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I Practiced - Now What?

The correlation between at-home individual work, and the crucial lesson criteria that sets it up.

If you're a Millennial or older, you've likely heard that rhetorical question about how to get to Carnegie Hall ("practice, practice, practice!"). But like any pithy anecdote, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. After all, what does "practice" even mean?

Countless students who have begun the great endeavor of learning a new craft, musical instrument, or sport, has likely been told by parent, teacher and peers alike to "practice more". However, to the vast majority of students, "practicing" ends up equating with blind repetition, which ultimately "should" magically make the hands (or whichever vessel of creation is at work) do as the brain commands, shouldn't it? If only it were such a beautiful one-step process!

The process of practicing, laid out in depth, is the act of pattern recognition and alteration - of trouble spots, of causes, of remedies, and then of exacted duplication. Speaking particularly about musical instrument practice, anyone who's taken a private lesson will likely have had their teacher challenge them to duplicate a new technique thrice in a row. In the curated environment of a private lesson, the teacher demonstrates an example of diagnosing, explaining, and prescribing a remedy, and typically guides the student through a sample process of what to do when at home. However, sometimes students can construe this literally as "this is what to do this week", rather than "this is how to approach a situation".

As the practicer, the most daunting aspect is typically the self-prescribing phase at home. Problem-identification is usually simple - it's the part where one "messes up" and halts. But how does one know how to go about fixing this glitch? The vast majority of the time, trial and error, enhanced by a thorough initial understanding of how various components work. Sometimes, a basic understanding of physics can provide the solution. Others, human anatomy, and on occasion, human psychology. The possibilities can initially seem overwhelming, but once parsed aside, options can quickly be eliminated and honed.

Let's take an example of a violin student producing a crunchy sound quality. Applying some physics, one can assume that the pressure of the bow (the stick thing) onto the violin strings is much more compacted if the bow is pulled a small distance, than if it were distributed over a larger surface area. This is one plausible solution to try. Another can be that the bow is placed too close to the bridge, only allowing a few millimeters of string vibrations between hair and bridge, resulting in a stifled vibration and the crunch tone - another option. Test out each and see which causes a greater desirable change, and then replicate the change consistently until it becomes a new habit. Et voila!

These self-analyses could be done by older students who have had higher level science courses in their education, but what about the younger students?

Here, it is critical to be sure that you are working with a teacher with the heart and soul of an educator, who is always ready to thoroughly explain "why?". It is both natural, and wonderful, to have an inquisitive mind and young students who want to understand how and why can then better apply these principles into more practiced deductive reasoning as they mature. Having a teacher who can neatly package and present these concepts - even in a simplified variation - to young students is vital to ensuring students grow in a self-sufficient manner, rather than becoming dependent on being spoon-fed every scenario without pattern recognition. With this thorough understanding, students who are practicing at home can understand the purpose of their practice routine, with a clear goal in site, and a deeper understanding of how this process leads to that result.

Here at VYCo, we thoroughly vet each Faculty member in their interview process to ensure that every teacher is not only able, but willing to share with students this critical "why" factor. We deeply value giving students a holistic learning approach, and correspondingly tailoring an approach to a given student's needs. For more information, click here!

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