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Friday, September 23, 2016

Hidden Scales

Scales are an important part of a musician's diet. We need to do them every day, and we never quite perfect them. When we are familiar with scales and their finger patterns, we read music easier, we perform musical passages more adroitly, and we can memorize structure easier.

I have long puzzled over why students struggle with certain passages in the Bach's book 1 Minuets, or even other pieces in the repertoire, such as Bach's Bourree or Martini's Gavotte in Book 3 or Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor in book 4. Then one day it hit me that students struggled with learning and memorization in these pieces because they tripped over the hidden scales.

Let me take a classic example in Bach's Bourrée from book 3, the last song in the book. In measures 5 and 6, students take a while to figure out the notes here until I dissect them. Here is the passage:


hidden scales Bach's Bourree
Bach's Bourrée (Violin Book 3)

 Here is what I teach them. First, I show them how to play these two notes:


Bourrée 2-note snippet

This is not difficult for the students at this point, because we encountered and worked over this spot in the grace notes of Gossec's Gavotte at the end of book 1. We play this little passage of two-note combinations a few times until the student is "easy" with it.

Then I ask the students to play these two notes (during the rests) while I play these other notes in between:
Bourrée's Hidden Scale
When we do the two parts together, we get the original passage. My next step is to teach the student to play the hidden scale passage that I played, and we then switch parts.

After the student is able to play this last step, then the student seems to have no problems putting both snippets together and playing the passage as written. This same hidden scale passage appears later on the A and D strings as well.

There are many instances of hidden scales throughout the Suzuki repertoire, and if the teacher and student were to spend a few moments studying it, these passages would be easier to remember and memorize. Here are a few more examples.

Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, Movement I (Violin Book 4)

In Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor, first movement, there is a great example of a hidden scale on the second page:



Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor (Violin Book 4)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scale, we find this:

Vivaldi Concerto's Hidden Scale

There are many more hidden scale examples in this concerto, and finding all of them may help a student lock in the notes in the student's memory.

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

In Martini's Gavotte in the beginning of violin book 3, we find this passage right before the last recapitulation of the theme:

Martini Gavotte (Violin Book 3)

When we dissect this passage to find the hidden scales, we find all of these scales:


1st scale

2nd scale

3rd scale
4th scale
Here is the entire hidden scale passage:


Martini's Hidden Scales

There are many such scale passages throughout the repertoire, and these hidden scales make a great quest for students to find throughout the music. This assignment could also be the subject of specific review requests ("find the hidden scales in this review song").

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----



© 2016 by Paula E. Bird


Monday, September 12, 2016

G Major Twinkle Workout

Give Your Students a Pinkie, Vibrato, and 3rd Position Challenge!

Most teachers and Suzuki students are quite familiar with the theme of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Suzuki Teachers are even familiar with teaching the Twinkle theme in the key of Bb to prepare students for the Bb scale and finger pattern in violin book 2.

I also regularly use Twinkle Theme in the last third of violin book 1 during Etude and the Minuets. When I teach students how to play the theme in G major, students improve the necessary skills found in the last songs of book 1.

I teach my students the two-octave G major scale and the new close 1-2 finger pattern on the A and E strings to prepare for learning how to play Etude. As the students progress on this scale, I add the pinkie fingering on the scale's descent. 

When the student is comfortable with this new finger pattern and the long G major scale (one of my students calls this the "super duper G scale"), I introduce a new way to play Twinkle theme. Because this is "new," I find that it is easier to get students to play Twinkle again if they have slacked off on their review program.

Twinkle in G major 1st position
Twinkle Theme in G Major

The students get a little extra practice with the new G major finger pattern, and the pinkie and third finger combination gets a little extra attention as well, which helps the part of the first Minuet that has the difficult stretch from third finger to the pinkie that spans across from the D string to the A string, as shown below.

third finger to pinkie stretch across from D to A string
Minuet 1 Pinkie Stretch
In book 2, I introduce students to third position. I usually do this when students are working on their vibrato skill. As students are able to play notes with vibrato, we translate the vibrato exercises into the Suzuki repertoire. At first, the students add vibrato on longer third finger notes, such as the dotted half notes at the ends of the Minuets' phrases. Then we add vibrato to the long third finger notes in Chorus from Judas Maccabeus and at the end of Musette. Later we will be able to add vibrato to Long, Long Ago from book 2.

