Practicing

Tips for how to practice well, or how to encourage students to practice

How has your New Year been now that we’ve wrapped up January 2018? Are your New Year’s resolutions still going strong?

  • Have you changed your eating?
  • Are you getting more exercise in?
  • Are you practicing your instrument more?

Or are you thinking, “Oh wait… I did have resolutions.  What are those again?”

So far, for me, one of the most helpful habits I’ve done is to do what’s called a 100 Day Gong. If you’re like me, you’re imagining someone banging a gong like crazy for 100 days.  Um, no…

Gong is a Chinese Taoist tradition — it’s a set amount of days one devotes to a particular task.  It is a promise to one’s self to stay focused and on path towards a designated goal. Here’s a good article on it.

So, for example, you could choose something simple like — practicing an instrument 20 minutes a day, taking a 30 minute walk, doing 20 minutes of writing for a book you’ve always wanted to write — and you do what you choose for those 100 days without fail.

Why 100 days?

Well, because science shows us that it takes about 90 days for any habit to get wired in your brain. You can read a great article on How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science)

You can start anytime, there’s no magic in starting on January 1st in the New Year. (Whew!)  But, the trick is, that if you miss even one day, you must start over from day one. So, if you get to day 92, and miss… start over. You’ll find out real quick how committed you are to taking some area of your life to the next level.

If you’re just starting, choose something relatively easy. Maybe 1 or 2 tasks that you can do without fail in about 20-30 minutes. I tried putting on 8 or so of the top things I had wanted to try.  Bad idea — I didn’t make it far.  Life happens, and you get busy, or sick sometimes.  It’s ok if it’s an easier list. Don’t worry, you can add one from the list to the next gong after you get through this one.

Oh, and the payoff is… you get results.

When I did this for exercise, I found myself in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Plus there’s a psychological boost of being committed to the process. Imagine what you’d like to finally make headway in, and go for it.

Good luck. I hope that helps.

Let me know if you’re going to try something for 100 days — reply in the comments below.

Take care,

Rock

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1. The effectiveness of lessons is dependent on the relationship between teacher and student, not merely on the information being conveyed.

2. Music theory is only meaningful in terms of the relationships between notes, and progressions of harmonic ideas. The minor key, for example, is all about the relationship of the third to the root.

3.  The length of a note — half note, quarter note, eighth note, etc.– is only meaningful in relation to when the following note is played.

4.  The impact of a beat note depends on its relationship to the pickup notes or breath that introduced it.

5. The musicality of a duo or ensemble is based on the relationship of its players and their musical connection, not in whether they play the notes, rhythms or tempos correctly.

6. Good intonation is based on the relationships of notes to each other, not to the correctness of their frequencies. This is true for voice, stringed instruments, well-tempered piano or any other instrument.

7. Crescendo, decrescendo, ritard, accelerando all depend for their effectiveness on the relationship between the starting volume or speed, and the finishing volume or speed.

8. A conductor’s downbeat is only meaningful in relation to the preparatory upbeat or count.

9. The excitement or calm of a section of music depends upon its relationship to what was played just before.

10. A change of tempo depends on the relationship of the second beat to the first.

11. Finger placement on an instrument is based on patterns — relationships of scales and arpeggios, and the proximity between fingers, not correct placement according to an objective measurement. For example, fingers on a string or across strings touch or remain a finger’s width apart, or may feel stretched or close depending on the interval, and these connections mean more to the muscle memory than whether a note was technically correct.

12. The value of a practice session is found in its relationship to the previous one. “You don’t get good, you just get better.”

Bonus: Using Music Teachers Helper improves relationships between students and teachers!

 

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

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In this modern age, there is an app for everything. As you trudge through the endless offerings in your app store, it does make you wonder which apps, if any, are of practical use.

Having said that, there are a few golden apps that can add real value to our music lessons and our students home practice.

Recently, ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) released a new app called “Sight-Reading Trainer” Knowing how some of my younger students love using music apps, I decided to investigate! I am very pleased to report that the app is not a disappointment but a genuinely useful tool to train the upcoming musician to read music at sight.

Several of my students have been using the app now and the results have been excellent. All have commented on how they have learnt to look more carefully at new music before starting to play. The most amazing thing is that some who used to hate sight-reading have now had a change of heart and love it! Yes, I know!!!

Features

• “Streak” page. When you open the app you are greeted with the number of days that you have been practicing sight-reading with the app continuously. This has really encouraged my pupils to practice daily so that they can maintain and increases their “streak.”

• Grades 1-5: in effect, 5 apps in one!

• A generous 31 sight-reading projects per grade

• Every project starts with three engaging “games” that teach awareness of rhythm, pitch, and other musical features

• Each game comes with a three-star rating, encouraging students to revisit to improve if they scored less than three stars

• After completing the three games, the student then plays the piece on which the games were based

• Useful tips about effective sight-reading are given for each piece

• Available for Apple & Android

Conclusion

Lots of students are now using this app. None of them have abandoned using it but are very motivated, systematically working their way through the projects. The fact that previous sight-reading “haters” have been converted to enjoy this activity is nothing short of miraculous. Several older students have also been enjoying it, coping admirably with the simple design. Those students at higher grades have enjoyed going back over the early grades to gain further confidence. This app has become a welcome addition to my music teaching toolkit. To learn more, click here.

 

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