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Monday, August 29, 2011

Quick Practice Tip: Think-Throughs

Before beginning a practice session, a performance, or any other endeavor, I believe your student will have greater success if he or she makes use of the "think-through."

A think-through is a mental thinking through of the steps that you will take in order to meet your goal. Basically the think-through is your goal, or it should be. Here is an example.

Before playing through a section of Bach's Gavotte in Book 5, I asked my young student Elliott what he needed to remember while he was working through the section. Elliott indicated a few spots in the music where he wanted to be careful to play correct notes, and he also wanted to maintain his bow hold throughout the entire section. After playing the section, I asked Elliott to evaluate how he accomplished his think-through. In this case, Elliott met each of his think-through goals. We then decided to move on to the next section and repeat the think-through process, but in this section, Elliott had a different think-through. Here he was more concerned about following a particular bowing pattern and not bumping the wrong strings and making extraneous noise with his bow, as well as maintain his bow hold throughout the piece.

As a teacher, I was delighted to watch Elliott engage in this think-through process. A young boy, Elliott is more inclined to rush through his practices and play all of his music as fast as he can: (1) because it is fun to play fast, and (2) because faster means shorter practices (at least, he thinks that practices will be shorter until his mom reminds him about the metronome). When Elliott relies on the think-through system, Elliott's practices are more thoughtful, he is more present and aware of what he is doing, and he tends to pick much more reasonable tempos that allow him to complete his work successfully. As a student, I think Elliott enjoys the think-throughs because it puts him more "in charge" of what he is doing, and Elliott enjoys the feeling of being "in charge."

Next time you practice, pick a section to work on, give it a "think-through," and then evaluate your efforts at the end. I think you will be surprised at what you will accomplish and learn using this quick practice tip.

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