Somewhere during all of this, I might have introduced third position with a G major scale:

1 octave G scale in 3rd position on D and A strings
G Major Scale in 3rd Position
Now students can practice vibrato on this scale. The next step might be to introduce Twinkle Theme in third position, using the same Twinkle in G major that we had learned at the end of book 1 and now playing it in third position.

I have found that a new Twinkle helps me to stay focused as well as my students. G major adds an element of fun to our review.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----


© 2016 by Paula E. Bird








Sunday, September 4, 2016

Handbooks for the Studio!

Years ago, I made several wise purchasing decisions for my studio, and I am so glad that I did! I have found incredible uses for my binding machine and my laminating machine.

I finished making new student handbooks for my studio. As you can see from the photo, these are very colorful handbooks. I used my old Ibico binding machine, 1/4" plastic binding combs (black and white), and fabulous neon-colored cardstock covers that had a different color on each side. My students loved the new books, not only for the colorful pages and covers, but also because of the fabulous handbook pages contained within the practice workbooks! My students were actually happy to return to this record keeping system. One student who had never used a handbook before (I am the first private lesson teacher she has ever had), immediately understood the value of such a handbook to help her organize her practice time and to build consistency (bright young middle school student!).

color handbooks for music students
Student Handbooks
If you are interested in the handbook page template that I use, email me your request, and I'm happy to provide you with a link to it.

Here is where I got the fabulous colored covers:




And here is another one from Astrobright:





Here is a simple laminating machine. I use mine to make checklists, signs for the studio, and simple review charts or game boards. Once something is laminated, I can use a dry erase marker, which is easily wiped off later. Students enjoy using these special charts.



My favorite studio machine tool is my binding machine. I cannot find my brand anymore; guess it is old now. There are several models on the market now, and here is a less expensive model. I used 1/4 inch binding combs for the handbooks.



And for the 1/4 inch binding comb: click here.

I hope you have as much fun with these handbooks as I did. My students love them!

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

This page references affiliate links, which will help to support the time it takes me to write articles for the blog, research information, and write and produce the Teach Suzuki podcasts. You are never under any obligation to buy anything or to use these particular links. If you are in the market for any of the items I have listed, please consider supporting my work with the affiliate links I have provided. There is no additional cost to you, but I will receive a small benefit if you do use the links.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Get Ready for the Fall

I sent out a newsletter recently that contained links to recent blog posts and podcast episodes. My theme was about getting ready for the fall. If you have not yet signed up for my newsletter, why not take a few seconds to do that Then you will get the newsletter issues (about 2 times a month) right away rather than a few weeks late. Here is the last issue:


Hello everyone! I hope your summer has been a time to relax, catch up on a few outstanding chores or family activities, and recharge your batteries, because the fall season is right around the corner. Are you ready?

I wrote a blog article about how to prepare for the fall. I thought about all the things that I want my studio parents to know or remember about their responsibilities as the home practice partners, and I put together a basic list of articles and podcast episodes that will help guide parents to start out the fall semester with the appropriate tools and motivational reasons to do a great job as their children’s home practice partners. I am enclosing my list of podcast episodes and article links here, although the article will be published Thursday, August 18.

If you are a teacher, please feel free to share this newsletter or the article links with your studio families. I hope that you have a great start to this next season!

Podcast Episodes

Get Ready for the FallThis podcast episode is devoted to helping parents (and teachers) plan for a successful start to the fall semester.

How to Teach Your Child (Practice)This podcast episode discusses how to practice with your child and offers the tools to help practices be more successful.

How to Take Notes at the Music LessonThis podcast episode explains how to take notes at the child's music lesson and offers reasons why parents will want to do this.

How Parents Can Help at LessonsThis podcast episode lists 8 ways that parents can help their children at music lessons. I talk about some of the silent messages that parents may unknowingly give to their children, and I talk about the importance of enthusiasm to help motivate children to want to practice and learn how to play a musical instrument.

