The most important thing we can successfully teach our students is how to practice. Technical facility, mastery, fluency, artistry, proficiency, talent, musicianship….these are all words that describe many of the end goals that all students aspire to reach. One of the most difficult-to-teach items, yet one of the most fundamental elements of any successful musician’s life journey is how to practice well.
Experienced teachers have acquired many tips and tricks throughout their careers as professional music educators. New teachers are always looking for new and exciting ways to encourage successful practicing at home. Listed below are some ideas that I have been using for some time that work very well. Specifically, these “how to’s” deal with how to organize what elements of a piece of music to practice at what time.
One area that all teachers work out with their students, time in and time out, is how to divide a piece into small, manageable sections. This practice plan encourages the fluency of learning, organization, and coherent playing.
By organizing areas of a piece in 1. a bite; 2. a chunk; 3. an address, elements of a piece of music can be learned effectively and efficiently.
This idea focuses on an immediate problem that can be solved in only a few minutes. This might consist of a few notes, a wrong chord, a forgotten rest, forgotten changes of dynamics, etc. Circle each bite-sized section and isolate only the material that is within the circled area during practice sessions. When the student returns home to practice, they will be able to see the areas of attention easily and will know exactly what areas to focus their attention on. After the bites have been fixed, periodic review of these sections will help to solidify the materials.
This idea focuses on a longer section that required attention, such as 4-8 bars of music or more. There is no designated length that a chunk should be, the size of each chunk depends on the size of the problem at hand. Successful determination of the size of a chunk depends on the age and level of the student. An important idea to keep in mind: effective practice results from “chunks” that the student can COMFORTABLE conquer in a short period of time.
When we remember a series of numbers and words together, such as a street address or an email address, one successful way to master and internalize such random sequences of information is to write down the information or to say it aloud several times. A musical address could include a full page of a sonata, two lines of a fugue, or two lines of the main area of the chorus of a pop tune. Regardless of the size of the area that is being practiced, when played in succession many times in a row, the concentration on this material will facilitate a higher element of security in a short period of time.
Upon reflection of this important topic, I would suggest to take a look at a useful tool being developed. There is a great tool called MyMuCo KIDS app and MyMuCo Teacher app, a great tool for organizing practicing in a fun and engaging way. For more information, please visit http://www.mymuco.com
Thank you for reading, have a great day!