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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Save time by posting assignments online: Be An Amazing Note Reader for Beginning Orchestra

I start teaching in person in just over a week.  I've been thinking about all the safety protocols and cleaning that will have to be done during each class.  That could take a lot of valuable rehearsal time!  I really want to do all I can to be efficient and keep students moving forward in the time we have.  That means, no more bell work.  I won't have time to pass out papers, collect papers, throw pencils at students who forget pencils, etc.  The majority of my assignments will be online in Canvas.  That way I can have students complete assignments at home, or work on assignments in class when working in small groups.  I think to survive in-person instruction, I will need to think and work as if I am doing online instruction.  Everything I do in class needs to be intentional and carefully selected to utilize the time wisely and effectively.  

I just spend a TON of time re-creating my 'Be An Amazing Note-Reader' worksheets to be usable online.  I'm happy with how they turned out and I won't miss making all those copies!  This book follows the format of the print version.  Beginning violin, viola, cello, and bass students complete 28 lessons to learn about notes, staff, clef, ledger lines, music alphabet, skips/steps, D string notes, A string notes, and G string notes. These google drive lessons were created in Google Slides and can be easily attached as assignments in Google Classroom, Canvas, or other LMS.  

You can buy this resource now at TPT:  HERE!

One thing I'm SUPER excited about in this resource is the flashcards/quiz links in Quizizz.  No more copying and cutting out flash cards!  Students can practice flashcards directly in Quizizz by following the links in my resource.  

There are other quiz programs online, but I chose Quizizz because my children told me all about the programs their teachers use and how they see students cheat on some of them.  My kids recommend Quizizz because they like it using it the most.  

Here's a link to a sample Quizizz for note reading - you can click on 'quiz' to try the quiz or 'flashcards' to practice.  If you want to save a little time, turn off the 'Memes' and 'Power-ups' so the questions will load faster.

Quizizz is super easy and fast.  I highly recommend it for online learning!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

No more traditional practice cards!

I am not a fan of practice cards.  PRACTICE CARDS = TORTURE.  I don't use them in my program because practice cards don't do much to motivate students.  I've even given a presentation at the NAfME National Convention about how to motivate students to practice without using practice cards.  Instead, I motivate students with videos and goals and track progress with playing tests.

Well now there's an even better way to motivate students to practice effectively, meet their goals, and develop into amazing musicians.  I was speaking to an orchestra teacher friend, Meagan Thorup, and she was telling me about this practice curriculum she developed that she uses with her high school orchestra.  I saw what she was doing and I got so excited....IT'S PURE GENIUS! 

Meagan has developed a full year of one-week long practice assignments.  These assignments are thought-provoking, goal focused, and they TEACH students how to practice effectively.  They motivate students by inviting them to reflect and focus on their progress.  These not not the typical practice cards...these are meaningful practice experiences that will truly shape students' lives. Meagan has received amazing feedback from her students about how these assignments have positively influenced their lives - in more ways than just music.  

When I saw what Meagan was doing in her class, I asked her to make it available for sale on TPT.  She finally agreed and put it up yesterday.  Believe me when I tell you it is WORTH EVERY PENNY!  Meagan gives an outline with her experienced recommendations on how to use the materials.  The 15 page outline contains links for 4 terms worth of practice experiences (8 week-long assignments for each term).  That's 32 lessons - ready for you to use and motivate/inspire your students to REALLY PRACTICE and make REAL PROGRESS!  

Here's how this resource is organized:

Term 1: Developing a Habit of Practicing - 8 lessons

Term 2: Deliberate Practice - 8 lessons

Term 3: Music Specific Practice Strategies - 8 lessons

Term 4: Year Review and Long-Term Planning - 8 lessons

Meagan puts these google doc lessons straight into Canvas and has students complete them in Canvas.  They can also be printed or used in Google Classroom.  

This practice resource will change you and your students forever.  BUY IT NOW!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

FREE Online 'Notes on the Staff' Activity

I found this background for slide shows and I love it! I don't think it's really meant to be a music staff, but it's perfect. Different colors for each line of the staff to help students distinguish the lines.  This is FREE RESOURCE for your online adventures.  A drag and drop 'Note of the Staff' activity created in Google Slides.  Just make a copy of the file, and you can customize specific note names for students to practice.


Do I dare go paperless?

I don't enjoy making copies.  Many mornings, I rush into school as quickly as I can to get in line to make my copies for the day.  Thankfully, I have many of my materials printed for me at our district print center before school starts so I don't have to live in the copy room too much. 

