacher says, “Didgeridoo?” (This is a play on the Australian musical instrument because it sounds like you could be saying “Did you redo?”)

* Accidental Die
* Another great game to play in a private lesson- any instrument.
The teacher chooses a musical note from a song the student is playing to be the Oops note. Student rolls the die and uses that accidental whenever the Oops note appears in the song. For example if the Oops note is A and the student rolls a #, the student must play A# whenever an A appears in the song. This game will help students hear how accidentals change the sound within a song.

Silly Phrase / Funny Word
* Dynamics Dice
* Group class or private lesson.
At the start of the game the teacher and/or students choose a funny word or silly phrase.
Examples: “Cantankerous” “Didgeridoo”. When the student rolls the die they will say the funny word or silly phrase using that dynamic. In a group setting, everyone can take turns saying the funny word or silly phrase using different expression like a question, exclamation, happy, sad, etc.

24 Beats
* Notes Dice (16th), Notes Dice (2-8ths), or Notes and Rests Die.
* 2-4 Players
Players take turn rolling the die.  The time value of the note is your score - write it down.  The first player to get 24 beats is the winner.  This game can be made more difficult by requiring that each measure be completed before starting the next measure.

The Write Rhythm
* Time Signature Dice and choice of Notes Dice (16th, 2-8ths, Notes & Rests)
*2-4 Players
*Staff paper
Roll the Time Signature Dice to determine the time signature of the passage you will play with.  Space 8 bars on your sheet of staff paper.  Select which Notes Dice you will roll.  Use the note or rest you roll to fill all or part of a measure.  If you cannot use the note or rest which appears, you must wait for your next turn.  The winner is the first player to fill up eight measures of rhythm.

Little Composer
* Time Signature Die and choice of Pentatonic Dice, Rhythm Dice.
* Great for home practicing.
Student will start the practice session by writing a clef on their staff paper (treble or bass - if you are using another clef you will want to use the Lines and Spaces dice instead of the Pentatonic Dice.)  After the initial warm-up the student can roll the Time Signature die to determine the time signature of her piece.  Write it on the paper.  Between each piece or activity during practicing the student can roll the Pentatonic Die and a Rhythm die and fill in the staff paper with her piece.  When practicing is over she can play her piece or have mom or teacher play it.  See what great music can come after a great practice session!

Treble Cups (for piano)
* Treble Clef Die and Lines and Spaces Dice
* 5 Paper or Plastic Cups
* Paper Keyboard or Giant Keyboard Mat
* Small ball or crumpled paper, bucket
* Ages: 6 and up
* 5-10 minutes
The student chooses a cup and tries to match the dice to the correct key on the
keyboard. For each one the student gets correct, he/she gets a chance at tossing
a ball or beanbag into a bucket.
For Group Play - Split into teams. Team gets a point each time their player
correctly answers and the team with the most points wins.

100 Beats
* 2, 3, or 4 Notes Dice (2-8ths)
* Any chart with 100 (or more) squares or spaces.
Roll the dice clap the rhythms.  Then count the number of beats and move a game piece that number of spaces on the board.  A student can play this on her own or with a parent or other student.

Musical War
* 2 Notes Dice (16th Notes)
* 2 Players
* 20-50 game pieces (gems, chips, pennies, etc.)
Both students roll their die at the same time.  The note with the higher note value gets a game piece.  If the note values are the same WAR begins.  Double the amount of pieces and roll again.  The winner gets the game pieces.  If it’s the same value again double the game pieces again.  When all the game pieces are gone the winner is the one with most game pieces.

Sharps & Flats
* Basic or Advance Key Signature Dice
* Ages: 8 and up
* 5-10 minutes
The student rolls the die and places a small object like an eraser on the corresponding keys on the piano. This game can be played with a timer by having the student play up to 6 rounds trying to get faster each time. Record fastest time and try to beat the record at the next lesson.

