Over the recent Winter Break, I spent 2 weeks traveling to spend time with loved ones and it was glorious. The highlight of these special moments was meeting and holding my 3-month-old nephew, baby Liam. I do not officially resume school until Monday but have already started waking up early and working 12 + hour days getting ready for the intensity of nursing school and working ahead on all things Music for Young Violinists so I can devote myself to my studies.
I was initially going to send some neat FREEBIES out this season but my own current experience of feeling how limited time is caused a change of course in sharing.
When I am studying new content for my nursing program I find the most challenging part is discerning how to best use my time - Should I:
The list above is abbreviated and illustrates the challenge of starting at the beginning of acquiring a new skill and knowledge base.
In contrast, however, having spent decades in the world of teaching and learning the violin I had a very clear idea of how to make the most use of my time and was able to concisely pass this along to my students. This information is what I will be sharing in the 6 part practicing series.
I have mused that perhaps the only thing that is fair in this world is that we all get 24 hours a day.
Learn how to make the most of your precious time with the Music for Young Violinists 6 part practice series.
15 Ways to Optimize Violin Practice (video and free chart)
The Practice Experiment
(More Coming Soon)
Remember, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Your time is precious, let me show you how to make the best use of it with this series on practicing.
Learn 15 ways to optimize your practice sessions with this free downloadable chart and tutorial video.
If you have followed this project for a while you may know that one of the most profound things I ever did in my teaching career was to spend a week watching my students practice. You can learn more about what I discovered and how it was arranged here on The Practice Experiment.
The 15 Ways to Optimize Violin Practice list and correlating video was created as a response to watching my students practice. Too often students were working hard but not progressing as far as they should because they were not practicing the right way. This list and video will help any violinist make better use of their practice time and reach their goals more efficiently.
Teachers - you can use this to better support teaching technique, as a reference to share with your students and for professional development to expand your skills.
Students - you can use this to help you practice more efficiently. Practicing smarter will help you progress faster. My passion is taking my 20+ years of teaching experience and helping you know the fastest path to success through the trials and errors I had working with students these past 2 decades.
Parents of Young Musicians - I know that one of the hardest jobs for you is keeping momentum in your home practice routine. Peruse the ideas on 15 Ways to Optimize Violin Practice and use the appropriate ones for your child to help keep practice creative, fresh and engaging with some new ideas.
Print out the list below and keep in your violin folder as a reference.
* Please note, some things on the list may not be clear to you until they are demonstrated in the accompanying video.
What is your favorite practice tip?
Please share with us in the comments below, thank you!
Thank you to TakeLessons.com for including me in this neat infographic.
Hello M4YV Peeps,
It is my week off for Spring Break and has been an absolute constant rainstorm here in Oregon. This means I have time off & time inside to have too much fun with my MacBook photobooth feature and I have gone nuts restocking the FREEBIES page.
Head on over to the FREEBIES page & enjoy some awesome new downloads to help you bring out the best in your teaching. I rotate my FREEBIES on a regular basis so many of these resources will not be up for long.
Happy music making!
The THIRD POSITION STUDY SHEET is part of the free Winter 2016 music packet available only from Music for Young Violinists. This worksheet has been such an empowering resource for my students who are just beginning third position and they often progress thru these short studies much faster than we expect. Although I could assign each of these passages by ear, I find that it creates more clarity and organization to have the expected assignment clearly notated on a piece of paper. I designed this worksheet to combine multiple learning channels into one experience:
EARS - Using review pieces to learn third position serves as guard rails to keep a student on track. They already know what the tune should sound like so there is clarity from the start.
EYES - I remember when I first started reading on the G string and high on the E string how difficult it was to discern with all the additional staff lines. If a student and teacher prefer, this worksheet allows for writing in fingerings and half/whole step markings. Eventually the consistency of playing in the same range will help your young musician develop fluency for playing in this new higher range.
HANDS - I kept all of the studies in the same range on the E string to give students enough repetition of the new skill set to truly grow confident in this new skill. If a student only practices third position in a single piece they will likely struggle for a while due to not receiving enough support to master this new and fun skill.
How do you help your students with third position? Please share in the comments below.
Woo-Hoo, another prize!!! There is a special $15 Gift Certificate Prize to the Music for Young Violinists STORE for the first person who can help me identify the piano composition this excerpt comes from.
I used to hear it being practiced next door decades ago when I was in music school but I never knew the composer. I only know it is *fantastically fun for teaching young violinists how to master their low and high 2nd fingers. Nothing replaces good old fashioned 2 octave G Major scales but in my experience most students need a little more support in their curriculum.
