It often takes losing something to realize how valuable and important it was to you. These days, I’m realizing just how valuable and important the daily structure and rhythm of school was and is for many students – and parents! Some of us gladly accept routine, others of us “buck” against it a bit, but whichever type of person we – and our children – are, we all benefit in profound ways from the predictability and security of having a daily routine. These days, with many schools sending assignments for students to do on their own time, creating our own structure and our own routines is all the more vital.
Here are a few ideas for creating your own practice structure and routine, so that these days of “social distancing” can be more productive, not less!
- Set a time of day to practice. Students might look at their day and see 12 “free” hours, and think that it’ll be easy to fit in plenty of practice somewhere in there. The reality is, though, that if we approach the day this way, the whole day will slip by without ever doing any really productive practice. So, sit down with your children and a calendar and schedule their practice times like you would any other activity. And then (here comes the hard part) stick to it!
- Map out your daily practice sessions. What order will you practice the elements of your teacher’s assignment in? Warm ups, then scales, then etudes and exercises, then review, then working piece, then polish piece, then sight reading? Or will you mix it up? Warm up, then working piece, then a review piece, then some more working piece, then some scale work, then your polish piece, then some more review, and finally some sight reading? The sky’s the limit, but it’s important that you think through your daily plan, write it out, and think about how much time you’re going to devote to each element.
- Create a practice space in your home. A public space is best. Students may like to practice in their bedrooms, but in these days of technology in the palms of our hands, it is all too easy to get distracted without the watching eyes and listening ears of parents to help stay on task. Set aside a corner of a living room or family room that is the designated practice space, and keep it free from clutter and other activity so that it can really become the “music space” in everyone’s minds.
- Pick a place with good natural lighting, if at all possible. The beneficial effects of natural lighting and being outside in nature are incredible. We think more clearly and more deeply, and are more connected to ourselves and our emotions when we are able to take in nature. Putting your practice space in a place where the natural light streams in and the outdoors can be taken in will creative a more positive, productive practice experience.
- Keep your instrument, music, and supplies out, day-to-day, if at all possible. The biggest hurdle to actually putting in some good practice is often simply getting started. If your instrument, music, metronome, and pencil are out and ready to go, you’ll see them throughout the day, keeping your upcoming practice session in mind, and you won’t be hindered by the hurdle of getting everything out and ready every day. I know that may seem like a little thing, but seeing your instrument and being able to simple walk over, pick it up, and get started can lead to many more productive practice sessions.
- Listen to your Suzuki CDs or other recordings throughout the day. With “social distancing” in effect, there’s never been an easier time to listen to your Suzuki CDs for hours a day while you go about your other tasks. If you can sing a tune (or hum it), you’ve taken a major step towards being able to play it. I think we could see the whole studio take leaps forward in their repertoire if we use this at-home time to listen to our CDs more!
So, there you have 6 tips for making this de-structured time in our lives a little more structured, and a lot more productive. Happy practicing, everyone!