Tic Tac Toe Rhythm Dice
* 2-3 rhythm dice
* Needed: 2-3 minutes
Student rolls 2-3 dice together and teacher plays one of the rhythms. The student
must identify the die that was played. Game is over when student has guessed
correctly 3 times in a row

Name That Symbol
* Notes Dice Variety
* 5-10 minutes
This can be played in a group any instrument.
The teacher rolls 1 die at a time and the student(s) must shout out the name of the symbol. The student who gets it correct first keeps that die. Play continues
until all the die are taken. The student with the most dice wins.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Roll 10 - A Quick Game with the Music Dice

I made up this game to add variety to another game that I made for my daughter (I'll post soon!)  This is a really quick game that involves any of the music dice and it takes about 2 minutes or less to play.  We played it with the 16th note rhythm dice, but you could use any of the music dice.

Roll 10
Put down 10 dominoes (you could use pennies, jewels, or any kind of item that you could lay out.)  Have your child roll the music die and tell you the name of the note.  If she successfully tells you the note, she gets a domino.  If she is incorrect or if you need to help her, you get the domino.  Whoever has the most dominoes at the end wins.

The thing I love about this game is that the more you play it the more successful your child will be at winning so that makes them want to play it more.  This was a great way for my 4 year old to learn the different kinds of notes.  Once she gets this mastered I will move on to the number of beats of each note, then another kind of dice.  It takes hardly any time to play, it's a fun way to learn basic concepts because it's natural for the child to want to earn all of the dominoes.  Since it's only ten rolls it's not overwhelming or frustrating.  Hope this helps someone make practicing more fun.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe for a Successful Practice

A few weekends ago I got the privilege to present at a Suzuki Piano workshop for parents.  As I was thinking of ideas of what to present I decided that we were (mostly) all moms and we do a lot of cooking and can relate to recipes.  Therefore, the title of my presentation was "Recipe for a Successful Practice."

Nothing I said was new or scientific, but rather a fun way to reinforce some basic qualities of a successful practice.  I've included my handout here and hopefully you can get some ideas on what you need to improve to make your practicing more successful.  Perhaps you can give a presentation like this to parents of music students.  It's good to hear the same things over and over!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

As the newsletter editor or the Suzuki Association of Utah newsletter, I get to read a lot of great articles about teaching.  I particularly liked this one from the SAU Flute VP about memorizing key signatures.  This is one of my goals for my Book 4+ students this year.  

I was also thrilled because I just received a new shipment of key signature dice.  I've had the dice with the basic key signatures (C, G, D, A, F, and B-flat), but I've had several requests for the more advanced key signatures, so here they are!

Memorizing All Major Key Signatures

By Katrina Young

Since the Utah Suzuki Flute players are learning their major scales for our SAU Sweet Scale competition on October 12th, I thought I would include some tricks and incentives that have helped my studio in the past to learn and memorize their scales. 

For visual learners:  I adapted this idea from Cindy Henderson.  Cindy includes in her student flute journal the note names of the scales written out with the sharps and flats circled.  I realized that some of my students would respond better with color and being able to focus on only one scale at a time.  I made these major scale flip charts for my students.   If you would like to make a set for yourself, they can be downloaded here.          
 We discuss how each scale is like houses on a street.  For example, the “E street” has two sets of sharp houses that live next door to each other.  The “F# street” has only one house that is not sharped on the entire street!  When we venture into the flats neighborhood, we discuss how flats also like to live next door to each other.  These cards help students see and recognize the patterns of major scales.  To make these cards, simply print onto white cardstock, cut on the black line, punch a hole in the corner, and place on a binder ring.  I arrange the scales on the ring based on the circle of 5ths for my students.

For Kinesthetic learners:  I give these students the following worksheets.  By writing down the letter names of the scales themselves, they understand how the scales are formed and why we have a circle of 5ths and 4ths. Using the sharp major scale worksheet, I walk students through how we move around the circle of 5ths.  We start with the C major scale.  Have students count up to the 5th note of the C major scale (G) and this is how we find what the next scale will be around the circle of 5ths.  They fill in the next set of boxes starting with G.  To find what note will be sharped in this scale, the rule is to always add the sharp to the 7th note or degree of the scale.  In the G major scale this is F#.  When the worksheet is finished, it leaves students with a handy chart to refer back to.  You can download these worksheets here.

