October 2013

28 Days of Practicing: Week 1: Starting Where YOU Are

October 25, 2013 16:45

It's time to start the 28 Days of Practice Project! Follow along with my blog here, and you can also follow me on Twitter (@claire_violin)and Instagram ( claire_violin) for pictures, practice tips, and other glimpses into my experience as I go through this project with my students!

This week, we’re going to take a look at your practicing exactly where you are. No judgment, just observation. We’re also going to help you create a space in your home that is JUST for practicing. You will start tracking your practicing so that you can keep track of what days you’ve practiced and take a good look at your starting point.

Please share your answers to the reflection questions as well as any other thoughts on your practice experience in the comments!

Let’s start by identifying your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to violin. Answer the following questions:

1. What is something that you like about your playing?

2. On your best practice days, what are things that go well for you?

3. On days where you don’t practice, what are things that get in the way of your practicing?

4. When you’re at your most frustrated when practicing, what types of material are you practicing and does anything help you become less frustrated?

5. What are you really good at when it comes to practicing?

6. What is something you need to improve in your practicing?


1. This should be a space designated solely for the practice of your music. Whether it is an entire room or just a corner, nothing else should go on in this space except for practicing.

2. Freedom from distractions. Especially for young students, the television, cellular phone, computer, and all electronic devices should be shut off. If you use a metronome or tuning app, your phone should be set to airplane mode so it cannot receive calls or text messages during your practice session. Family members and roommates should know that when you are in your practice space, they are not to bother you. Ideally, one should be completely alone in the room or just with their practice helper (generally a parent).

3. Instrument, music, lesson notebook, and pencil. It is a good idea to keep all of your musical belongings in one place. This way, when going back and forth from lessons to school to rehearsal, you know exactly where to go to get everything. It also means that everything is handy and you do not need to frequently stop practicing to go hunt something down.

4. Music stand. All but the most elementary beginners will be reading music of some sort, and even the beginners may find it helpful to put their lesson notebooks on a music stand so they can read them without having to hold them. This stand should ensure that the music is at the eye level of the student. Spectacularly tall students may need a chair to place their stand on.

5. Mirror. Being able to watch oneself in the mirror while practicing is a very valuable practice technique, especially when working on posture or technique.

6. Recording device. Being able to hear exactly what you are playing is invaluable. Most phones these days (set to airplane mode, of course) have some sort of voice memo app. If you’re looking to purchase a higher quality recorder I highly recommend the Zoom H2 or Q3, depending on if you want video or not.

7. Something inspirational. Whether it be a quote that you really like, pictures of your favorite composers or violinists, or a supportive card received from a loved one, put something in your practice area that will help motivate you to play even on the days where you might not feel like it.


This week, after you get your practice area set up, you will track your practicing. I've created a simple chart that you can download, but you can also create your own if you hate mine. However, you MUST keep track of which days you practice and which days you don't. Be honest! This isn't about getting a perfect score - this is about noticing when you're able to/motivated to practice and when you're not. We'll talk more about consistency next week. So, whether you practice one day this week or all seven, check it off on the chart, and embrace where your starting point is.

**Modification for more advanced students who already practice daily: track how long you practice each day and add up your total practice time for the week. Notice if you practice about the same amount of time each day or if it fluctuates depending on the day.

***To download a practice chart, head on over to the blog post on my website


Do you feel you improved as a musician this week? How so?

What are some aspects of your playing that you would like to improve more?

What do you like about your practice space? Is there anything you need to add to it?

How many days did you practice? _______ days out of 7.

Do you feel you practiced enough to accomplish your goals?

Archive link

Practicing Resources

October 22, 2013 19:38

This project is designed for students at every level, from the five-year-olds in my beginning class (and their parents), to professionals. The reflection questions are very open-ended and relevant to all, and often, modifications are given for the more advanced practicer. For example, during Week 2: Putting In The Time, students are challenged to practice every single day. However, for a student who already practices on a daily basis, they might have a goal of practicing for a certain amount of time every day.

