Practicing… Tips to Save Time and Find Your Groove

This RCM site offers plenty of great reasons to pursue private music studies: self-discipline, poise, precision, confidence, empathy, collaboration, listening and communication, focus, self-awareness.

“Music education fosters many of the skills children will require for success in school and the workplace, as well as their personal and social lives. Many scientific studies have demonstrated the benefits of learning music, including: increased self-confidence, improved self-discipline, gains in memory, and reduced stress.”

The time we spend practicing has a lot to do with that. But sometimes, there are those days!

This month I’ve been working with students to discover ways to make practice time efficient and rewarding. Here are some ideas that work!

1. Set a goal. Achieving a goal in every practice feels great! Each week, I write goals for the technique and pieces we’re working on. In every practice, set yourself a goal. For example, “I am going to learn these two bars, hands together.” If we are working to learn 8 bars hands together in a week, you can break it down into 4 manageable goals, 2 bars per practice. All of a sudden it’s not so daunting.

2. Practice technique with the metronome all the time. This develops a good sense of steady rhythm, pulse and works to make you think ahead.

3. When you have to re-take a section, stop and mark it on your music. Make a new goal for that day, or the next practice. Sometimes, just stopping to figure out what is causing you to stumble is all it takes!

4. Take time to look over the music before you start to play. Take four bars a a time and look for familiar patterns that you already know: scale and broken chord patterns make up a lot of our music… that’s why we practice technique. It’s kind of nice to find some old friends in a new piece. Identify notes that are not as easy to read, ones on ledger lines for example. When you start to play, it will feel like you already know the piece.

5. Keep track of your accomplishments during the week. It feels so great to see just how much you’ve done.

The next few posts will offer some more ideas, so stay tuned!

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School attendance and Private Music Lessons

As music education becomes less of a focus in the school curriculum, the role of private music study is becoming even more important. Music lessons have been proven to develop human potential. A recent article in the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Music Matters magazine reports that “from early childhood through to retirement years, whether involved in recreational music making or training for a professional career, people who are engaged in music study are happier, healthier and contribute to society in more meaningful ways.”

But what are parents to do when the after-school hours rapidly fill up with homework, sports and other extra-curricular activities, and the private music teacher schedules fill just as quickly?

In Ontario there is a solution.

The Education Act of the Government of Ontario (1990) provides the opportunity for students in Ontario schools to receive music instruction, often by a private music teacher and to be excused from attendance at school. In Chapter E2, Part 11, Statute 21.2(e) of the Education Act Revised Statutes of Ontario, it states: School attendance may be excused when the child is absent from school for the purpose of receiving instruction in music and the period of absence does not exceed one-half day in any week. (Government of Ontario, 1990, p. 36)

I realize this is not a viable solution for many families, but is is certainly something worth considering.

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