The worksheet pictured below is a part of the Winer 2016 Music packet which is one of the many free perks of being on the Music for Young Violinists newsletter list. I give away an entire packet of music to my list every season. I love hearing from you and even if you can not tell me who composed this piano piece please let me know your feedback about the Winter 2016 Music Packet:
*If you are like me you may have wondered if this is a real word. I thought I was just making this up but learned something new today and according the Merriam-Webster this word actually exists. The definition of fantastically is 1 : in a fantastic manner. 2 : to a fantastic degree : extremely Ha! That was exactly the word I was looking for to describe this small etude I use to help students with their 2nd fingers.
This packet is not longer available but the worksheets from this can all be found in the Teacher's Toolkit available here at the Music for Young Violinists store.
La Folia - I noticed my students struggling to memorize the straightforward opening of this piece and could not figure out why until I looked at the score they were using (Suzuki Violin Book 6.) This version has the 4 bar phrases broken up unevenly on the lines, and my students were unable to identify how simple the pattern is. After my students used this re-formatted version, the phrases became visually apparent, and memory was much easier.
Sub-Division - Concerto No. 2 in G Major, 3rd Movement (F. Seitz) m. 68-83 By the time a musician is at this level sub-division should already be an acquired skill and having it printed out for explanation is not necessary. However, I find that having an assignment blocked out on a separate worksheet creates clarity of goals between teacher and student as well as preventing a student from plunging into the score without having the proper foundation to interpret the music accurately.
Ring, Ring, Ring - This is a simple etude that is easy to learn and designed to help younger musicians work on their sympathetic vibration ring tones. It can also be done starting on the D string.
“I Am High, I Am Low” - When a young musician begins differentiating between what we refer to as low and high 2nd fingers, they need a great deal of support. I borrow this musical phrase from a favorite piano piece and have students learn it in the five-part sequence listed on the worksheet. They enjoy it and have fun getting some speed in it.
Do-Re-Mi Song - Solfège is not something that most American musicians learn when they are young, but I would like to see this change. This simple and fun piece focuses on the intervals of the scale while teaching the seven syllables of solfège used in English. I first introduce this by singing and using hand symbols and fun body movements to match the lyrics. After it is learned vocally, a violin student can easily transfer this onto the violin.
Third Position Study Sheet - I love teaching the III position by ear but found that some students need a correlating visual to help it make more sense and not get discouraged in their home practice. This worksheet takes several familiar pieces and transposes them to be played in the III position on the E string to help concentrate on a specific range. It is a fun assignment and students enjoy experiencing their growth by mastering these phrases in the III position.
Did you know that my book Twinkle: Duets, Trios & Quartets was written to help students gain fluency and confidence with their III position? I created this collection of chamber music pieces before the Suzuki books were revised to fill the gap that used to exist with the use of the III position. You can view samples from this collection on the website and download a free Twinkle Duet when you sign-up for the newsletter.
Counting stones for practice jars are an easy, quick and economical gift to make for your students and will help a musician of any level stay organized and goal oriented in their home practice.
Above is a picture of a counting stone practice jar from a batch that I recently made and shared with the teenagers in my studio as a Christmas gift. I purchased the stones and beads from my local Michaels Craft store.
To use the counting stones for practice jar the student removes the stones from the jar and places one back in the jar for every repetition they complete to satisfaction. Since I believe it is important to use both singing and visualization when doing repetitions I used a variety of stones to emphasize my teaching values. The special stones (or beads) that are different looking can be used to keep track of these non-violin repetitions and create a sequence. For example, a student could place the stones on their music stand in a specific order that represents 2 violin play thrus and 1 sing thru, 2 violin play thrus and 1 sing thru, etc…
Practice counting devices like this help musicians keep track of their repetitions without having to log the numbers in their head. This frees up mental space so they can more fully concentrate on their musical goals. Also of benefit is using the left hand to put the repetition stone back in the jar which will give a much needed muscle release to the body so that tension does not accumulate.
Watch a video using counting stones:
How do you help your students accomplish repetitions in their home practice? Please share in the comments below.
The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention with Dr. Victor Lin
Dr. Victor Lin, is physiatrist with the Rehabilitation Medicine Associates of Eugene, gifted educator and parent of a talented young violinist. He created this concise presentation The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention specifically for teenage violinists to inform them about the potential injuries violinists are prone to getting and to offer solutions for preventing these injuries. I suggest making these videos a required viewing assignment for any of your teenage students who are practicing more than 1 hour a day to help them have healthy and long violin careers. This 2 part presentation can be viewed by clicking on the video links below along with a summary of the contents.
The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention, Part 1:
The Violinist Athlete and Injury Prevention, Part 2:
For a young violinist having difficulty integrating the words "down" and "up" into their playing consider substituting with the words "open" for down bows and "close" for up bows. Since the bow moves in lateral directions left and right the actual words "up" and "down" do not correlate with the motions and can be confusing to a young violinist and their parents during home practice.
Words like "high" and "low" can be confusing to a young student while they are in the process of playing the violin. Consider altering your instruction to be a description location like "closer to the bridge (or nose)" and "closer to the scroll" instead for more efficient results in the initial stages of learning these distinctions.
