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Friday, January 15, 2016

What is Your Winning Strategy?

by Paula E. Bird

Recently I have been working extra special with one of my young students, who has been preparing a videotape of one of his book one pieces. This young man has struggled for many months to play Minuet 2 without memory slips and to remember to add fourth fingers and down bow circles in the appropriate places. He and his mother tell me that he practices, and I have no reason to doubt his word. Still he struggles each week to play the piece well enough to make a videotape to apply for graduation with our local Suzuki organization.

When things like this happen, I find it important to figure out some winning strategies for the practice sessions. Because this boy's family is quite tech savvy, we try to use our smart phone or computer technologies as much as we can. I suggested that the student make a video of himself using his iPad every day during the week leading up to the last lesson when the video tape was due. So every day I have received a video performance of Minuet 2 from my student.

Every day I have responded to my student about his latest video with some helpful suggestions and occasional pep talks. The student does not always recognize the progress that he makes from day to day, but I see it in an instant when I watch the films. And, because the videos come every single day without fail, I am able to add a few ideas that can tweak his path to progress. I also find that when students make videos to send to me, they are much more careful about the quality of their presentation. I see very few instances of speeding, sloppy bowing, or less than stellar intonation. The students appear to find it important to do a good job when they make their video submissions.

On the second day of submissions, I suggested that the student add a little extra listening: listen to the piece three times before bed and three times before making his next video. We hit on a winning combination in this instance, because the video I got next was night and day different from the video of the previous day. My student remembered the notes, many more of the finer teaching points (down bow circles, 4th fingers), and he played with so much more confidence. And now we know what type of winning strategy works for this particular student -- extra saturated listening.

Let me use this example as a reminder to add these strategies to our quiver of practice ideas and suggestions: making daily videos to send to the teacher, and doing special listening assignments.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

©2016 by Paula E. Bird

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