30 Day Practice Challenge
Congratulations to everyone who has lasted through the first week of our challenge! We are really impressed with the number of students who are recording their practice on our online log or in their notebooks . I hope you are all starting to see the benefits of daily practice!
Remember every bit of practice is positive, even if it sometimes feels like you're taking a step backwards or have hit a plateau. Sometimes it takes a while to see how much you are progressing. Have a chat to your teacher if you're worried about how you're going, or need some more tips on how to structure your practice sessions.
Try to include a warmup that is appropriate to your level (eg. long notes, harmonics, undertones, octaves, Moyse Sonority exercise, detache or vibrato exercises.) Then some technical work (scales, arpeggios, finger drills, studies or exercises), pieces (small sections and repetitive practice is the most effective way to increase your security). Make sure you use your metronome and tuner every practice session! Also, have a go at sightreading something new each day.
If you're working on a particular aspect of playing (like posture, hand position, tonguing action or tone) and need a reminder, try setting a recurring timer on your phone to go off every 5 minutes and spend a minute focusing on that aspect every time the timer goes off. This is a great way of drawing your attention back to the issue regularly throughout your practice session, whilst allowing you to work on other things in between these focused bursts.
Please let us know if you have any questions or are finding it tough to stay motivated. We are all here cheering you on!
PS Here's a clip of one of my favourite flute players to inspire you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULVTufHxv5o
AMEB Exam Preparation
The next session for AMEB practical exams is from April to June next year. The closing date for entries will be in Week 2 of the first term next year. Our "rule of thumb" for entries is for students to know all their technical work by the closing date. That way we have plenty of time to work on repertoire in the last term without the stress of having to nag about "new" scales as well. So, if you'd like to enter this session, now is the time to be working hard on the technical work! We have several "improve your scales" books and resources available so please let your teacher know if you'd like some additional material.
At Windworks we encourage our students to do their general knowlegde for their pieces as they learn them, rather than having a mad cram the week before the exam! For lower grades you need to know all terms, signs, note values, meanings of titles and the translations of any foreign words. You can find this info in music dictionaries (let us know if you'd like to borrow one!) or by googling the terms. You also need to make sure you are clear on the time signatures and keys of your pieces. In addition to this , for higher grades, composer's nationality, eras (dates of the musical period to which the piece belongs) and characteristics of the eras, form (musical structure) and modulations (changes of key within the pieces) also needs to be known. If you work on the general knowledge as you are learning a piece, it will help you to play stylistically and broaden your musical knowledge. It's a good idea to photocopy whatever piece you're working on and make notes on the photocopy. (Any pencil markings on the original need to be erased prior to the exams otherwise the examiner will be unable to asses the general knowledge component and this will bring your mark down.) We encourage our students to research their own pieces as this learning process is more beneficial in the long term than having your teacher just write out all the answers for you. Of course, please ask us for help if you're stuck!
Aural and sight-reading need to be practiced regularly. We have a strong aural focus in our group music craft lessons (Fridays at 5pm) so please consider attending these if you'd like help with this area. For sight-reading, regular ensemble work is the best way to improve. We have a huge library of duets, so we are encouraging our teachers to sight-read duets with students regularly throughout the year. You also might like to consider joining one of our flute ensembles. Flute choir for students who are approximately AMEB grade 4+ rehearses fortightly on Fridays at 5:45pm. We would also like to start a junior flute ensemble this term, so if you are an interested beginner (preliminary to approximately Gr 3), please let us know, and we'll let you know when we can arrange some sessions for you.
We'd also like to encourage you to have plenty of rehearsals with our accompanists. It's important for you to learn how the flute and piano parts fit together, and how crucial good rhythm is to good ensemble performance! Don't wait until the last minute to arrange an accompanist for your exams or performances....they are very busy people!! Many of our flute pieces are found on Youtube, and we also have a large collection of flute CD's which you're welcome to borrow, so please listen to as many recordings as you can. For more advanced players we also recommend purchasing a subscription to an online accompaniment program (www.smartmusic.com) so you can work at home with the accompaniment played on the computer, and record yourself each time you practice. This also helps with intonation, rhythm, articulation and tempo....great benefits at a very low cost!
Exams are a great way to set a goal, structure your learning and to keep you motivated throughout the year. Please do keep in perspective that the most important part is the work you do in the lead up, and a great mark on the day is a bonus!
At Windworks, we recommend that about 10 minutes multiplied by your grade is an appropriate amount of practice to do each day. (So, beginners & grade 1 students should do about 10 minutes daily, grade 2 students should do 20 minutes daily and so on.)
Remember that the quality and frequency of practice is more important than the duration. A practice session should always include a warm-up, with tone exercises, some technical work (scales, studies, finger drills etc) and then working on the specific issues in your repertoire. Simply playing through your pieces isn’t really productive practice. If you’re unsure about effective practice methods, please talk to your teacher or contact me to give you some ideas!
Many of our older students use an online “practice log” which is available through the studio management software we use. If you don’t already access this and would like a password and details on how to use it, please let me know. The advantage of this method is that our staff can see new entries that students make every day and give feedback and encouragement between lessons. It also calculates weekly practice averages and graphs etc which some students find very motivating.
How parents can help with practice...
You don’t need to have a musical background or any musical knowledge at all to help your child with their practice. Just encouraging and supporting their efforts at home is a huge help! Here are a few ideas you may like to experiment with at home...