Top 10 Things a Suzuki Parent Should KnowThis podcast episode lists my favorite top 10 things that I think Suzuki parents should know. I believe that these 10 things are the foundation steps to have a successful music education journey.

Are You Listening?: This podcast episode talks about the importance of listening to impact how fast a child may progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Sometimes a slight tweak in the listening program at home will have an enormous impact on the child's progress. This episode relates several interesting research and personal stories that illustrate the tremendous power of listening.

The 6 Suzuki Philosophy PointsThis podcast episode sets out the 6 fundamental philosophy points to the Suzuki Method and discusses why it is important for parents to believe these points. This is an episode that parents and teachers may find helpful to review often.
Blog Articles

How to Recover from a Practice BreakEveryone takes a break now and then. The trick is getting back on track. Here are some useful ideas.

Back to School ChecklistA checklist that will help parents get back on track and get ready for the new school year.

How to Add More Music to Your DayIt is important to do a lot of listening in order to make good progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Here are some suggestions for adding more music listening to your day.

Listening MagicAnother good article about listening. This one shows the power of the listening program and relates a personal story of one of my students and how he made extra listening work for him.

Music Listening Resource ListThis article lists several excellent resources to help add more listening to the child's environment.

The Weekend PlanHere is a suggestion for those tough weekends when it is difficult to schedule practice sessions.

Squeezing Practice Time into a Busy Family ScheduleSue Hunt wrote this article, and the information is always valuable for busy families.

Resolutions for Suzuki ParentsAnother post that offers valuable information that is pertinent all the time.

How to Get Started After a BreakA short article that offers quick, helpful advice about starting up a practice routine after a break.
Until next time,


Happy Practicing!



----- Paula -----

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Getting Ready for the Fall Semester

About this time, folks are planning the fall semester and getting ready for school to go back in session. Here are a few tools to help you:

Podcast Episodes

Get Ready for the Fall: This podcast episode is devoted to helping parents (and teachers) plan for a successful start to the fall semester.


How to Teach Your Child (Practice): This podcast episode discusses how to practice with your child and offers the tools to help practices be more successful.

How to Take Notes at the Music Lesson: This podcast episode explains how to take notes at the child's music lesson and offers reasons why parents will want to do this.

How Parents Can Help at Lessons: This podcast episode lists 8 ways that parents can help their children at music lessons. I talk about some of the silent messages that parents may unknowingly give to their children, and I talk about the importance of enthusiasm to help motivate children to want to practice and learn how to play a musical instrument.

Top 10 Things a Suzuki Parent Should Know: This podcast episode lists my favorite top 10 things that I think Suzuki parents should know. I believe that these 10 things are the foundation steps to have a successful music education journey.

Are You Listening?: This podcast episode talks about the importance of listening to impact how fast a child may progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Sometimes a slight tweak in the listening program at home will have an enormous impact on the child's progress. This episode relates several interesting research and personal stories that illustrate the tremendous power of listening.

The 6 Suzuki Philosophy Points: This podcast episode sets out the 6 fundamental philosophy points to the Suzuki Method and discusses why it is important for parents to believe these points. This is an episode that parents and teachers may find helpful to review often.

Blog Articles

How to Recover from a Practice Break: Everyone takes a break now and then. The trick is getting back on track. Here are some useful ideas.


Back to School Checklist: A checklist that will help parents get back on track and get ready for the new school year.

How to Add More Music to Your Day: It is important to do a lot of listening in order to make good progress in learning how to play a musical instrument. Here are some suggestions for adding more music listening to your day.

Listening Magic: Another good article about listening. This one shows the power of the listening program and relates a personal story of one of my students and how he made extra listening work for him.

Music Listening Resource List: This article lists several excellent resources to help add more listening to the child's environment.

The Weekend Plan: Here is a suggestion for those tough weekends when it is difficult to schedule practice sessions.

Squeezing Practice Time into a Busy Family Schedule: Sue Hunt wrote this article, and the information is always valuable for busy families.

Resolutions for Suzuki Parents: Another post that offers valuable information that is pertinent all the time.