Let’s face it, getting kids to stay engaged during violin practice can be tough. Whether they’re tired after a long day at school or they’re frustrated with a particular skill, kids can get easily distracted. To help keep your student or child motivated, try implementing a few violin games into their practice session. Not only will games keep them engaged, but they will also help reinforce important skills and techniques.
At TakeLessons, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of over 20+ violin games.
Each game works on a particular skill, such as reading music, ear training, and violin posture. What’s more, these games can be applied to almost any instrument.
Below is a sample of a few games both parents and teachers can play with their budding musicians.
Simon Says: To help with ear training, play this new rendition of the old-school game “Simon Says.” Taking on the role of “Simon,” start by issuing instructions to the student(s). For example, when you play A on the violin, the kids have to stand up. Or when you play E, the kids have to sit down.
Spot the Mistake: Start by showing students the proper bow hold, then ask them to close their eyes while you set up your bow hold with one obvious mistake; for example, a straight thumb. Once you’re ready, ask students to open their eyes and spot the mistake. They get three chances to guess the mistake before moving on.
Tree Trunk: To practice the proper violin posture, have the child pretend he or she is a tree in the middle of a tornado. If the student’s feet are placed too narrow, then the wind will be able to push him or her over sideways. If his or her feet are placed too wide apart, then the wind can pull him or her forward or backwards.
Children can get easily burnt out when trying to master a complex instrument such as the violin. To help keep them motivated, mix up their practice routine with these fun, educational games. To view all 20+ violin games, click here.
This article originally appeared on TakeLessons.com. Brooke Neuman is a violin and piano editor at TakeLessons, an online marketplace that connects thousands of teachers and students for local and live online music lessons.
A "hack" is defined in the urban dictionary as:
A clever solution to a tricky problem.
As violin teachers (or parents of young violinists) our technique development can all be categorized as tricky problems so here are a few photos of "hacks" I have used in my studio to offer solutions for my students. For more, please visit the Violin Hacks & Bow Hold Helpers page.
Click to set custom HTML
“Doctor Suzuki said, ‘Only practice on the days that you eat.’” I say, in my most optimistic and encouraging voice, to every new cello student and their practice parent.
We all start out knowing that practice is the name of the game, we must commit to at least this part or it all goes down the tubes, right? But, when I hear myself saying this, I know full well that in about 5-6 months it is possible that I will see this same eager family, who nodded in agreement, walk into the studio with flat expressions, barely speaking to each other, and desperation showing in their once bright eyes. “We’ve had a hard week, month, few months,” they say.
I know exactly what they are telling me. Despite all of the love, opportunity and dedication the parents have provided, the child refuses to practice. Maybe there had even been arguments, tantrums, and foot stomping by both parties. The honeymoon has ended and they are at their wits end. They don’t want their child to despise music or them, so maybe it’s time to throw in the towel?
My heart fills with empathy for them both. I know so much of their pain, feelings of failure, guilt, and confusion about where they went wrong. How could a professionally trained Suzuki teacher have this problem?! After much reflection over the past few years as a new Suzuki parent, I have come to the conclusion that this struggle is absolutely part of the process and is completely necessary for many families.
A familiar comment that I often hear from parents who are trying to pinpoint their practice struggle is, “Once she/he is in there, they play their hearts out and they enjoy themselves." It’s the “getting in there” that is the problem. The obstacle of transitioning from the outside world, with all of its excitement and wonderful distractions, to their actual workspace and mindset is something many artists face, from painters to musicians. Most of the time, once inside that space, it seems a magical inertia carries them forward until they have exhausted their creative output and work is done for the day.
Personally, I find it very difficult to shift from my mama mode to the music studio, for either teaching or practicing. It was equally as challenging, if not more so, for our daughter, who spent all day at school or having fun with friends and family, to drop everything and pick up her violin because it was time. I would tell myself, “If I could just get her to the other side of the door with the instrument in her hands, everything will be okay, and the music will take over.”
Unfortunately, because of the negative interactions prior to practice, our combative attitude would follow us through that door, and very little music would be accomplished. Realizing the transition period had been ignored and not included as part of the practice itself, we decided to make it inviting, special, and fun by creating a small ritual, which for us took the form of a tea ceremony.
Once our daughter is aware that it is time for music practice, she finds her favorite tea cup, and with my help, makes herself a cup of tea with honey and puts a small cookie or biscuit on her plate. The entire process takes about 5 minutes and during that time we usually chat about what she intends to work on. She enters the studio with her tea and nibbles or sips through the first part of her practice. I have found that both of us consistently have a much calmer and more positive attitude as a result of being mindful of the transition.
Emily Graff-Uhlman has been teaching cello privately for 13 years and currently maintains a small Suzuki studio in Eugene, Oregon while enjoying her three young children. She is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM) and the University of Nevada, Reno (MM).
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!