Practice help

Merietta Oviatt said: Aug 29, 2013
Merietta OviattViolin, Suzuki in the Schools, Cello, Viola
Stevens Point, WI
107 posts

I have a little virus called “I don’t wanna practice” running through my studio right now. In particular this sickness has hit my pre-teens who are in book 4 and above (things are getting much harder). I was wondering if you all would share your best/most successful practice tips/strategies/bribes/etc…which I could put into a compilation and share with my parents. Thank you!

Dr. Merietta Oviatt
Suzuki Specialist
Viola/Violin Instructor
Aber Suzuki Center, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point
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Alissa said: Aug 30, 2013
Alissa Rieb
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
61 posts

Ha! I was just talking about this in my studio :-) Mine is in my
midschoolers who’s schedules just got a lot more complicated. I’ve decided
I’m not a fan of the beginning of the school year, but usually 2 or 3 weeks
at most gets us through. In that nasty period, I first ask families to be
very up front before lesson gets going with exactly how much practice and
what kind of quality happened in the last week. Then the air is cleared
and I’m ready for what’s going to happen in lesson. I get so frustrated
when I’m not prepared for how their going to play and my expectations are
not met in the least. Second, I make my assignments MUCH smaller. In the
advanced lit., I try to find/make the practice points in other review
pieces or shorter one-hit-wonders. In this way, we are working on the
skills needed, but it’s easier to break up and looks more approachable.
Book 4 is such a snarl that I add quite a bit of smaller lit so they feel
progress. I find 5 and 6 pretty fun and then we have to get super specific
with etudes/scales. Some of my students actually go back to a practice
chart and find it helpful because they can do three things, take a break or
get some homework/activity done and then come back and do the rest. They
have to work up to the demands and sometimes that means going backwards
first, cutting down responsibilities and then building them back up. I am
completely up front with this process the whole time. I let them know that
this is part of a much larger plan to becoming an accomplished player and
try to find how advancing in violin will open a door that they are looking
forward to. This is also a good time for a recital or a motivating concert
or watching fun/inspiring YouTube videos in lesson.

My real toughies are the ones where I discover unfortunately an underlying
skill didn’t get as mastered I we thought. Those are the ones who seem to
go down-hill out of nowhere. We missed something or they didn’t feel
finished, accomplished or invested in a piece. They are not ready to
advance. That’s where we have a little chat about what they have really
liked and hated about playing in the last term. Almost always, what they
dislike contains something I’ve missed that they didn’t understand OR they
felt like they couldn’t tell me about a piece they really didn’t like.
Either we re-do a portion of their study or we find alternatives to
reenforce the weak skill. By telling me what they like, we remember better
times and I get insight into their strengths.

Anyway, I have this virus in my studio too. Hopefully a vaccine will be

On Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 1:35 AM, SAA General Suzuki Forum Discussion <
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Sue Hunt said: Aug 31, 2013
Sue HuntViola, Violin
403 posts

It can be very discouraging, when, despite all advice and promises, practice has been ignored for most of the summer holiday. Attempts at a last minute catchup before lessons, sometimes makes it even more disheartening for a child.

Then, there is the quantum leap that children are supposed to make in levels of school work and after school commitments. A long, not always positive practice session can seem like the last straw.

The 100 Day Practice Journal has several ideas for parents who want to help a child to start the practice habit.

One thing that you can do is to find spaces for mini practices, before, during or after activities. Before a pleasant activity such as play time, or TV is great.

Surprisingly, fitting mini practices into other activities works even better, as it is much easier concentrate on a specific point for only a few minutes and work at it with deep focus.

A mini practice is often welcome, break between subjects, for those who are snowed under by homework. It serves to refocus the mind and shake out the muscles. I love practicing during TV adds and often use a kitchen timer for a couple of minutes of focus during other daily activities, such as tidying up, working at my desk and wading through correspondence.

Practicing after a specific activity is psychologically more difficult, but you will find that if you stick to five minutes or so, it will be easier to do it again and again.

Emily said: Nov 11, 2013
 59 posts

Create a contest! I’ve seen so many students suddenly want to be more active in their studies if there’s an extra flair to it. Having a contest will renew their interest and encourage them to do their best, even if just for a little bit.

Another thing that helps is new kinds of exercises or things for them to try. Perhaps suggest that they try making their own piece using what they’re learning. The more connections they make in their brains to the stuff they’re learning, the more it will stick.

Emily Christensen
Music Teacher & Writer

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