Because of covid, all students at my school will be getting a Chromebook to use for all their classes.  We are meeting in person, but now students don't have to share chromebooks.  This opens up many new options for my teaching.  In the past, I didn't have my students do very much online because not all of my students had access to a device.  Now I can move many of my materials online! 

It's hard to choose how much to put online.  I decided to create a class website to start collecting content and resources.  I'd LOVE to move away from paper.  I get tired of copying, printing, finding missing worksheets, re-copying.  I want students to be able to access everything online.  Google Sites is really easy to use and I love that you can create as many pages and sub-pages as needed to organize content.  I have tons of work to do still, but I'm enjoying filling up my site.

Here are some screen shots of how it looks so far:

I am organizing content by the national standards:  Create, Perform, Respond, Connect.  I use the 'Classroom' tab for class info and business.

The home page introduces me to my students and below that tells about the school program with pics of program awards and accomplishments:

I'm excited about this tuning page.  Under these link are my favorite YouTube videos to help students learn how to tune themselves:

Sometimes I create materials and forget what I have!  Things get lost in all my files.  Google Sites lets me embed almost anything!  Pretty much anything you have in Google Drive will go in a Google Site.

I decided to go paperless on my disclosure document this year.  I turned my disclosure into a google slide show with a link at the end that leads to a form to collect parent info and a check-box 'signature.'  This is going to save me tons of time!  Plus I created assessments in google forms to quiz students on the information from the disclosure and put the link right in the website.

Here a link to a copy of my disclosure so you can see how it works in Slides:

Hurrah for less paper and saving trees!

Monday, July 20, 2020


5 Things students should practice with NO instruments!

Many teachers are contemplating how to teach a group of beginners with virtual or hybrid instruction.  In my district they are planning to have students come to the school for full time in person instruction, but I feel I need to be ready for if/when we all get sent home again.

I like seeing my beginners every day.  I feel I can ensure proper technique, keep them motivated, and ensure they are progressing.  Seeing them less often feels more risky, but kids who take private lessons only see their teachers once per week.  The rest of the time, they are on their own - practicing what has been assigned.  I think as we move to some online instruction, we need to take it slow, break everything down into even smaller chunks of mastery, and be very clear on exactly what/how to practice.

There is a lot to do to get beginners playing comfortably.  It takes a lot of time and skill.  I think students can prepare themselves to learn their instruments by practicing some skills AWAY from their instruments.  These skills work great for online learning and I believe will help students learn fingering and rhythm more effectively ON their instruments when the time comes.  

Here are some ideas for things students can practice AWAY from their instruments:


I have students practice finger taps with me when in school to learn finger numbers.  I just created an online game in Google Slides for practicing finger taps.  It can be used in classroom, or virtually.  It seems easy at first, but it gets harder!  Students learn finger numbers, but also work on coordination and dexterity. 

To use the game, push 'present.'  At the very bottom of the present screen, you will see some controls. Click on the gear and go to 'auto-advance.'  Change the timing to every 3 or every 5 seconds...depending on how much time students need to do the exercise.  (see pic below).

The music should start automatically, but if it doesn't start, push the play button at the bottom left.  If you don't want the music background, just turn the volume down.

When sending to students, you should 'Publish to Web' first and send that link.  This link begins with the slide show instead of a 'slides' editor screen:


Finger pops and flicks are great for building finger strength.  Just tap each finger and thumb together to create a 'popping' sound.  The stronger the fingers, the louder the pop.  Student can also build strength by performing a flicking motion with each finger and thumb.  It's more fun to do this with background music!  Or you can create speed challenges.  For example, create a practice sequence of  8 finger pops on each finger, then 4 on each, then 2, then 1..and see how fast students can do it.  


I don't use TikTok, but many students do!  This is a trend that was going around TikTok  - a emoji hand challenge.  It gets extra tricky when you try 2 hands at once!  I think this exercise help students move to a beat and build it's fun!  Student might enjoy as assignment where they practice this exercise...then create their own hand emoji pattern for other students to master.  You can find downloadable royalty free music to use for this at


This is another popular activity on TikTok.  I think students would enjoy learning the hand rhythm, then create their own.  This would also be a fun way to introduce basic notation.  There are some great YouTube tutorials below!  This activity builds rhythmic skills, coordination, and memory.


