Whether you are performing or teaching, you know the importance of quality, goal-oriented practice. The question is, how do we teachers motivate our students to develop this patient focus in between the lessons? One powerful way is to take advantage of Generation Z’s obsession with all things video. These days, even most young students have a phone or tablet they can put on their stand and use. No cords, no uploading, no technology hurtles. There are two seamless ways I include the power of video in lessons, and if you are not already, you can as well - even without being a seasoned technophile.
What I love about working with video is that you can train students to see why things are sounding the way they are, and not just hear it. Using video helps build students’ independent power of discernment, which is crucial for their musical maturity. If you are not currently using video in your studio teaching, here are some ideas for getting started in 2018, both within the lessons and during the practice week.
Let’s delve into the first one, self-recording. The process starts with you as a teacher. Challenge yourself to use video recording and playback at least once in each lesson. Record a phrase or section of the student’s performance (on their equipment or yours). Watch the video with them and ask them only to comment on only one aspect of their playing at a time, such as posture, intonation, bow grip, musicality etc. Ask them to be specific, such as “what to you notice about your bow distribution?” Guide them through changing things they identify, and record the passage again. This last step is crucial, because it is only through seeing the improvement that students will feel empowered and not deflated by the process.
One recorded phrase each week in a lesson can go a long way, since the end goal is for them to want to do it themselves. You can also use video as a “delayed mirror” to create side by side observations between the student’s and your approach to the instrument. For example, video-record your student’s left hand in a passage, and then ask them to video-record your hand playing that same passage and ask them to note any differences. Resist the temptation to give them all the answers. Guide them through improvements, and re-record their hand afterwards to see the progress. You can use the camera on the iPhone or iPad you have or if you want to take it to the next level, download the Hudl app. Hudl (https://www.hudl.com/) is used by gymnasts and it is truly amazing – I could write a whole blog just about the app itself!
Next, incorporate “record yourself” prompts into their assignments during the week. Ask that they record themselves once per practice session (the before and after version referenced above) and write down what improvements they made. If you are looking for some more structured assignments for the whole studio, here are some ideas that could be assigned at the first lesson of the month:
Examples of at-home assignments:
Incorporating recording regularly into lessons and making bite-sized, structured assignments helps students get used to the process. I have found that small snippets of recording are better than large ones, both psychologically and practically. The goals of the recording process for students is to develop critical listening skills, fuel their burning desire to improve, and make them independent.
The volume of tutorials and tips on YouTube has exploded in the last few years. This is both a good and bad thing. The value is, of course, that there are now “extra” teaching moments available online inbetween lessons. On the flipside, tutorials can really use some curating from you as a teacher. This curating, or “weeding through”, is important for three reasons: not all teaching works for all levels of students, not all of it is high quality (though some of it is extraordinairy), and the sheer volume of what is available means that students can easily spend more time trying to find content than actually learning. You want to lead them to the best stuff. The easiest way to curate for your students is to give them a list of online tutors you like in writing, or to create playlists on your own YouTube Channel. You don’t have to publish any of your own content in order to create playlists on youtube of great content that others have published. Playlists can be organized under any heading you choose. Look up how here.
Where to start? Here are some of my favorite YouTube violin pedagogues at the moment:
This list is for more advanced students, since that’s who I primarily teach in the college setting. If you can add additional ones, especially for the more beginner and intermediate levels, please do so in the comment section of this blog post – let’s crowdsource our curating work!
I just recently started my own YouTube tutorials called Practice Blitzto fill in some gaps in cyberspace, particularly about the practicing process. The 35 videos I have uploaded so far are designed less to teach skills and more to show different ways of practicing to students. I have more planned in the spring. Here is a short clip from my playlist on vibrato:
On my channel, I endorse other channels dedicated to violin teaching. I assign YouTube explorations as part of lesson preparation by asking my students to look up at least 1 videos each week (of mine or others) and let me how they applied what they learnI find students almost always watch more than one!
If you are looking for some more fun YouTube activities for your private lesson studios, here are some ideas:
If you are not currently incorporating video assignments into lessons, start in 2018. Go for short and sweet, but often. Your students will help you in this process - this is one area where they can teach you while you teach them. It’s the perfect trade for 2018.
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