In her violin lesson last week, I started thinking about why 10 year old Ciara has shown steady and consistent progress over the last 2 years. Like most of us, Ciara and her family are very busy, and can't practice for hours and hours every single day. I totally get it- life does not revolve around your violin lessons!! So, why then is she so successful? I realized that it's not the quantity of her practice, it's the quality of her practice.
I asked her to reflect on how she practices, and come up with a list of practice tips to share with other students. Here's what she had to say:
Practice Tips!!! By Ciara C.
1. Have an adult listen to you practice and read the music so they can point out any mistakes.
2. Don't rush if you have enough time for a lengthy practice.
3. If you are bored in public, air-bow the song you are doing.
4. Have fun with it! You can make up new songs and create dances to them too!
5. Don't stress over practice. Just take a deep breath, and do it over.
6. Listen to your teacher! Take notes of her/his feedback and try and catch your mistakes. :)
All of this is excellent advice, especially number 6!! Here is MY list of things Ciara does in her playing that leads to quality practice.
1) Focus! Pick one aspect of the piece to think about, like intonation, rhythm, sound quality, bowings, or dynamics. Ciara often focusses on bowings or holding notes their full length.
2. Simplify! If you play piano, practice one hand at a time. Violinists can simplify by taking out the rhythms or bowings and focussing on the left hand notes.
3. Isolate! Determine where the real problem spot is, and only work on those few notes until the issue is resolved. Ciara often repeats small chunks 4 or more times to make sure they are solid.
4. Set realistic goals! Rome wasn't built in a day, so why should you expect yourself to master a piece in one week? If you are trying to increase your tempo, don't expect to go from metronome marking 60 to 150 over night! Make your goal 15 clicks each day, and by the end of the week, you'll be up to 150 without breaking a sweat.
4. If at first you don't succeed, try try again! Ciara is particularly good at staying patient and focussed when she is learning a new song. She never gives up when something is hard, and she definitely doesn't let frustration set in and get in her way!
5. Consistency! Ciara is really good at practicing whenever she can. She has a busy schedule, but whenever it's possible to practice, she fits it in her day. More importantly, she is consistently focussed every time she plays her violin. She doesn't just go through the motions and rush through her songs. She always tries her hardest to sound her best whenever she plays her violin!
Congrats, Ciara on developing some awesome practice habits, and thanks for sharing your advice! Happy practicing, everyone!