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Congratulations! You’ve established a great practice routine with your Suzuki student, you know what time you’re going to practice on any given day of the week, and you have made progress on transitioning easily to practice. What now? Have you achieved practice perfection?
The next question to ask yourself is; how effective is this practice time? Are we making progress day to day? Do we know what to work on, or are we just repeating our review songs over and over?
Everyone’s practice time is limited. Even if your child wanted to practice all day (and I sure do not want to), it would cause a lot of strain to their young, growing body. So, how can you make sure you’re using that time well?
My number one tip is to make sure their brain is engaged. Here are my favorite ways to keep that happening:
Have a clear objective. Why are you practicing this section? Clarity, speed, beauty? Are you practicing this review song to work on good posture, or a relaxed vibrato. Don’t just practice to play your instrument. Work on something specific.
100 decent repetitions are great. 10 quality repetitions are better. After each repetition does the student know: what they were trying to accomplish? If they achieved their goal? What they should change to improve during the next repetition? There’s no reason to keep repeating if your child has zoned out of the task. Come back to it later.
Try interleaved practice. Neuroscience-loving violist Molly Gebrian has great advice here. The problem with practicing the same spot over and over is that you are practicing playing something well when you’ve already played it a bunch of times, rather than practicing playing something right the first time. Dr. Gebrian recommends starting with massed practice, (playing each spot over and over), shifting to serial practice (Practice Spot A, then B, then C, repeat, repeat, repeat), then interleaved practice (repeat in random order.)
Shifting from practicing mindlessly to practicing mindfully has helped me accomplish so much more in my limited practice time. Trying to engage my five year old in her own practice rather than mindlessly repeating practice items over and over has helped her be less bored.
What are your favorite ways to make your practice time more efficient? Please share in the comments.
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