practicing alone

Ronald Hoffman said: Jan 10, 2012
 4 posts

I have a student who is just beginning the violin. She has been taking lessons for over two months, but we have been unable to accomplish much more than the basics (play position, rest position, bow grip, etc.) I just found out that she does not have anyone to practice with at home, and that she always practices by herself. This is because her grandmother takes her to lessons, but isn’t regularly at home to practice with her, while her mom, who is at home with her, has no idea what to do because she can’t come to the lessons. What should I do? I think that the student will be able to progress much faster after she has someone to help her out. Thanks!

Deanna said: Jan 10, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

Get her to bring a camera, iphone, etc. to her lesson and take short videos of things you want her to practice. That way she can either refer to it herself or show her mom so that she understands what needs to be done.
How old is the student?

Paula Bird said: Jan 10, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
404 posts

I will suggest what I do, although my parents enjoy this process even though they are practicing with their child. I use my iPhone to record all sorts of practice recordings during the lesson. Many times a recording I make for one student will serve several other students.

For example, suppose I have a student who is working on playing Flower Song. I will make a recording (using the “Voice Memos” on my iPhone) or Flower Song with instructions in four different ways. My recordings will even include instructions like reminders to check bow holds and curved pinkies. You may even hear the student I made the recording for actually answer my recorded questions as I made the recording. The little ones seem to interact with the recordings as if I am actually doing it live with them.

When I make the recording, I try to increase the difficulty as I go. E.g., Flower Song:

(1) the words of the song, full description and instructions of what to do, “ready, go” before playing
(2) words of the song, abbreviated description/instructions of what to do, “read, go” before playing
(3) words of the song, “ready, go” before playing
(4) words of the song, immediately play the song

With practice along with the recording, the students “get it.” In fact, my teaching effort is lightened, as my parents just love to practice with the recordings. One of my students calls it a “porta-Paula.” I have recorded all sorts of exercises this way, and I recycle it.

I have one student whose mother is a musician. The father brings the child to lessons, but the mother is the parent who practices at home. I use my iPhone video feature to record exercises and instructions about the lesson. If the child is performing something incorrectly, I might send mom a video about the problem and how to correct it.

I confess that by making these little recordings and videos I am making the practice job easier for the parents. However, as a teacher, I have noticed that the practice sessions are working out better, judging by the results I see at weekly lessons. It’s hard for parents to do this practicing thing. I don’t mind making these recordings. As I said, I recycle them frequently. I’m considering making up some standard recordings of practice sessions in general. Wouldn’t that make life easier for us teachers and the parents?

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio (blog) (podcast)

Elizabeth said: Jan 11, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

I like the ideas in this thread. Recording lessons and simple exercises on camera might really help jump start her practices at home. In my experience, when a parent was too busy to attend lessons, I sent the student’s assignment by email and told her exactly what we played that day. Other times, I would take 5 minutes to call the parent the next day to update her on her child’s progress and answer a few questions she had about practicing.

If I had to do this with every parent, I would have driven myself crazy. But I know that some parents work odd hours and juggle a ton of activities with their other kids, so I did the best I could in the situation I was given. I know there are some teachers who won’t even take a student who isn’t accompanied by their practice parent each time. They take the Suzuki practice triangle very seriously.

Some kids practice really well without much parent guidance, but it’s rare when they’re young and just starting out. Even if she’s older, I think the parent who practices with her the most should try to tag along to one lesson per month to really understand what her daughter’s learning. You might even want to let her know that her daughter’s progress might stall a little if the parent part of the triangle is missing. In the past, I’ve seen students get frustrated the most when this happens at the beginning and they usually wind up quitting. I think your situation would be a little easier to handle if she was in the later books.

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Robin Lohse said: Jan 12, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello, Viola
31 posts

Here is another idea that was passed along to me recently. I have started
using a flash drive for recording previews that I assign a student to do
a number of repetitions. In the past I used endless tapes and would
record slow versions and previews. now its the flash drive and that can be
uploaded in a file that they listen to as well. One another thing I write
down on an activity sheet( or have the parent write) a
very specific assignment and set a time in which its done. Again I try to
limit a one point focus for every lesson and spell out the order practice
in the lesson.Hope that helps.

On Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 5:35 PM, SAA Discussion

Robin Lohse

Loc said: Jan 16, 2012
 Violin, Guitar
1 posts

I think the key thing is to make the student aware what they should be looking out for and in some cases how to look for them. When I started to learn the violin there’s no one in my family with a music background and there was no tape or CD to listen to. In fact I was the only person ever to pick up a musical instrument. My class was a large group of students with little individual teacher attention. Later on I was able to afford individual lessons where the teacher can point out my flaws and teach exercises to detect and correct them. I had to relearn a lot of my technique to undo the bad habits. To this day I am still glad and grateful for those one-on-one lessons. Kids are smart so if they have the knowledge they can apply them if they were taught the whys as well instead of “just do like what I do”.


Nan Lee said: Mar 18, 2012
 1 posts

It takes a while to get past the scratchy stage but once she does all the hard work is worthwhile. she can just enjoy it on her own or join an amateur orchestra, or a small chamber group.
she needs to be patient. I think patience is a really underrated virtue, and so the cliche goes. But it’s true. I think what really separates the best from the mediocre is their patience. The patience to practice for days and months and years. The patience to wait for success and to earn it, with the end in sight. If she can be patient and appreciate the journey of learning the violin she’ll do very well.

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