The Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of Practice
Learning to play a string instrument can be an extremely rewarding experience for a young student. It comes with many exciting events, like recitals, attending concerts, master classes, and private music lessons. These are all essential aspects of the Suzuki experience. Some key milestones in a student’s education, such as winning an audition, giving a particularly memorable performance with a favorite quartet, having a breakthrough lesson, or graduating from a Suzuki book, will be cherished by student, teacher, and parent for years. All of these events are opportunities to not only nurture a child’s love of music, but to build self-confidence, critical thinking and internal motivation. However, these formative and character-building experiences are only available if the student can successfully establish a habit of daily practice at home between music lessons. This important daily work is the engine that makes possible these larger milestones.
Developing a long-term consistent daily practice regimen is not always a straight-forward task. It is critical to work in conjunction with your teacher and allow their expertise to guide you. There are often questions and unknowns concerning how to successfully practice with your child. Here, I share my thought and insights on developing a fun and successful practice routine.
Dr. Suzuki strongly advocated for the parent and young child to practice together. Parental participation is of the utmost importance. Children learn from their parents at all moments, conscious or not. When their parent shows enthusiasm and excitement about practicing, day after day, the child will learn to do the same.
Practice makes permanent, not perfect! Practice has been defined in myriad ways. We could call practice conscious repetition, ability development, myelination, etc. But put simply, all you need to do is isolate a specific task, break down the requisite steps, and then repeat the task successfully. By repeating a task correctly, our bodies build muscle memory, allowing us to perform movements naturally and accurately.
This will vary the most musician to musician, student to student, family to family. And many of our schedules will dictate what is possible. If you are able to choose when to practice, choose the time of day that you have the most focus, when you are freshest, and when you have the least distractions or interruptions. Even better, choose the same time every day, make it part of the rhythm of the day.
Let’s consider our greatest practicing tools: the ears and eyes. Prepare the practicing area by creating the greatest opportunity for visual and auditory focus. To focus the mind, it is best if the practice area is visually simple. Choose solid calming colors over loud posters. Keep this space tidy, and show it great respect. Keep all materials from lessons, and practice aids in this area, and in neat designated spots. Pick a quiet area, turn cell phones on silent, and put noisy pets outside the room. Make an announcement to the rest of the family that during practice, excessive noise and unnecessary interruptions are not welcome.
Closely follow the assigned practice from your teacher. A positive attitude, a curious mind, a sense of humor, and an abundance of patience cannot be overestimated. Have confidence that practicing today, even if mistakes are made, will be better than not practicing today.
This is possibly the biggest question. We practice to make what we are working on easier, creating more and more familiarity, so that we create a sense of ease when the time comes to execute the task at hand under pressure. Other answers to the question of “why?” are to spend more time with your child, provide them with a music education, and to participate in the birthright of sound making, and music making. Why stop there? We practice daily at home to learn about classical music, it’s composers, instruments, and traditions. We practice to provide our children with the learning community of a Suzuki teacher’s studio, and to give the gift of a musical outlet. We practice with our child to create a joyful learning experience for them. The answers are myriad.
Suzuki Music Lessons in Knoxville
We hope you find inspiration and useful advice in our Knoxville Suzuki Academy faculty blog posts. If you are not currently enrolled in Suzuki music lessons with Knoxville Suzuki Academy and would like to learn more about this possibility, please explore our website www.knoxvillesuzukiacademy.com.