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Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Power of Routine

Let me relate two lesson scenarios, and both of these stories actually happened.

Scenario One

My young student played his assigned piece, and the bow slipped crookedly over the fingerboard and failed to catch the notes or the string. The student allowed the bow to drift and slide as if gliding over an ice rink. The bow hold was flabby and relaxed, and the posture revealed fingers that were not quite engaged with the bow stick or frog.

Moreover, the student struggled to remember the notes. He played a spritely tempo and tripped over a traffic cone in the middle of the road every measure or so of music. He lost track of the song’s melody as he progressed, and even when I sang a few of the trouble spots for him when he got stuck, my singing did not resonate anything familiar.

The lesson seemed to last a long time in my mind. I took us both to a place that was easier to navigate. I started with something simpler so that we could monitor the posture issues without being distracted by the notes to a song that my student no longer seemed to know. As we corrected and carefully managed each slipping posture point, I brought us back closer and closer to the song my student had learned in previous lessons. Despite our hard efforts, my student had not returned to the point where I expected him to be by the end of the 30 minute lesson.

Scenario Two

My student played his assigned piece, and he sounded terrific! Not only was his bow hold in good shape, but my student used the bow correctly. He kept his bow firmly rooted to the straight road between the fingerboard and the bridge, and he paid attention to the way his bow grabbed the beginning sound of the notes. He seldom tripped over forgotten notes or bowings and genuinely produced a terrific tone.

We worked together to add a few advanced points into the way he played the song. We made sure that the style was correct, that the notes were in tune and on time, and we added splashes of dynamic color to the phrases.

And at the end of my student’s 30 minute lesson, he looked at me in surprise and said, “Am I done already?”

“Yup, your lesson is finished. Good job!”

He stood there and looked obviously surprised by something.

“But it was so short!” he exclaimed.

“It was the usual 30 minute lesson,” I told him. He looked over at the clock to verify this information for himself.

“Wow!” he responded. “That went really fast!”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Lessons usually do go pretty fast when you practice every day.”

I was encouraged to see him nod his head in agreement. At the last lesson (scenario one), we had discussed that our goal for the coming week would be to do something with the instrument every day. I did not require a particular amount of time, merely that I wanted him to do something with his violin. Play every day. Work on a few of the points listed on his assignment book. This week he had met the goal, and now he reaped the benefit of having put in the consistent, daily work.

These two scenarios illustrate the power of routine. Routine is such a simple thing but a very powerful step that we can take to build something much bigger and better. Routine makes things easier.

What can you do today to build up your power of routine?

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird

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