Posts Tagged violin practice strategies

Landing Airplanes and Shooting Arrows | One Thing at a Time, Please

Song of The Wind & Arrows: Here’s The Set Up

    • “Song of The Wind.”
    • LOOP
    • ITEM 1: “Okay, find the fuzzy spot with your ring finger.” (bow hand).
    • “Keep you thumb bent.” (bow hand).
    • “Keep your eyes on the finger board, focus on your tapes.” (finger board).
    • “Rocket wrist… keep your violin hand nice and long. It looks like you’re trying to deliver a pizza.”
    • “Honey, we need to pick a tempo and stay with it.”
    • GO TO ITEM 1
    • END LOOP

        That’s an abbreviated version of my monologue during yesterday’s practice. For crying out loud, you’d think I was trying to land an airplane. The look in wee-man’s eye said he was ready to throw me into the nearest lion’s den. It’s no wonder so many of us “type A” parents want to start popping valium when we help our kids practice.

        I take copious notes at my son’s lessons, which is a blessing and a curse. It’s important because I would otherwise forget important points. (Are we supposed to be playing fast-fast-slow or slow-slow-fast? Was the thumb supposed to be pointing toward the first finger or the pinkie?) But it’s disastrous when I try to accomplish every point on my list simultaneously.

        Choose one arrow at a time, and make sure the target’s fairly close.” – Edmund Sprunger

        In his book, Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for Making It Easier, Suzuki teacher trainer Ed Sprunger explains that children can really only work on thing at a time.  He advises parents to stop and re-prioritize when they find themselves giving their child more than one thing to pay attention to. Sprunger points out that trying to “shoot more than one arrow at a time” will overwhelm the child and make the parent feel incompetent. (Or desperate for valium.)

        Ed’s book is brilliant, and I would recommend it to any Suzuki parent feeling a little lost, frustrated or overwhelmed with practice.

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        Quick Poll 1: How Much Time Do You Spend Practicing Your Instrument?

        Think you practice more, less or the same amount as your peers? Last week, I made some assumptions about how much time musicians need to practice based on their skill level. I posed the question to the beginning adult violin students group (bavs) on Yahoo! and got some interesting feedback. Being a lover of graphs, I decided to pose the question again – in the form of a poll.

        Want to find out how your practice time stacks up to other musicians? Click here to complete a completely anonymous, one question poll. You’ll see poll results instantly and you can check back later as more answers are collected.

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        And Stretch; Two, Three, Four…

        A reminder to stretch before practice came to me at the chiropractor’s office, of all places. The boy and I get adjustments somewhat regularly and the chiropractor noticed tension in wee-man’s left shoulder during our most recent visit. I questioned whether it might be related to his violin practice. She thought playing violin might be the cause and suggested a little massage before and after each practice.

        Notice anything a little “off” in the image above?

        Upon further inspection, it seems my son’s left shoulder is a bit higher than the other. The fact he’s been using it to hold an instrument every morning for the past few years *might* have something to do with it. Well, we’re certainly not giving up our instruments over some tight muscles or a slightly raised shoulder, but the idea of taking care of our bodies just makes good sense.

        I turned to a book I purchased several years ago when my bow hand and wrist were in pain from a lot of practice and computer work: The Athletic Musician: A Guide to Playing Without Pain. While I don’t totally share Barbara Paull’s belief about weight training avoidance, she has a lot of good exercise and posture suggestions for preventing injuries. We’ve been using many of her stretches and warm ups before practice and I’m finding a noticeable improvement in our sound quality. In a perfect world, violin practice would follow an hour of yoga, a hot shower and a soy latte, but that routine’s going to have to wait for retirement.

        Stringed players of the world, what’s your warm up routine? Before you delve into your scales and etudes how to you prepare your *body* to play?

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        Twinkle with Harmony or Everyone Look Happy for the Camera

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        Watch on posterous

        Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with Harmony Take 1 (in 1 Take).

        Suzuki parents (and students) back me up here: listening to / playing the Twinkle Variations gets OLD. Sure they’re good for you, like Brussels Sprout, and you might even like eating them… the first 9,999 days. But, and I’m pretty sure there’s a book about this on my to-read list, after day 10,000 who wants to eat that again? It doesn’t even smell like something edible, let’s be honest. Finding creative ways to break up the monotony is your only hope. You add some melted cheese on those sprouts, or a Hollandaise sauce.

        That’s why I was so excited to get my copy of Trio Book: Suzuki Violin Arranged for Three Violins yesterday. It has harmony parts to the Suzuki Books 1-3 repertoire. Today the boy and I tried out the Twinkles and some Folk Songs. In the video above we tackle Twinkle Twinkle Little Star à la Mein Trio-Buch.

        I promise to read Suzuki Parent’s Diary: Or How I Survived My First 10,000 Twinkles and cook up some more fun things to try. In the meantime, what tips can you share for keeping things interesting in the early days of practice? Are you a 10,000 Twinkles survivor? I want to hear about it.

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        Violin Practice Goes Faster (54% Faster) When We Don’t Bicker

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