Introducing the Guide to Effective Practicing

Beth Huber, Independent Music Teacher, Pennsylvania

I have given the Guide to virtually every student and will continue to make it a practice to do so. I explain the general idea of it, then they begin working their way through—not in order, but I suggest a practice tip that goes with a particular passage or problem area based on what will help. We go over how to do the practice tip, and they write the practice tip number and name next to that passage in their music with the assignment to do it at home.

The next week they come back, explain to me how the practice tip works, and demonstrate it to me. Once they have accomplished a practice tip, they check it off on their card in the description section, as well as in the index. I explain how the index works and that they are building their bag of tricks and once they have learned all the practice tips they will have a “full bag.” And as they add to their practice tip “repertoire,” they can begin to look at the index when they are facing a particular problem to select a practice tip that would address it.

It takes a long time to get through the card but that’s OK. I realize that it is a process to help the student learn the practice tips and develop (with my help) the awareness of how to analyze what the challenge of a particular passage is and then find a practice tip that will address it. So I see it as a project with an eye on long-term gains and independence for the student.

Each time a student completes and checks off a tip, they also get a “super sticker” (super stickers are collected towards prizes in my studio) which is a little added bonus and motivator for the student.

The thing I love about the card is that it helps to instill in the student that effective practice is neither mindless repetition nor “playing through”; there always has to be a strategy and focus on solving a problem or challenge.

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