Student can do a number of exercises with straws.  They can form a bow hold and balance pennies, or ping pong balls on top of the straw or on top of their right thumb knuckle.  See my post HERE with ideas!  I think it would be fun for students to create their own practice video using straws...where students are the 'fitness instructors' and teach a full workout for straw-bow exercises.  I could create one for my students...but they might like to do their own....and I just don't have time!  Students can then practice with each other's bow workouts.   

Not sure if I'd show this particular work-out video example to students...but I'll post it here for entertainment.  :)  Imagine this being done with straws and bow holds!

Beginners do better when they build basic skills BEFORE they start on their instruments.  Now is the perfect time to implement a gradual start and build coordination and dexterity in our students.

Friday, July 17, 2020

YouTube is an AMAZING educational tool


I have been playing around with tech that I can implement in my classroom this year...especially with unknowns surrounding the pandemic.  Did you know you can use a YouTube video in an online platform called Playposit - where you can place questions in a video to make sure students are watching and learning the material?  It's pretty cool.  You just choose where you want the video to stop and make the question.  It can be multiple choice, fill in the blank, comment box, etc.  Students can't continue the video until the question is answered.  Playposit collects the data - so it can be worth points and go on a students grade.

I was watching a funny YouTube video with some funny babies and thought it would be a hilarious way to teach some orchestra rules.  I didn't make test questions, but used the comment feature to stop the video to let students know the rule that goes with each clip.  Not sure if I'll use it in my class or not...but I think there are many awesome possibilities with PlayPosit.  

Here's a link to my Playposit activity:


Friday, July 10, 2020

Make your own videos for FREE

I have been experimenting with different platforms online to make instructional videos for my classes.  I was worried that making videos would take too much time, but it's really not too bad! 

Videos are a great way to get students to remember your instructional content.  Every year, I make hundreds of copies of my disclosure document as required and students/parents are supposed to read the document and sign a contract at the end.  People don't read those things.  I hate to admit it, but when my own children bring me piles of documents to sign at the beginning of the year I just sign them.  Maybe I'll skim a little if I have time.  That doesn't mean disclosure documents aren't important...I tried to cut my 6 page document down to make it more reader-friendly and I couldn't find anything to cut!  The problem is, students and parents do not always get the important messages/information from that document.

I recommend making instructional videos for parents and students to help them learn the important aspects of your program and how you run your classroom.  Here are some great FREE online tools you can use to create videos:


Adobe Spark has some great templates for making short videos.  You can't customize the video very much, but you will end up with a professional result.  Adobe has great short tutorials to help you quickly learn how to put your video together.  FREE!


I really enjoyed using Animaker.  I had to watch the first 5 minutes or so of a 'how-to' video tutorial to understand how to make my video, but it was pretty easy once I learned to navigate the interface on the site.  You can customize a lot of things in Animaker.   That means, it might take longer to make the video, but you can make the video look exactly how you'd like it to look.  Animaker has lots of great stock videos and images to use in your videos.  Some require a premium subscription to the site, but I was able to find what I needed from their free options.  You do have to go through a process to get your video published once you are finished.  They had me fill out a google form to notify them of the uses for my video.  Animaker then emailed me a link to my published video.

Here's my first Animaker video about HOW TO PURCHASE/RENT A STRING INSTRUMENT:


After using Animaker, Biteable seems very simple.  I didn't have to watch a tutorial to use the site, as it seemed very intuitive.  They have a ton of quality images in their library to use in your videos.  You can't customize a Biteable video as much as Animaker, but that makes the video-creating process to go faster.  Once to complete a video, you can quickly and easily download it directly to YouTube.  I whipped up this video about ORCHESTRA PROTOCOLS in about an hour:

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Orchestra Fun Printables!

Someday, this covid crisis will be over.  We'll be back in the classroom.  We'll be tired of the phrase 'tech tools' and 'blended learning.'  We'll want to just get back to teaching orchestra.  In person.  Connecting with students.  Making music the same room.  :)

I think students get tired of technology, too.  Don't get me is amazing.  There are many tech tools I enjoy using in my classroom and I love finding new things to try.  It's strange to think that a hand-written note can become so special and unique.  A few years ago I noticed one of my students having a rough day.  I wrote her a quick note to cheer her up and sent it to her in another class. It only took me a few moments... and I didn't realize how much it meant to her until years later when she reminded me of that day and showed me that she had saved that little note.

