With the holidays approaching, I thought it might be useful to suggest some approaches to practicing while on vacation, either physically or during a break in lessons.
- Look at the sheet music every day. When reviewing the repertoire, you should have your child look at the markings in their music on their first run-through of the piece. This adds a visual layer to their memory, and helps remind you and them of the important things in each piece.
- Practice the left hand and right hand of each piece separately. Another thing to do while looking at the music is to practice just the left hand fingerings while singing the notes, and then to practice just the bowings while singing the notes. The important thing with these exercises is to move the fingers as if playing the piece (meaning, in tempo with what you are singing, and with all the correct technique), and to plan the bow movements (meaning, control of the bow and bow distribution).
- Practice different challenges on review pieces. For example, try playing the “Concentration Game” and test your child’s memory of the pieces he/she knows well. Try the “Wiggle Game” with pieces using slow bow speed (eg, See Saw, Twinkle, Go Tell Aunt Rhody). Try the “Scatter Game” or closing eyes while playing any piece. Point to a place in the middle of the music and have your child start there and try to play to the end, instead of only starting in the middle of the piece.
- Experiment with different tempos. When a piece is mastered, you should be able to play it at any tempo – either slower or faster than the performance tempo. Slower is harder, and better for practicing!
- Pick a theme for your practicing. For instance, if you pick “beautiful tone” on one day, you are going to focus everything in that practice session on getting beautiful tone. This will actually encompass every aspect of the fundamentals (position, thinking, listening, bow arm technique), but will force you to look at all these elements and listen for the best tone possible. If the next day you pick “playing in tune”, you will also be focusing on listening, looking at where the fingers are going, and position.
Try these ideas, and see what happens when we put our mind on a particular intention!