Counting stones are a variation on the abacus. They are easy to make and as simple as getting a jar and 10-20 of your favorite stones (or really, anything that is small, personal and is readily available).
You can see a version I made as gifts for my students one year here.
Counting stones will help make violin practice successful for the following reasons:
1- Anytime you can make something personal by choosing a unique stone (or sticker or toy, etc...) it will bring a positive connection to the experience.
As advanced as the frontal lobes of our brains may be, what drives the show in our life experiences is the unconscious part of our minds. Making a simple positive connection like choosing your personalized counting stones will bring this positive influence into violin practice and help encourage the practice process. Helping to make a positive and personal connection is equally useful for a 5-year-old as it is for a 57-year-old, or in other words, is applicable for all ages.
2- Violinists need ways to release the repetitive stress involved in playing to avoid an injury.
Laying practice stones out on the music stand will create a built-in mechanism for regularly relieving the arm from holding the instrument up (of using the left arm). Since I have injured myself in part thru lack of implementing healthy practice techniques such as this, I feel strongly about emphasizing this subject for future musicians to help preserve their music making experience. This led to inviting physiatrist Dr. Lin to do a presentation for my studio informing violinists and their parents about preventing violin related overuse stress injuries. The presentation, The content shared by Dr. Lin in his presentation The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention, is concise and solution oriented.
3- Tangible goals and tangible results.
I was once teaching a 10-year old student named Julia, who came into her lesson with a look of wonder in her eyes as she stated:
"Isn't it amazing that I just move my fingers and arms around and all this beautiful music comes out?!"
She perfectly captured the awe of this magical experience of creating invisible art (which is what music is). Other art forms are visible - painting, films, the martial arts, etc... We violinists create invisible art and having something concrete to aid in our process such as counting stones can be useful in tracking progress and bringing a sense of groundedness to our practicing.
4- Optimize practice methodologies.
In the correlating video, I show how to use practice stones to create better sequencing in violin practice. Too often students will play thru something 10x but only reinforce the incorrect bowing. With practice stones, a student can lay out an alternating pattern with one type of stone representing doing the correct bowing in the air and the other kind of stone for implementing the proper bowing on the instrument.
Calendars, Goals & the BIG Secret About Our Teaching
Learn how to teach goal setting and organization to your violin students by using a calendar and working backward.
Not a teacher? Not a problem, this is still great content for students and parents to help you streamline your goals and clarify your focus. You will find it especially useful if you are preparing for a performance. Plus, I also share what I think is the big secret about the work we do as violin teachers:
We are not just teaching the violin...
We are not just teaching music...
We are teaching our students life - how to live a life with purpose and for how to navigate and process the complexities of the human experience.
That is the “Big Secret” alluded to in the title and more specifically that by teaching our students to have success with their violin skills and musical expression we are sharing with them a template for how to have success in other areas of their life as well. One way we can do this is to set goals and use a calendar to create a plan for how to turn these goals into a reality.
Goals are like GPS coordinates for your dreams.
All of my advanced and older students get a hard copy of a 9-month calendar at the beginning of the school year and we sit down together and write in all of the performances, dress rehearsals, group classes and auditions. Then, we work backward from this structure to plan for our musical goals to best prepare for them and have success.
For my younger or less advanced students, I give them a 3-month calendar in the months preceding our solo recital and do a shorter version of the planning mentioned above.
In short, we are using music and the violin to teach our young students how to make their dreams come true and we need to offer them concrete tools in this process. Hardcopies of calendars that are organized by the teacher and student together help both parties clarify goals and create a structure for achieving success in these desired outcomes.
To see a demonstration in more detail of how to use a calendar to support your violin goals please view the video below.
Hi! It's me, Heather. I absolutely love working on the Music for Young Violinists project and all the many facets: blogging, website, music, teaching materials, freebies, videos, newsletter and giveaway contests. The best part is connecting with you so feel free to drop me a line. You can learn more about me on the "ABOUT" page. Thanks!