Lessons in Learning: Practice Makes Perfect

by Abby @ Quaver on January 30, 2014

in This Month in Music

We love hosting voices like Jeannine Everetts on the Quaver Music blog!

As a lifelong musician and now principal second violin in the Reston Community Orchestra; Jeannine brings a performer and a student’s perspective to the blog that we are grateful to share!

Today Jeannine begins a series on the word often dreaded by Parents, Students, and Teachers alike . . Practice!

More Practice!

Practice Strategies Part 1: So Little Time

I hear a lot of parents talk about the crippling pace of their children’s lives. I get it. I’m a musician, but I’m also a mom. I’m also more than a little stressed myself.

I have a ton of stuff to do. I also have a concert in four weeks, and those arpeggio sections are not going to learn themselves. My to-do list could take me all day. I feel totally overwhelmed.

Practice is the path to improvement, but it often falls to the bottom of the list when life gets busy, but does it have to be that way?

How much kids practice is not as important as that they practice at all.

So how did I stop beating myself up and develop a good practice habit?

The first step was taking control of my time.

  • Be realistic – I used to operate on “hopeful time.” I wanted to practice two hours a day. Life had taken over, however, and I had thirty minutes. It wasn’t possible to fit two hours of practice into thirty minutes and it wasn’t possible to free the other hour and a half. Setting a goal of two hours under those conditions was a guaranteed failure.
  • Talk about it – Because of my adherence to hopeful time, I used to feel stressed about my lessons, knowing I wasn’t as prepared as I should be. So I leveled with my teacher. Once he knew what I had going on in my life, we could align our expectations. He didn’t create stress by assigning work I couldn’t possibly get to, and helped me prioritize what I could.
  • Claim the lost moments – We often have more time available than we think we do. We just don’t have it all at once. Sometimes we have fifteen minutes here, and another fifteen minutes there. It’s okay. You can accomplish a lot in fifteen minutes.To facilitate small sessions, I have my music set up and ready to go. I have a dedicated space in my office. My stand is set up, with my tuner and metronome at the ready. Instead of blowing off steam by getting a coffee, or checking my Facebook page, I pick up my violin.
  • Practice is over when the clock says it’s over – When my time is up, I can move on, even if I haven’t mastered what I want to master. Practicing is not about being “done.” It’s about the doing. If I practice with an open heart and a focused mind, that is a successful session. Stress and self-judgment are the enemy of the open heart.

I’m an adult, so it’s easy for me to make these decisions about my time. As a child, I needed two things – guidance and permission. Some practice is better than none. A small amount of effective practice is better than a lot of sloshing through the swamp.

Teaching kids how to own their time is a gift. Teaching them to view time as a resource rather than a bully is a blessing.

The truth is, next to all of the other stuff I have to do today, practicing is a welcome break. Take away the guilt, stress, and weight of “should” on my back, practice feels good. When I’m done, I’ll come back to my other work with the peace and joy that music brings.

In my next post, I’ll talk about strategies for managing practice content.

How do you help your students find practice time?

Could Jeannine’s practice strategies also apply to your students’  homework?

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