Make up a sentence to help you remember the circle of 5ths and 4ths:  Cindy Henderson uses these sentence “gimmicks” in her studio.  For the sharp keys in order around the circle of 5ths she says: 
                                    #        #
God Destroyed All Earth By Fire of Course.
                    # of sharps in key: 1      2               3   4       5   6         7

For the Flat keys going around the circle of 4ths she says: 
                                                 b       b    b        b                b               b
Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Greedily of Course.
            # of flats in the key:  1    2       3    4        5               6                7

My own eight year old daughter made up a sharp order sentence the other day.  It is silly, but it helped her memorize the order in one day:  Good Dogs Always Eat Breakfast Fastly and Cleanly!  Make up your own sentence!  It will stick in your head better.

Make an incentive to learn them:  Each student in my studio has a fishy scale card from  As they pass off one of their scales, I fill in a scale on their fish card.  Once they learn all of their scales for the sweet scale competition, they will get a box of Swedish fish!  Sometimes, incentives such as these really help when things seem hard to learn. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Music Dice Game and a Fun Chart

This week I've been sick.  Moms aren't supposed to get sick.  It makes momhood really hard.  All was bearable until I had to teach lessons this week on top of everything else.  After smiling and acting happy through my morning lessons I threw in the towel and cancelled all my afternoon lessons, took a hot bath, took a long nap, and then just sat at my computer and vegged until my husband got home and cooked me dinner.  With all of this spare time on my computer I was able to tinker with some games I've had in the back of my mind for a while now.

I should come up with a good name for this game, but I don't have one.  Basically I used 4 two-eighth-note dice and my daughter and I took turns rolling rhythms.  We'd count up the number of beats, clap and count, and then move our game-piece that many counts.  She loved it!  It wasn't very hard for her, but it gave her good practice clapping and counting the various rhythms.
Roll the dice
Count the number of beats
Clap the rhythm
Move the game piece the number of squares as the number of beats in the rhythm rolled.
 I used the two-eighth-note dice because nothing is less than one beat so the rhythms don't get too complicated (and it's easier to move the game pieces.)  Sometimes if we had a nice round number like 8 or 9 or 12 beats, we'd break it up into measures so she could count 1-2-3-4 or 1-2-3.  Otherwise it would just be the amount of beats of the note (4 for whole, 3 for dotted-half, etc.)  Since the game board was pretty long (192 squares is what my daughter counted - I haven't verified) the game took over 15 minutes.  So, I made two smaller boards for younger kids, or if you wanted a shorter game.

I love these game boards.  I definitely think I will laminate these ones to have on hand.  Not only are they good for this particular game, but I was thinking that I could use them to help guide the practice.  For instance, my daughter could roll a die(my 24 or 30 sided dice would be great for the long board) and whatever they land on is what they play.  We'd determine what the different symbols would mean before playing the game.  One idea would be the heart would be her choice, star would be my choice, and the note would be note reading.  You could make-up your own rules.  That's the great thing about these chart.  There are no set rules - just make them up to suit your individual needs.

By the way - the long chart has pretty small squares.  We were using my gorilla erasers for game pieces.  I was thinking a small die would also work.  It would be hard to use anything much bigger than a centimeter.  Keep that in mind when planning this game for your kids!
I'd love to hear if you have any other ideas for this game board!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Little Game of War

At group lesson last week we played a fun game with my beginning to intermediate students with the musical notes dice with sixteenth notes on it.  This die has six different notes ranging from sixteenth note to whole note.  Each note has a different value.  I paired the kids up by ability level and they would each roll a dice.  We had colored chips in the middle (although pennies, jewels, rocks, beads would work.)  Whoever got the higher value of dice would get one of the chips.  If they got the same value then they would roll until someone won and that person would get however many chips it took to roll the winning dice.  They always had to say what kind of note and how many beats (ex: "quarter note, one beat." "sixteenth note, one-fourth beat."    What I really liked about this was that even the beginning 4 year old knew the note names values of the dice after only about 2 minutes.  This was a fun way to really drill this concept in a short amount of time.
You can buy these fun dice HERE at The Practice Shoppe!