October Master Class and Practice “Craft”

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! What a great week of master classes we had! I was so proud of our students, we had a terrific turnout (only 1 student missed due to being away) and all our students (even the first years) were enthusiastic to get on that grand piano and solo for us! For the little Sunbeams 1 kids, it was their first time on the grand piano! Exciting! We also had fun with rhythm cups again! And I pulled out a video of the month for them. Sadly the video I had planned: Batman Evolution by The Piano Guys, which I had thought perfect for the month of October, is having “technical difficulties” while they work through a copyright issue. So I had to choose another. It was still enjoyed by all with music “spooky” enough for the coming Halloween season, not to mention it involves a mesmerizing, or possibly magical, amount of instruments all played by Steve!

Each student took home a practice aid that we worked on in class. These are not meant to stay in their book bags but to be kept on the piano for daily use. Thanks to the wonders of Pinterest (have I mentioned before how much I love that site?), I found a couple of practice aids by Teach Piano Today and Compose, Create and was able to create something similar for our students. They look a little like this and are explained below:

practice abacus

The elementary level students made the one on the top. It is designed to make repetitive practice a little more interesting. The student should practice each of their pieces 3-5x a day so we brainstormed different ways their piece could be practiced to make it more fun and interesting and wrote that on the clothespins. As the student practices their piece, they take the corresponding clothespin off, flip it over to reveal their sticker and clip it to the opposite side (see picture).

Voila! An environmentally friendly (completely re-usable. Yay!) and, hopefully, fun and motivating way of encouraging effective daily practice. 🙂 (inspired by Andrea Dow of Teach Piano Today)

The late elementary to advanced students made the lower one. As a student myself, I grew up having to fill a certain block of time with practice and often, to be very honest, it was a bit mindless. I’ve talked to many of the students about practicing smarter not harder and being more focused or mindful about it. And here is how I would really like to see them practice a piece:

Play the entire piece and note which sections need more work.
Pick 1 section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Pick a 2nd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Pick a 3rd section and do what it takes to practice it perfectly 3-5 times.
Play through the entire piece at least 1 more time and then make note of what needs more work the next day.

So the advanced students each made an abacus with 5 beads while the younger ones used 3 beads and so their practice of each piece really should look a little something like this:
•Row 1 – 1 bead for the 1st play through
•Row 2 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 1st section (or 3 for the younger student)
•Row 3 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 2nd section
•Row 4 – 5 beads for spot practicing the 3rd section
•Row 5 – 1 or 2 beads for the final play through(s

With this set up, students can see that they are not really done with each piece until ALL the beads are on the OTHER side of the abacus! And it is easier for them to keep track of and be more mindful of their pieces! (inspired by Wendy Stevens of Compose, Create)

Have a great weekend and Happy Practicing!!

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