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The Art of Practicing

Claire Allen

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Published: October 15, 2013 at 3:35 AM [UTC]

When I'm working with students, I always have to remind myself that teaching them isn't just about getting them to do exactly what I say. I'm also trying to teach them to think critically. I want them to hear problems and imperfections in their own playing, and I want them to create effective strategies and find solutions. A very large part of my teaching is teaching my students how to practice. I believe that this is the way to build confidence in my students - by empowering them to create practice sessions that help them to become better musicians.

Truly effective practice is consistent and goal-oriented. In addition to straightening out any issues in the basic setup with a new student, I also ask lots of questions about their practicing. "How many days do you practice a week? Do you think you could practice a few more days or is that completely out of the question with your schedule? How long do you practice? How did you practice this particular passage?" I'm always afraid that my students feel they're being interrogated - but I'm just trying to gather information about what's going on at home so I can make suggestions to help them be more successful musicians.

Driven by these beliefs and motivations, I've begun to create a practice project for my students that I'll also share in my blog. It will run for 28 days (or four weeks), and each week will have a different focus, as well as practice tips and reflection questions to help students analyze not just their violin playing, but their practice habits as well.

Take a look at the sneak peek below and be sure to check back in a couple weeks for the official launch of the 28 Days of Practice Project! #28daysofpractice

What Counts As Practicing?

1. PRACTICING is time that you spend alone or with a practice buddy working to become a better musician.

2. LISTENING to music is practicing IF it is a recording of a piece you are working on OR related to the piece you are working on (for example, listening to any music by Bach while you are playing a piece by him). Also, the listening it must be the only thing you are focused on. For example, listening to a recording while you sit and read along with the music is practicing. Having music on in the background while you do something else is a great thing to do, but NOT practicing.

3. STUDYING your music is practicing. Spending time marking in fingerings, bowings, half-steps, circling dynamics, bracketing practice spots, noticing flats and sharps, etc is practicing.

4. IMAGING your music is practicing. Sitting in silence, closing your eyes and imagining how the violin and bow feel in your hands, hearing the sound you want to make – this is practicing too. Again, for this to count this must be the ONLY thing you are doing.

What is NOT Practicing?

1. Orchestra rehearsal or class is not practicing.

2. Studio class is not practicing.

3. Your lesson is not practicing.

4. Chamber music rehearsals are not practicing.

5. Having music on in the background while you do other things is not practicing.

*Originally posted on my website,

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