How to Get Started After a Break: A short article that offers quick, helpful advice about starting up a practice routine after a break.

These are just a few of the numerous podcast episodes and blog articles posted. I hope that everyone's new school year and fall semester start off with good energy, enthusiasm, and motivation! This is going to be a terrific year!


Until next time,

Happy 
Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird


Saturday, August 13, 2016

GTD for the Music Studio Teacher, Step 4: Reflect and Review

This article discusses step 4 of the GTD ("Getting Things Done") methodology and how it applies to the music studio teacher.

This next step is a crucial one because the system stands or falls with it. My first article in the GTD series for music studio teachers began with a brief look at the GTD Methodology. Up to this point we gathered and collected all the loose ends around us that have cluttered up our physical and mental spaces in step one.

Then we clarified what we had collected in step two. What does all of it mean to us in terms of what needs to be done?

In step three we organized what we gathered and clarified into various systems or holding places and we gave some thought to the tools and resources we would use for this purpose.

In step four, we now come to what I consider one of the most important steps: reflect and review. We review what we have, and we do that on a regular basis. At the same time we reflect on what we have, where we have been, and where we want to go. This step keeps us from going stale or getting stalled, and it prevents us from slipping and sliding back down the mountain into the old habits of cluttering our physical and mental spaces.

How Often?

GTD methodology tells us that the best review happens weekly, preferably the same time each week. How long the review lasts will vary from person to person. Review is not engagement, meaning that we do not act on the items that we review other than to make notes that clarify or clean up. We make sure that our list items are current and clear.

If I have any loose notes somewhere, I need to be sure that my system has gathered and collected those notes. If I have anything lying in my inbox (or electronically too), I need to clean that out and gather it, clarify it, and organize it appropriately. I will "engage" or act on these things later once I put them on my "next actions" list. For now, I note these items, clarify what they are and what needs to be done in order to be done with them, and I put them in the proper "containers."

How to do a Weekly Review?

So how to do a weekly review? First, I find it helpful to take a look around me to be sure that I have not forgotten to include something in my system. Is there something lying around that needs me to gather or capture it, clarify it, or organize it? I search around my physical locations and inside my head. I look for loose ends or things that I forgot to record or collect. I thumb through my weekly planner for the past week, maybe the week before that (just in case), and the coming week. Sometimes this act will spark a memory of something that I wanted to remember or accomplish, and I then include that item in my GTD lists.


One reason I like the Omnifocus 2 for Mac program, aside from it being available on my iPhone and my MacBook Pro, is that it includes a "review" feature. It reminds me weekly to do the weekly review. I open up the app, look through every item on the lists, and mark them "reviewed" when I finish. Simple! Quick!

If you are using lists on paper, sit down with your favorite beverage and start looking through your lists. Cross off tasks that you completed, add new items to your lists, and rewrite your lists if it helps you to gain a better footing on what you need to accomplish in the next days, week, or month.

Bullet Journal and GTD Weekly Review

My bullet journal serves a lot of my GTD purposes right now, and I find that I look through that journal much more often than once a week, although I think it is a terrific idea to set aside a specific time for this special weekly review. I think by setting aside a special time that we create a better focus. I thumb through many pages within my journal, not only to enjoy what I have written there -- the splashes of color, the notes I included, the new collection sets I created -- but because I look to complete items on the various pages so that I can "close out" the page as being finished.


As of this moment, I use my bullet journal as the "brain dump" area. As I begin a new month, I leave a page (or 3) open to allow me to collect any ideas, thoughts, reminders, or notes throughout the month. When I begin a new month, I add a new set of pages for this brain dump to continue in the next month. Meanwhile, during the previous month, I systematically check off things that I accomplish. At some point, I will reach the "almost done" point, and I will then decide to migrate any tasks that I still deem relevant to the next month's brain dump list, or I will cross off tasks as irrelevant, unnecessary, or no longer something I want to do. Then when the items on the page are dealt with, that means I can "close out" the page. It is done and never needs to be revisited again unless I want to reminisce about to do lists from the past. I put a star at the top of the page, and I can make that page a thing of the past.

