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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What Do You Do The First Week Of School?

I recently was asked what I do during the first week of school...this is my response:

Well, the whole first day is going over my orchestra handbook/dislosure...I also like to do a little getting to know you sort of game and I have kids fill out a little questionnaire as they come in for bell work so I can get to know them and find out what music they want to learn.  The next 2 days are taken up with instrument rentals for cello and bass, locker assignments, folder assignments.   Students will work on my note reading workbook while I make the assignments.  The next day we will continue with note reading and perhaps start rhythm...and show a PowerPoint I just created about instrument care...(I put it on my classroom website).   I also like students to start bringing their instruments so I can put tapes on them.        On day 5 we will start to play...learn bow hold and bow exercises first...then how to hold instrument...we practice that in steps over and over...then names and notes of open strings....making good tone with bow speed, bow weight, bow placement.....and echoing rhythms on open strings.

Students are always so anxious to start playing...I try to get through the classroom business as quickly as possible.   I love teaching beginners because they are so excited about everything they learn and I love to see the progress a beginner can make in just a year.

Recipe for Amazing

This is a little poster I made for my the 'recipe' for quality practice:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thoughts on how to practice

Everyone has the potential to be amazing...You have the ability inside of you to be as good as you want to be on your instrument.  Like an acorn that grows into a huge tree...your talents can grow as big as you want it...but you have to take care of it.  You can't neglect your talent.

Are you willing to do what it takes?  It doesn't take as much time as you think.  It's about practicing smart.

Most students approach practicing like reading a book.   They 'read' through a line of music...struggle over some notes and rhythms, but eventually make it through.  They made it to the end, so they think they are done.  Practicing is not about how far you get in a piece of music.  Practicing means repetition. 

My kids have gone to soccer practice.  At soccer practice, they don't just play the whole game.  They practice different aspects of the game.  My kids learned to kick a ball in to the net from a certain distance.  They took turns doing it many times.  At soccer practice, they don't just kick the ball one time and say they can do it.  They practice until they can get it in the net every time.

When you practice music, you are not just playing through a piece of music.  You are practicing small sections...maybe even just 2 notes...over and over until it is EASY.  Until you can play those 2 notes perfectly every single time.

It takes discipline to practice the right way.  You have to make yourself stop and fix mistakes.  You have to be diligent and spend time playing something that might be hard over and over again until it is easy.

The secret is SMALL CHUNKS.  It doesn't take much time to practice a very small chunk of music.  In fact, it is easy to practice small chunks and you can immediately see improvement if you will play one small measure 10 times in a row.  By the 10th time, it will be easier.  And how long do you think it takes to practice one measure 10 times?  Not long.

What if I told you that you have been writing the wrong way your whole life.  You have been writing with the wrong hand and now you need to switch.  Try it.  Doesn't it feel strange?  It would take lots of time and practice and energy to make it feel right again.  That is what happens when we practice our mistakes.  Little mistakes can become a habit is as little as one day.  I have seen my own children during practice play a wrong note a few times in a row, then struggle to fix it later.  That is why it is essential to practice slowly.  Your practice repetitions need to be perfect every time.  Perfect notes, perfect rhythm, perfect position, perfect bowing.  It is possible to be perfect on a small chunk of music.  It will take longer to fix performance issues in the future if you practice mistakes.  Do it right the first time.

When you need to practice a piece of music, first find one measure that is tricky.  Play the notes in the measure and make sure you can play them all, as slowly as you need in order for it to feel easy.  Look at the rhythm and add the correct rhythm.  You may have to play the rhythm on an open string a few times.  Then add the bowing.  Play that one measure until it is easy.  Once you have turned all the tricky measure into easy measures,  you can play the whole piece.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My latest poster creation

I have been teaching myself how to use photoshop and have created some t-shirt designs and this poster.  I plan on hanging this poster over the window in my classroom so students will not distract the class from the hallway as we rehearse.

A download of this print is available for purchase HERE.  Once I receive notification of payment from PayPal, I will email you the file and you can print it as you desire.

Check out my t-shirt design for next year HERE.