How to Help Your Child Practice Music: Key #1

How to Help Your Child Practice Music: Key #1

Everyday around the world, parents are nagging kids to practice music, and kids are fighting back, dragging their feet and thinking wistfully about the activities they would rather be doing. I have a secret. It doesn’t have to be that way. Practicing doesn’t have to cause aggravation, conflict and pain in your family. In fact, practicing can be a time that kids actually enjoy and that can improve your relationship with your kids. **GASP** “Tell me more, crazy lady!” you say? It would be my pleasure.   The first key to successful music practice I taught piano lessons to a family with three girls ranging from 6 to 10 years old, each with completely different personalities. They decided that they would participate in our studio’s 100-Day Practice Challenge. Students have to practice their instrument for the length of their lesson (i.e. 30 minutes) for 100 days in a row with no exceptions. This meant that the mom was committing to supervising the girls for an hour and a half for 100 days in a row. When I asked her how it was going after the first few weeks, this is what she said: “In the beginning it was hard, and they complained and fought me about practicing. But, now it’s just something we do. They know to expect it and they’ve stopped arguing. All of them willingly go to the piano bench, and I need to help them sometimes, but I am thrilled at how much they are progressing. I didn’t know they could play so well!” Did you notice what she did that was so successful? She was consistent....
I Admit It… I’m a Lazy Violinist!

I Admit It… I’m a Lazy Violinist!

“Try to be a lazy violinist!” Yesterday I told my student Adam that what he really needs to play his piece well is to be a lazy violinist. His eyes bugged out and he definitely could not believe what I just said. Yep, he needs to be more “lazy.” So here’s a big secret that nobody knows: Musicians are jocks. We’re all athletes who are working out very specific parts of our muscles everyday. The stigma of the nerdy musician who is as pale as a vampire because she never sees the sun, wearing glasses while squinting at small music notes, and whose backside is shaped like the practice chair may have some legitimacy… But we’re actually pretty amazing athletes. I dare you to challenge me to a thumb war! Injured Violinist When I was in college I practiced violin for six to eight hours a day, which is pretty standard for string and piano majors. By my junior year I developed severe tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands due to overuse and bad technique. I literally couldn’t hold a fork for a while, or even turn a door handle. The doctors told me I couldn’t play violin again. They said that I should just quit and do something else with my life. Well, tell that to someone who is in their junior year of college, only has one legitimate skill and 3/4 of their music credits done, and watch them dissolve into a puddle of despair. I stopped playing for about nine months and slowly worked myself back up to practicing as much as I could. Not eight hours...
Practice is hard! But the reward is great!

Practice is hard! But the reward is great!

As we’re in the midst of the school year, you may be finding that practice time is getting to be more of a challenge. “Why does it have to be so hard to get my kid to practice?” you might ask. I’m a new parent, so I’m definitely no expert. But one thing I’ve learned from being in charge of a baby is that generally, humans don’t like to work hard unless they have to. This is most clear when Clara is doing “tummy time.” She is supposed to spend a certain number of minutes per day on her tummy so she can build muscles and eventually learn how to crawl. Unfortunately, Clara does NOT like tummy time. She would be the first to tell you that practice is hard! Well, she would if she could talk… Clara’s View–“Practice is hard!” She starts off pretty happy…    Then she moves to concern… Which turns to anger… And finally, defeat. Then Extremely Mean Mom flips her over and all is right with the world. Parent’s View–“Practice is hard!” What Clara doesn’t know yet, is that once she gets stronger, she’ll be able to sit up and play, empty all the cupboards, and chase the cat, which is going to be worth it! I’m guessing that you all have seen or experienced this little microcosm in your own house when you’re trying to get your kids to practice regularly. It’s not always fun as a parent, but we try to do what’s best for our kids. By the way, if you are an adult student, you may not actually be crying by the...
Why Do We Memorize Music?

Why Do We Memorize Music?

Memorize music…?! Have you heard any murmurings at home about how students have to memorize music for their recital? Do your kids wonder why they’re put through this herculean effort? Well, those are good questions! Let’s look to Niccolo, Franz, and Clara for some answers!   A Romantic Goal–To Memorize Music You see, the practice of memorizing music for performance began during the Romantic Era (1820-1900). This was when Niccolò Paganini, Franz Liszt, and Clara Schumann were giving concerts around Europe. Before 1820, performers usually used sheet music in concerts and recitals. They weren’t expected to memorize music. This was mainly due to the fact that these performers had little time beforehand to prepare. New music was written and performed so quickly that memorizing it all in a short amount of time wasn’t realistic or expected. Instead, audiences were looking for the “next big thing”. The idea of reusing music was not a popular one. But beginning in the Romantic Era, music was written more slowly. Composers began writing “art for art’s sake” instead of for a strict deadline imposed by an aristocratic audience.   Paganini   Listen to Paganini’s music Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) was one of the greatest violinists of all time. He spent most of his adult life on tour performing his own compositions. His ingenuity and skill developed the way the violin was played. His music pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible on violin. And he was among the first to memorize music for his performances.     Liszt   Listen to Franz Liszt’s music Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was quite the lady’s man and rock star in his day. He was one of the greatest pianists in history and also quite...