I also want to list some supplemental resources that students and parents may find helpful as they prepare to explore the world of their practicing:

For Parents of Young Students (12 and under):

Helping Parents Practice, by Edmund Sprunger

For Independent Practicers (Teens and up):

Practicing for Artistic Success, by Burton Kaplan

The Musician's Way, by Gerald Klickstein

Practice, by Simon Fischer

Online Resources:
The Bulletproof Musician

What other resources for practicing would you recommend? Share in the comments below!

Also, you can follow 28 Days of Practice on Twitter (@claire_violin) and Instagram (claire_violin)! #28daysofpractice

3 replies

28 Days of Practice: An Introduction

October 21, 2013 15:01

This Saturday, I'm launching a special project in my studio. It's called "28 Days of Practice," and the purpose of the project is for me and my students to explore our practice habits and to become more self-aware in our practice. Hopefully, we'll all learn one or two things about how we practice that we can incorporate into our regular routine.

The project is structured in four weeks, with a different focus each week. There will be reflection questions as well as specific tasks. I will be doing this along with my students and will post my answers to the questions on the blog! Talk about accountability - anyone who reads this will know if I'm practicing or not!

So, just to whet your appetite I present you with the titles of the four weeks:

Week One: Starting Where You Are
Week Two: Putting In The Time
Week Three: Identifying Your Practice Habits
Week Four: Setting Goals

I'll post the guidelines for each week on the blog so you can follow along and join us in this project. Feel free to post your progress and reflections in the comments!

4 replies

The Art of Practicing

October 14, 2013 20:35

When I'm working with students, I always have to remind myself that teaching them isn't just about getting them to do exactly what I say. I'm also trying to teach them to think critically. I want them to hear problems and imperfections in their own playing, and I want them to create effective strategies and find solutions. A very large part of my teaching is teaching my students how to practice. I believe that this is the way to build confidence in my students - by empowering them to create practice sessions that help them to become better musicians.

Truly effective practice is consistent and goal-oriented. In addition to straightening out any issues in the basic setup with a new student, I also ask lots of questions about their practicing. "How many days do you practice a week? Do you think you could practice a few more days or is that completely out of the question with your schedule? How long do you practice? How did you practice this particular passage?" I'm always afraid that my students feel they're being interrogated - but I'm just trying to gather information about what's going on at home so I can make suggestions to help them be more successful musicians.

Driven by these beliefs and motivations, I've begun to create a practice project for my students that I'll also share in my blog. It will run for 28 days (or four weeks), and each week will have a different focus, as well as practice tips and reflection questions to help students analyze not just their violin playing, but their practice habits as well.

Take a look at the sneak peek below and be sure to check back in a couple weeks for the official launch of the 28 Days of Practice Project! #28daysofpractice

What Counts As Practicing?

1. PRACTICING is time that you spend alone or with a practice buddy working to become a better musician.

2. LISTENING to music is practicing IF it is a recording of a piece you are working on OR related to the piece you are working on (for example, listening to any music by Bach while you are playing a piece by him). Also, the listening it must be the only thing you are focused on. For example, listening to a recording while you sit and read along with the music is practicing. Having music on in the background while you do something else is a great thing to do, but NOT practicing.

3. STUDYING your music is practicing. Spending time marking in fingerings, bowings, half-steps, circling dynamics, bracketing practice spots, noticing flats and sharps, etc is practicing.

4. IMAGING your music is practicing. Sitting in silence, closing your eyes and imagining how the violin and bow feel in your hands, hearing the sound you want to make – this is practicing too. Again, for this to count this must be the ONLY thing you are doing.

What is NOT Practicing?

1. Orchestra rehearsal or class is not practicing.

2. Studio class is not practicing.

3. Your lesson is not practicing.

4. Chamber music rehearsals are not practicing.

5. Having music on in the background while you do other things is not practicing.

*Originally posted on my website, www.claireallenviolin.com

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