This may seem old-fashioned in this digital world, but sometimes it's nice to have a tangible note.  I just created these printable pages to provide little fun details that will bring the orchestra experience up a notch for you and your students. Print on cardstock and/or colored paper to use in your classroom! Included in the packet at my TPT store

Well Played - fun way to give students a compliment and is something they will save for years!

Official Notice from your orchestra teacher - let your students know you recognize the amazing things they do.

Classroom Citation - great classroom management tool - helps students become accountable for their actions and preparation in rehearsals.

Get out of Playing Test Free - print these on cardstock and give them out for big rewards. This is a great incentive as an alternative to sweets.

Get out of Practice Free - print on cardstock to use as rewards or incentives.

Official License to ARCO - amplify the beginner experience with this license to use the bow. This makes student work extra hard to maintain a correct bow hold!

Stand Partner Chat - a simple activity to help stand partners get to know each other so they can work together more effectively.

Point Voucher - a fun incentive/reward.

Left Hand Check-list - use as an exit slip to help students self-assess and become accountable for left hand position.

Bowing Check-list - use as an exit slip to help students self-assess and become accountable for bow technique.

Today's Rehearsal Goal - students make a goals to encourage a more focused
and effective rehearsal.

1 2 3, GO - a simple exit slip to help students reflect on their learning and ask questions.

Exit Slip - a student self-assessment for the end of a rehearsal.

Exit Survey - a fast way for students to assess their progress on string technique.

I've Got This Rhythm - students write the hardest rhythm from the rehearsal. Great feedback to help differentiate instruction to the needs of the students.

Exit - an exit slip to assess student's feelings regarding a rehearsal.

Saturday, July 4, 2020


It's been a busy summer so far!  I've been attending classes and trying to get ready for a possible blending learning atmosphere when school starts.  I actually enjoyed teaching online at the end of the last school year.  It wasn't ideal for a performing group, but it gave me the time to find tech tools and resources that will enhance the orchestra experience for my students.

I just created this activity for my beginners...It's a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE for orchestra students.  It takes students through a series of typical scenarios and teaches consequences of choices.  Orchestra is a huge adventure!  I want students to have the best possible experience.  I do all I can to make it great, but students have to commit and do their best. 

Try it out!  I made this using google slides.  (DISCLAIMER...I have not proof-read it.  I don't enjoy proof reading so I'll do it later. Sorry if you find a terrible type-o.)


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Masks for Orchestra Teachers and students
Looks like I'll have to be wearing a mask when I start teaching school again in the fall.  I'm a little worried about having to keep a mask on all day and keep student engagement and attention without them seeing my facial expressions.  I decided to design some custom masks to at least send a good message...

Order yours HERE!

Perfect for all string teachers, musicians, and makes a great gift!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Online learning fun - no stress!

Before the term ends, I want to give students the opportunity to rack up as many points as they can.  Since online learning began, I've had quite a few students who accumulated missing assignments.  Students often feel very overwhelmed when they realize they have a list of 10+ assignments that have to all be made up.  I don't want my class to feel burdensome in any way!  Music should be fun and inspiring and uplifting!  To help all students get caught it in a more relaxed/fun way, I created this 'PUMP UP YOUR POINTS' assignment.  Hopefully students will enjoy choosing their own activities and making music.

Here's a link to the google may use and edit this assignment.  Just click on 'FILE' then 'Make a copy' so I can keep my original intact.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

LEGO Ideas - Help make the LEGO Symphony Orchestra a reality

My family loves Legos!  I was recently contacted by a musician/Lego fan designer who created this cool Symphony Orchestra set...

Daniel (aka PieceOnEarth), the fan designer of the Symphony Orchestra on Lego Ideas, has invited me to share with you how you can be a part of making this orchestra into a real Lego set! Lego Ideas is a website where people can submit or vote on idea proposals that they would like to see made into an actual Lego buildable model. If that idea receives 10,000 supporters, Lego will consider producing it as an official set!

Daniel has designed an intricate buildable orchestra that he hopes would give the opportunity to people of all ages to build their very own orchestra and would also help inspire the next generation of musicians. He needs your help to get this idea to 10,000 supporters.

I think this would be a fun set to have on display in my classroom.  Kids are always drawn to Legos and it would make a great conversation piece.  I love the creativity with the different instruments.  I imagine it would be fun to have students create a stop motion video using this set.  Student could even create and record their own soundtrack!  

If you would like to help support this idea, please visit the link below and then click the ‘SUPPORT’ button on the idea page. Signing up and supporting is quick, free and easy to do!  Share with colleagues and friends and let's see if we can get this set off the ground!

