Tuesday, July 05, 2011
People often ask how long Haley practices each day. I know it may just be a question they think they should ask or what they ask when they can't think of something better to say but I think that particular question has the wrong focus. It isn't how long Haley practices but how she practices that makes a difference.
When she first started playing violin, I left her instrument where she could reach it and whenever she brought it to me, I practiced with her for 10-15 min. Practice then was all fun and games. We used toys and stuffed animals and whatever we could find to help her learn the small parts of techniques she needed to reach bigger goals. I got really, really good at figuring out how to break a larger task into something she could easily accomplish (this skill has been invaluable to me in my work with developmentally delayed kids as well).
We still break up her practicing throughout the day. Her attention is longer but if she goes over 60-90 min at one time, her focus and attention begin to diminish and practice isn't as effective. Homeschooling allows her the freedom to be able to practice throughout the day so we get her when her attention is best.
As she gets older, we still use games at times like if she plays _____ with ______ technique correct, she gets a point or if she doesn't, I get a point or playing ____# repetitions for a chocolate chip. The games don't involve so many props but a little bit of a challenge to help her focus works wonders on those days when she isn't as "into" practicing or she has something she considers difficult to focus on. Oftentimes she is now focused on the playing itself and enjoying what she is playing and doesn't need games and other times she asks to play a certain game.
Haley's teacher often asks her to play a small bit of a piece, a measure or a certain shift, 100 times. I know some Suzuki parents might think she is kidding but we never did. Whenever she said that, we did it. We got the abacus and did it 20 times a day or more until we had done it at least 100 times...oh, yeah...that meant 100 times correctly, not just flying through 100 times to get it done.
Now Haley often choses her own little bit to practice 100 times or more and it is amazing how ingrained something becomes that way. She will find the difficult passages and take them out of the piece and work on them focusing on smoothing out a shift or keeping her fingers tall or whatever it happens to be that she needs to help her play it better. Sometimes she needs help with breaking things down and some days I just sit and watch her practice or we play a game where I try to figure out what technique she is working to improve.
We don't consider playing through a piece to be practice. It might be a small part of the practice...for Haley, playing through the entire piece is her "treat" after the actual practice and she tries to put what she practiced back into the whole piece.
I am so grateful to Haley's violin training for teaching her how to practice. She knows that anything she finds difficult can be made easier with practice and I am sure that knowledge and the skills of knowing how to practice effectively will make a huge difference for her in her all areas of her life.
How long Haley practices would not make much difference in her playing ability if she practiced mindlessly. playing through entire pieces without focus on improving something. It is the deliberate focus on improving something every day, no matter how small that something might be, through practice that makes the difference.