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28 Days of Practicing: Week 1: Starting Where YOU Are

Claire Allen

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Published: October 25, 2013 at 11:45 PM [UTC]

It's time to start the 28 Days of Practice Project! Follow along with my blog here, and you can also follow me on Twitter (@claire_violin)and Instagram ( claire_violin) for pictures, practice tips, and other glimpses into my experience as I go through this project with my students!

This week, we’re going to take a look at your practicing exactly where you are. No judgment, just observation. We’re also going to help you create a space in your home that is JUST for practicing. You will start tracking your practicing so that you can keep track of what days you’ve practiced and take a good look at your starting point.

Please share your answers to the reflection questions as well as any other thoughts on your practice experience in the comments!

Let’s start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to violin. Answer the following questions:

1. What is something that you like about your playing?

2. On your best practice days, what are things that go well for you?

3. On days where you don’t practice, what are things that get in the way of your practicing?

4. When you’re at your most frustrated when practicing, what types of material are you practicing and does anything help you become less frustrated?

5. What are you really good at when it comes to practicing?

6. What is something you need to improve in your practicing?

CREATING A PRACTICE SPACE IN YOUR HOME

1. This should be a space designated solely for the practice of your music. Whether it is an entire room or just a corner, nothing else should go on in this space except for practicing.

2. Freedom from distractions. Especially for young students, the television, cellular phone, computer, and all electronic devices should be shut off. If you use a metronome or tuning app, your phone should be set to airplane mode so it cannot receive calls or text messages during your practice session. Family members and roommates should know that when you are in your practice space, they are not to bother you. Ideally, one should be completely alone in the room or just with their practice helper (generally a parent).

3. Instrument, music, lesson notebook, and pencil. It is a good idea to keep all of your musical belongings in one place. This way, when going back and forth from lessons to school to rehearsal, you know exactly where to go to get everything. It also means that everything is handy and you do not need to frequently stop practicing to go hunt something down.

4. Music stand. All but the most elementary beginners will be reading music of some sort, and even the beginners may find it helpful to put their lesson notebooks on a music stand so they can read them without having to hold them. This stand should ensure that the music is at the eye level of the student. Spectacularly tall students may need a chair to place their stand on.

5. Mirror. Being able to watch oneself in the mirror while practicing is a very valuable practice technique, especially when working on posture or technique.

6. Recording device. Being able to hear exactly what you are playing is invaluable. Most phones these days (set to airplane mode, of course) have some sort of voice memo app. If you’re looking to purchase a higher quality recorder I highly recommend the Zoom H2 or Q3, depending on if you want video or not.

7. Something inspirational. Whether it be a quote that you really like, pictures of your favorite composers or violinists, or a supportive card received from a loved one, put something in your practice area that will help motivate you to play even on the days where you might not feel like it.

TRACKING YOUR PRACTICING

This week, after you get your practice area set up, you will track your practicing. I've created a simple chart that you can download, but you can also create your own if you hate mine. However, you MUST keep track of which days you practice and which days you don't. Be honest! This isn't about getting a perfect score - this is about noticing when you're able to/motivated to practice and when you're not. We'll talk more about consistency next week. So, whether you practice one day this week or all seven, check it off on the chart, and embrace where your starting point is.

**Modification for more advanced students who already practice daily: track how long you practice each day and add up your total practice time for the week. Notice if you practice about the same amount of time each day or if it fluctuates depending on the day.

***To download a practice chart, head on over to the blog post on my website

END OF WEEK 1 REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

Do you feel you improved as a musician this week? How so?

What are some aspects of your playing that you would like to improve more?

What do you like about your practice space? Is there anything you need to add to it?

How many days did you practice? _______ days out of 7.

Do you feel you practiced enough to accomplish your goals?

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