You can check out the project here:

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The world of online teaching - where does music fit?


I now have had 3 weeks of distance learning experience and am on Spring Break.  It's been good to have some time to reflect on how things are going with my students and reevaluate my goals and objectives.  When this all started it seems like teachers were ultra motivated to make assignments and find content for students.   And we succeeded!  There was no shortage of great ideas.  I was creating and posting assignments every day for my high school class (which normally meets on an A/B schedule) until one parent contacted me to tell me that every teacher was piling on work and it was too much!  Of course....I was so excited to post the awesome stuff I was creating, I forgot balance.  I hear stories about students who feel over-burdened with hours of work and assignments and feel overwhelmed.  All subjects are important.

It made me think...what do I REALLY want students to learn right now? 

Is now the time to make sure my students memorize the circle of 5th, memorize every major and minor scale, master 3rd position?   Maybe those would work great for online learning.. but at the end of all this, what do I want my students to really know?   I definitely don't want my class to end with a burdensome feeling.  There is time for all that stuff when social distancing is over. 

It seems to me that now is the perfect time to teach students - Why Music?  Music is healing, music expresses our deepest emotions, music moves people, music inspires.  There have been awesome articles online and in the news about people using music to deal with the challenges of this pandemic.  Isn't this why we do music?  To reach, uplift, inspire, and provide hope ourselves and others?  Music teaches us that anything possible.

I had been teaching new music to my students.  There is no way we'll ever perform that music.  Concerts are cancelled for the rest of the year.  I don't think that music is going to mean much to my students.  I need a new plan.  After Spring Break I am going to shift gears.  We'll still learn music, but it won't be for a traditional concert.  It's going to be for us to heal.  It's going to bring families together.  It will be for neighborhoods and friends.  I want my students to see what music can do for others.

My new 'Music Inspires' objective will focus on the following lessons:
  • Students will identify weaknesses and strengths in their playing and make a plan to overcome weaknesses.  Because in life, we can always overcome any obstacle.

  • Students will choose music they personally want to learn.  My best private teacher was one who talked to me and let me learn music I had always wanted to learn.  I worked harder for that teacher than any other because I was heard and I had ownership of my learning. 

  • Students will learn 'Amazing Grace' and we will perform it all at the same time on our porches.  I will encourage students to perform the melody for family members, friends over video calls, neighbors, and all who will hear to uplift the world and provide hope and comfort.
You can have my arrangement of AMAZING GRACE for FREE at my TPT Store:  

Click here for MIDI audio:  

  • Students will read and learn about how music makes a difference:



Dutch orchestra performs 'Ode to Joy' from self-isolation

The Italians Making Music on Balconies Under Coronavirus Quarantine | The New Yorker

Heartwarming Moments Quarantined Italians Sing Together from Balconies


Family's lockdown adaptation of Les Misérables song goes viral


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Fun ONLINE learning activity - Learning to use a LOOPER

This is a fun activity - all online - and no instruments needed!  You just use the keyboard or click on the screen to change sounds.

Students can create their own looped tracks at this website:

Then they can save their creation and send you the link.  Here's one I did while I was messing around with the website:

I think this is a GREAT activity for students because they immediately learn how important it is to keep a steady beat and maintain accurate rhythm.  It look me a few tries...and I'm not perfect at looping, but it was fun!

To teach my students how to use the website, I made a Loom video with me experimenting and teaching them what to do.  Very fast and easy!   Here's a sample of how you can do it with loom: 
(this was my mess-up video - not perfect. Sorry).

Thursday, March 19, 2020

RECORDING online practice videos

If you're looking for an easy video recording tool....check this out!

I've been experimenting with options for recording practice videos for my students. I started by trying to record videos directly into canvas and it wasn't working - my videos would not save.  I have a nice digital camera, but was looking for something fast and easy.  Then I heard about  I made a few videos for my beginners and it was so fast and easy!  It's all online - I don't have to worry about uploading stuff.  I just send students the links to the practice videos.  It's free right now for educators. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Online Teaching - the new frontier


Like many other orchestra teachers across the state, I will be teaching my orchestra classes online for the next few weeks.  There has been no shortage of information.  Companies have been sending free subscription options, facebook has blown up with ideas, emails are flooding my inbox with suggestions and resources.  The big challenge is sifting through everything and deciding what to use.  I have been trying to keep things very simple.  Here's what I'm doing...