Weekly Review for Music Studio

What are some things that we need to be sure to review in the music studio? Here is a list of things that I like to review each week:


Tuition Payments -- Are they current? Do I need to send a reminder to anyone? Have I deposited checks in the bank? Have I brought my studio's financial records up to date?

Physical Environment -- How clean is my teaching space? Do I need to put things away, run the vacuum cleaner, or organize the bookshelf? Does my space look clean, energized, and exciting for learning, or does it look tired, dull, and messy? Are there things lying around that remind me of things to include on my lists of things to do?

People -- I like to consider this category to help me remember to contact people that I need to connect with. I run through my student list to see if I recall anything. Was I going to send an email to a parent? Schedule a special parent-teacher conference? Suggest something helpful to a parent for a home practice? Contact another teacher about doing a joint performance? The people category can also refer to people I need to connect with, such as my accountant or bookkeeper, someone in charge of a venue where I want my students to perform, or someone associated with my local Suzuki community.


Calendar -- I like to look ahead by the month or two in case there is a holiday or special occasion opportunity. Since I have not been as good at this in the past, I have resolved to make notes about these sorts of opportunities and events for the coming year. As I note these things this year, I am also making a note of them for next year as well. When I look at the calendar, I also recall future plans I might need to add some next steps to take care of.


Other Reviews

There are other regular reviews that might be helpful, such as monthly reviews, quarterly reviews, semiannual/biannual (6-month) reviews, and end-of-year reviews. Just about any time frame you want to use would be appropriate for some sort of review process. I have not discussed goal-setting in the context of GTD, but goal-setting is certainly the sort of topic that would apply here.


Daily Review Focus

A friend of mine also follows an interesting review plan on a daily basis, which I find intriguing. She suggests that there be a particular focus on each day of the week. You are permitted to do other things besides that particular focus, but when you have a focus on a particular day of the week, you will visit that topic definitely once a week. Some suggested focus ideas might be to take the above topics and assign them to particular days. On those days, you will first and foremost give attention to that particular area.


You might also find a "weekly review" easier to accomplish if you do it in bits and pieces. I often do this, and the Omnifocus 2 for Mac allows me to review whenever I can. Anything I mark as reviewed is then set aside until a week later.

Make Review Your Own Creation

How you do your weekly review can be your own creation. There is no right way to do this. In fact, many people adjust things to suit their own personalities and needs. Everyone's review may look different from everyone else's review. The purpose of the review is to stay in touch with the things that you have gathered and collected and to make sure that you keep focused on what next actions to take to make forward progress.


The most important reason for doing a weekly review is to keep your system operating properly. If you neglect this aspect of GTD, then you begin to distrust the reliability of your system. You begin to hold things in your head again or leave them piled up in an inbox or on a corner of the desk. When I forget to do my weekly reviews, I find that my counter tops get covered up again with stuff.

So make a weekly appointment with yourself to review your stuff. With my bullet journal lists, I enjoy looking through things regularly. I have begun to highlight certain areas of my life with certain colors (personal is pink, writing/creating is blue, university/symphony/gig is orange, and studio is green). I also use splashes of color and sometimes some cute stickers here and there to make the pages more pleasing to the eye. My color pens really help me do this. I pick the color that suits me for the day, and because these pens are erasable, mistakes are a thing of the past.

At the moment I concentrate my thoughts on how I can turn the bullet journal into even more of a GTD masterpiece. For now, things work fine. This tool has really helped me stay focused, and it helps me to gather all my stray thoughts. I turn my thoughts into projects and special pages once I have captured the thoughts initially. All good. I hope to write a specific post in the future that is related to the bullet journal because it has really helped me.

Here are some links to the items I talked about in my articles. If you wish to explore further, click on the picture or link:







This page references affiliate links, which will help to support the time it takes me to write articles for the blog, research information, and write and produce the Teach Suzuki podcasts. You are never under any obligation to buy anything or to use these particular links. If you are in the market for any of the items I have listed, please consider supporting my work with the affiliate links I have provided. There is no additional cost to you, but I will receive a small benefit if you do use the links.

Until next time,

Happy 
Practicing! (or GTD'ing)

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird