Using video cameras in the lesson

As most of you know, I’m a strong proponent of parents’ using video cameras to record every lesson. Many of you have taken this advice, and of those who have done this on a weekly basis, 100% have told me that it is a useful (if not essential) tool in their daily practice.

But as with all tools, it is how one uses the video tapes that determines their utility. Below are some of my tips on filming the lessons as well as using the tapes at home in your practice. I hope some of our “die-hard” parent videotapers will add their comments here as well.

  1. Choose a relevant camera angle.
    • For most lessons, the appropriate camera angle should be behind the teacher’s left shoulder. This will allow viewing of the child’s bow hand from the front, the angle of the bow on the strings, and the child’s left hand fingers.
    • At certain times, for example when I am adjusting the child’s finger positions on the tapes of the fingerboard, you may need to move the camera so that it is over the child’s left shoulder. This will allow you to see the angle of the finger’s contact point on the fingerboard. Usually I am illustrating to the child where to place the finger, so the camera angle should try to mimic the child’s vantage point.
  2. Review each week’s tape as soon as possible after the lesson.
    • I was pleased to hear Mr. Mah chime in with this point as well. He reminded me that we often think we remember more from the lesson than we actually do, and a quick review of the lesson tape on the same day as the lesson will help tremendously with retaining the key points for that week. Remember, each practice session should have a purpose. Your lessons are the opportunity for you and your child to develop the eyes and ears to “become your own teacher” at home.
  3. Study the tape again during the week, to assess your progress against the goals.
    • I would suggest that you review the tape again at about mid-week, to refresh your memory about the goals and to “recharge” your practice energy, which usually tends to slump after about 3-4 days. 
    • In every lesson there is valuable information in terms of the intended sound, position, or technique. These can’t be captured in words. They must be experienced. Especially when we are training the ears to value good intonation (playing in tune) or producing good tone quality, it is important to hear what these actually sound like. It’s the rare person who can at this stage of training remember these sounds from one week earlier. We are so fortunate to have the technology readily available to help us reproduce these sounds at home.
    • Don’t just watch the tapes passively; LISTEN to both the sounds your child is making, and the feedback provided in response to those sounds.
    • Did the teacher suggest specific exercises to do in order to address certain problems? Have you done these exercises? Do you understand the purpose of these exercises? Please ASK if you don’t know the answer after reviewing the tapes.
    • Your practicing will become more effective if you constantly assess progress against stated goals, not just from week to week, but each day.
  4. Try videotaping your practice sessions.
    • Every once in awhile, you might want to try videotaping your child’s practicing. Most children like to watch themselves in camera, and you can make this a valuable practice tool by picking a specific goal for the videotaped practicing.
    • The most useful day for doing this might be one day prior to the lesson, to assess what progress has been made during the week toward the intended goals from the lesson.
  5. Videotape repertoire classes
    • I would suggest this on a periodic basis, and would focus on capturing examples of beautiful tone, playing in tune, and the correct position.
    • Also listen to the feedback that is provided by the teacher and how the more advanced students are asked to respond to that feedback.
    • Embedded in all of the feedback and activities in both lessons and repertoire classes are ideas on how to practice, what to practice, and what are the ingredients of good playing. Use your videos to open your eyes and ears to the details you might miss when watching it for the first time!
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