Violin, Cello and Piano Practice Games
We all know that practice makes perfect, but sometimes it's easier said than done! If there's a difficult passage in a song, or a new skill to master, the student can't just play it once and be finished. For true mastery, one must repeat the new skill over and over again until it becomes effortless. For some kids, the idea of playing the same thing over and over again is torturous! Here are some practice techniques to help trick your little ones into endless repetition!
The Penny Game
This game encourages intense focus and maximum effort from the child. Choose a short passage that the student can play, but with occasional mistakes. The goal of the game is to win 3 pennies. Determine the passage you are going to play, and all of the things the student must do perfectly. This could be playing all the correct notes and rhythms, with the right fingerings AND dynamics. The task should be too difficult to accomplish on the first try, but not out of reach.
In order to win the game, the student must play the passage, meeting all the established goals, 3 times in a row. After the first correct attempt, you give the child a penny. If the child makes a mistake on the 2nd or 3rd repetition, then you get to take all the pennies back! Every time a mistake is made, you have to go back to round one. The student must be totally focused and be able to play perfectly 3 times in a row in order to win all 3 pennies.
Keep in mind that if you pick a task that is too difficult, this game gets frustrating very quickly! But, if you choose something that is too easy, the game is boring and not very helpful. Make sure you choose something that is within reach, but that the student consistently struggles with. This game is VERY useful to fix incorrect bowings, fingerings, accidentals, or lack of dynamics. Kids love the challenge, and you'll be amazed their increased focus and drive. Who knew that 3 pennies could be such a motivator?!
The Goofy Challenge
Every kid LOVES this game! Basically, I give them a license to be totally goofy, but only while playing what I ask as beautifully as possible. I come up with the challenges at first, but they can pick their own once they get in the swing of things. Challenges can include the following things:
Stand on one foot
Hop up and down while you play
Stick out your tongue
Close your eyes
Walk in a circle
Pretend you have the hiccups
All of these games can make kids forget that they are playing the same thing over and over, but hopefully bring a little laughter and joy into the practice room. Remember, practicing doesn't always have to be serious and hard work.
Roll the Dice
I use dice in my teaching on a regular basis. Who doesn't love to have a chance to roll dice? We pick a passage to work on, and roll the dice to see how many repetitions they have to do. The most important rule for this game is that rolling a 1 or 2 never counts. For some reason, kids seem to accept the fact that they have to do what the dice says! They will argue with their teacher, or whine to their parents to try to get out of repeating something, but when the dice tells them how many times to repeat, they always do it!
For this game, I write down several dynamic markings on tiny pieces of paper (pianissimo, piano, mezzo forte, forte, fortissimo), fold them up and put them in a "fish bowl" (any bowl, glass, cardboard box, etc. will do). The student must "go fish" before each repetition, to determine how loud or soft they must play. If you are enthusiastic about their dynamics, the kids will happily play the same thing over and over again because they are no longer focused on the repetitions, but on the challenge of playing at different volumes. This game can also be played with different tempo markings.