STE teacher Cherie Larson and her group classes recently compiled the following great ideas for making practice easier.
In the last little while, we have been talking about how to make practicing a “good thing”. When schedules are busy and parents are tired and kids are cranky, it’s all too easy to treat music-practice like an unpleasant chore that has to get done, so that it can be marked in the “agenda”.
Each of you brought in ideas that make home practice unique, creative, sparkly, something to look forward to, something that both parent and child want to do. Here are your ideas, sprinkled with former Suzuki families, all collected and compiled and now distributed to each one of you.
If what you are already doing is creating a happy-healthy-home practice…..keep doing it! If you think you and your son/daughter are in need of revisiting practice so that it is indeed something you look forward to each day: keep reading….just try one idea for a week then move on until you have rediscovered the true joy of making/creating/learning music together.
- We use sticker Charts: One sticker for a good-attitude practice or for “x” # of minutes. Save some days for the Daily Double or 2 for 1 stickers. (Our kids really practice for those!)
- My son likes learning new skills/techniques to show + share + “teach” his younger brother.
- Dot-to-Dot Practice Art: take a dot-to-dot picture from a colouring book and each time our child practices s/he connects one more dot until picture is complete: begin with small pictures first with only 5-10 numbers and then increase with time.
- Having an impromptu concert on a stage at home with an audience: sometimes the stage is the 2nd or 3rd stair, sometimes it’s the hearth on the fireplace and sometimes our audience has to be my stuffies.
- The pieces of paper tell the child what review or “tidbit-practice” is next, not the parent. We put these slips of paper in a tin a jar or cup. Student and parent alternate choosing one.
- When I’ve worked on a practice spot MANY TIMES, then my reward is when my dad keeps the beat on the Cajón – a Peruvian percussion instrument.
- Break up practice with other activities…after 10 practice-spot-repetitions, do 2 somersaults or after 4 review pieces run around the “circle” in our house or after 3 scales, play with my baby brother for 2 minutes. Simple practice rewards like a hug, or iPad time or a snack.
- Suzuki Pal Practice-Invite your children’s Suzuki pal for an afternoon after school for a practice session, snack and play time.
- Treat daily practice like you would treat going to bed or brushing your teeth or cleaning up the toys or hanging up your clothes: as a family, it is just simply something we do daily.
- Lacking direction in practice? We “whip” out the DVD recorder and make an impromptu recording to send to Grandma and Grandpa or our relatives in Denmark. The kids love to work hard and make a GOOD recording for grandparents and practices are longer too.
- I have two kids in STE: when the kids have a say and get to pick/choose the practice time. (much more willing to practice)…and they like it when we all play review songs together.
- Invite the “dog” or the “cat” or in our case the “bird” or younger brother to “listen” for 5 min.
- Practice Session Scramble-If each session should be made up of listening, review tonalization, scales, polishing, or a new piece and reading, scramble the order around each day for some variety. They look forward to: “What will the order be today?”
- If mom is really busy + needs to make supper, then my sister and I come into the kitchen to practice…we take turns and play for each other while the other one helps mom. We like that.
- If there are no siblings 2 and under, we found that when we kept the instrument out on an instrument stand, that our child was much more likely to walk by and grab it and play! No case to unzip, unsnap, no endpin to pull out or shoulder rest to put on: it was ALL READY!
- After I have worked on all the “tidbit” practice-bits, sometimes my dad will play guitar and accompany me on my polishing piece and I like that.
- We found that when our children can report to someone that they’ve practiced, they are SO PROUD!!!! Sometimes they tell their instructor, Grandma, write it in their agenda, friends. It is good when practicing on a regular basis makes them feel proud of what they’ve done.
- Penny Arcade-100 pennies in one jar and empty jar with a picture of child’s favorite treat (ice cream, gum, candy bar, pizza, etc.) or favorite meal. Child receives 1 penny for every 10 minutes of practice. When 100 pennies are in the student’s treat jar-treat is given.
- If my child is working on one particular song, s/he likes to go onto youtube and find all the performances s/he can of her piece to listen to, to watch: and this inspires her to do well.
- Sometimes my child gets tired of hearing my voice over and over: Fix your bow hold, curve your pinky, bend your thumb, no pancake-hand. Then I discovered finger-puppets and I would sometimes make a deep voice for fixing your thumb or a high squeaky voice for fix your feet…and now I have 5 finger-puppets (one on each hand) and I just hold up the cat and she knows she has to bend her thumb, when I hold up the dog fingerpuppet, she knows that she has to hold her violin up higher, when I hold up the elephant, she uses bigger bows.
- In the practice session, I find it’s better to start and finish with something easier…and then do the “tricky or harder” practice in the middle of the practice. Sandwich-practice!
- There are days when, even as a six-year-old, life is completely overwhelming and there’ll be no positive practice that day – so on those “life is too much” days, my son just sits in my lap and we sing words to Suzuki songs and we listen to the CD and hum along to it.
- Standard practice is 3x on one song….but if it is exceptionally nice…only have to do it 2x.
- If a student needs to play through a difficult practice spot 10x a day, put pennies in a jar or use an abacus to move beads over with each repetition or Mom hold up fingers to count.
- If a student needs to play many times through an entire section or piece, focus on different things each time – good bow hold 1x, standing tall 1x, full bows 1x, hearing ringing notes.
- When multiple repetitions are asked for/needed: maybe do 5reps in the kitchen, then 5 repetitions on the stairs, then 5 in the basement, then 5 in the living room. When the child is focusing on the “next place”, they don’t realize that they’ve just repeated it 20x!
- We have a simple board game (roll the dice and move forward) for pre-schoolers. We put spaces on the board that say: play the bread of Twinkle or practice ringing notes or do 10 rhythms on open A or do a practice spot 8x…and then my child is thinking about finishing the game and pretty soon the whole practice session is done! Sometimes, if she’s not at the end of the board game, she wants to keep practicing so she can finish the game!
- To make sure that we complete our review plus our weekly scale: we have a simple puzzle and on the back of the puzzle, we have an activity like play the D+ scale or do this passage 3x and then when you’ve completed that task/activity you put that puzzle piece in.
- We keep stickers on a chart…and one week of practice (1 sticker for 1 practice) and a small reward like an ice-cream or a cookie or a Starbucks date with Daddy….a month of practice we do HER choice for a family activity: a movie or skating or a restaurant trip or swimming.
- I’ve found the best motivator for my daughter to practice is THE VERY FIRST THING that comes out of my mouth after she has played something is POSITIVE!!!!! Then she’s MUCH more open to constructive comments or “let’s do it again with a good bow hold” comments.
- Deck of cards – like the dice game,, only use cards. Assign pieces to each card. Have child pick cards to determine the pieces to play and the order. Include in the deck, some Silly Cards – make silly cards and let child draw a silly card as a reward. Ex – stand on one foot, stick out your tongue, sing the piece, play pizzicato. For example, if child needs to play twinkle and draws “stick out your tongue,” must play twinkle with tongue out the whole time.
- Create magical musical moments with your children. A good laugh together at something in the practice, just the two of you going to a cello concert together, watching a PBS special with a violinist (the other child), make a story together about your Suzuki journey.