1.  I decided to use Canvas, because that is what my district supports and uses.  I know that all of my students can already access Canvas, so I wouldn't have to worry about sending out special codes to join some other LMS.   I have never used Canvas before, but I've got enough basics down to make it work.

2.  Routine is good. My students are used to having a 'Video of the Week.'  I have posted a video in the  'discussion' tab of canvas for students to watch and comment.   I decided to post a video every couple of days.  There are some cool stories and videos coming out about music amid the current world health crises.  I just sent out this one for students to discuss...What good can I do?

3.  I got some great practice assignments from a genius orchestra colleague - Meagan Thorup.  I made a couple changes, but I think these practice assignments are a great way to start an at-home learning experience because students need to create a new routine.  Here's a link to my first assignment - day 1:

4.  Day 2 assignment - listen to new concert music.  I sent links to our new music where students can listen to the recordings, mark difficult measures in their music, and write how they feel about the new music.

5.  Day 3 assignment - Developing a practice routine:

 6.  My next assignments will be short videos of me teaching small chunks of the new music and will include specific practice assignments.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Video tie-ins - Using YouTube to engage students and teach concepts

I've been using lots of videos to help my students grasp the concepts I'm teaching in class.   Videos are such a great way to begin a rehearsal.  It settles everyone down, everyone is intrigued, and it gives me 1 or 2 minutes to re-set my brain and gear myself for another class.

A few tips for using videos in class:

*Always preview the entire video.  I make sure every video is appropriate for school and I never show a video I have not pre-screened.  If there is one or two swear words. I edit those out by hitting the mute button.

*Make sure there is a point.  I always relate my videos to my rehearsals and I refer back to the video during the rehearsals to reinforce/remind students about the skills we are working on.  Videos help my students quickly grasp concepts.

*Use the same video for every level.  It would be way too hard for me to find different videos for every level I teach.  I use the same videos and focus on the same basic concepts in each class.

*Show only the best parts of the videos.  Time is precious.

Here are the videos I have used recently and an explanation of how I related each video to my class:

We discussed the need to develop muscle memory and to feel the spacing between notes and fingerpatterns.  Also 'feeling' correct position, correct bow holds, and maintaining 'feel' of the instrument while playing.  For a fun Friday activity, I brought my game 'What's in the Box' and we played the game for a few minutes.  Students LOVED it.

I LOVE this video!  We were able to discuss artistry and what makes good music.  I let students watch the video once, then we re-watched the performance and paused to discuss things the singer did to create such emotion in the music.  


We watched only the first 3 minutes of this one.  GREAT video to discuss bow distribution.  We talked about how some players use the same amount of bow no matter what they are playing.  It is way more interested to use LONG bows and SHORT bows depending on what the music calls for.  We then went through our music to decide where we should be suing more or less bow.  This really transformed some of our concert music!


Showed from 1:55 to 4:48.  We talked about how smart students are able to do things on their own!  They don't need a teacher to tell them what to do all the time.  Students can figure out what to fix on their own.  As we rehearsed I had students complete a worksheet where they had to write the measures we were practicing and what they needed to do to make those measures better.  Frankly, I was tired of telling them the same things all the time in every rehearsal.  This worked wonders in my rehearsal.  Students thought about each section of music and took ownership for their playing.  They improved a TON...and I didn't have to say a thing.


I only showed the very beginning of this one...with the baby.  I told students that I hope they feel about orchestra and performing and their instruments the same way this baby feels about ice cream.  It's hilarious.


This video shows that every part, every note is important in the entire piece.


This video teaches about tone color.  We talked about how we can use our bow to change the tone color of our instruments...and in older classes - how adding vibrato changes tone color.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Practice assignment for orchestra students of all ages

My 2nd year players have been working on a really difficult piece.  They love it and they are quite motivated, but still need a little push to keep working on the measures that are most challenging.  This practice tip helped students learn to study the music and figure out what makes certain passages so hard.  By identifying the skills necessary to master the music, students were empowered to practice more effectively. 

I began our rehearsal by showing this clip to students (skipping through the dialogue so it didn't take very long).

We then had a discussion about the skills we have to master to learn our music.  When playing an instrument you have to be able to do all sorts of cool skills!  What makes certain measures hard?  Is it bowing, shifting, fingering, etc? Once students can figure out specific skills in challenging passages, they can target their practice to master those skills.

Students can use this worksheet to map out their practice:

Another idea is you can have students practice in small groups to help each other identify the skills and practice effectively.