Laurie's Violin School: The Re-Cap

January 13, 2015, 12:47 PM · If mastery requires 10,000 repetitions, how does a student continue to treat repetition No. 8,739 with the same care and attention that went into the first few hundred? How does he or she muster the willpower to do it at all?

Somehow treading old ground never feels quite as exciting as navigating a new adventure. Unless you make it feel like a new adventure! But how do you do that?

I was thinking about this, while planning my Suzuki group classes. The classes need to have a balance of new, more-challenging pieces and deep review, hitting on things with attention to detail yet a sense of fun. Whew! How could I work in regular review without meeting resistance -- no, how could I sneak in review?

I came up with something that has worked pretty well: I built a "Re-Cap Time Machine." It looks like this:


I call it the "Re-Cap," for short. I came up with 20 creative ways that we could play old tunes, wrote them on little pieces of paper, and put them in the hat -- er, "cap." At the designated time, we simply get out the Re-Cap, and whoever happens to be standing tall and being quiet at the moment gets to pick a paper at random and read it. Then the group must do whatever is written on the paper.

This class happens to be a group class for Late Suzuki Book 1-Early Book 2, so their review level (pieces already pretty well-mastered) would be the music in Early Book 1. As is the Suzuki way, most of many ideas came from colleagues. Some of the things that I've written on the papers include: Play Twinkle theme, all down-bows. Then all up-bows. Play "Song of the..." Breeze, Wind, Tornado, Hurricane (getting faster with each repetition). Play a tune on the D and A strings instead of A and E. Sad "Aunt Rhody," play with low 2s (low 1s, too, if we're in the mood. Or it can be more of a modal-Rhody.) Plus about 20 more.

The Re-Cap is a fairly simple idea; it can be tweaked to include review activities for any level of playing, and it could be used for home practice, private lessons, a class at school, etc.

This works nicely for me because it's all planned in advance, for weeks. It sneaks in a lot of repetition and adds a little challenge to the task. We draw only about three papers a week from the cap (then I take those papers out of the rotation until next semester). This has given us a nice routine for doing 10 minutes of review, every class. And I can add ideas to the cap, whenever they come to me.

So if your "review" time has become routine (or fallen away entirely, gasp!), try something creative to punch it up a little!

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January 14, 2015 at 10:09 AM · Aunt Rhody in Saudi Arabia (title courtesy of Paula Bird) with low 1 is excellent for practising augmented 2nd 1--23-4 finger pattern and sounds fantastic when played immediately after the original version. What incredible difference just a little change in one interval does.

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