Superb start to your practice #1

One of the most common things I hear from parents is that getting practice started is the most challenging thing about practicing. As a 35 year practicer myself I know how hard it is!

Keep in mind that the first step is most often the hardest step for getting anything done.

Here is my number one favorite tip I learned for getting your practice with your child (or with anything!) started off on the right foot/note:

#1. Don’t start off with pressure to get it done…start off with some quality time together.

So often parents are trying to squish in the practice between 10 other things you need to get done. That is often the reality of our busy lives. However, if your child feels that pressure, they are going to resist it! One of my all time favorite practice tips that came from several of my best practicing students over the years is that the beginning of the practice is started with their child on their lap, catching up about their day for a few minutes.

Spend a little quality time together. That is tip number one!

Eliza and Kat Kaufmann

Kat and Eliza Kaufmann

The child feels you are there for them when you spend a little time with them first; you’re not just there to produce a violinist/musician or a good student who does their work. The message is: this isn’t JUST about getting the practice in. Instead of feeling squeezed in to your day and that they better produce something now on demand, they start off feeling loved. After all, the book Dr. Suzuki wrote is called Nurtured By Love and this whole process of practicing a musical instrument together is meant to strengthen your relationship with your child, not add more stress, pressure, and battles.

Try it out! You will also most likely enjoy your child, the practice, and the learning process more yourself. Practicing daily is a huge time commitment for parents. You might as well enjoy it, your child and the whole process or it will just feel like another thing on your list to get done. No one was more surprised than me when I first heard this years ago from one of my best practicing students. I thought they were all about discipline and getting in as much as they could. Over the years I’ve heard the same tip from other great practicing families.Eliza3

Of course, I hear the opposite more times than I can count…that the practice starts with procrastination, screaming, and a lot of struggle. If this is your normal practice routine, try spending some time together first and in the long run it will probably save you a lot of time, effort and energy–and even strengthen your relationship with your child.

Connection, being present and a little time spent with your child yields great practice…and relationship…results.

I would love to hear what works best for you and your child! What gets your practice off to a great start 9 out of 10 times?


Education Education Education: How learning the Alexander Technique can help with pain management, reduction and alleviation

Education: How learning the Alexander Technique can help with pain management, reduction and even alleviation

Photo credit:

Here is a podcast of an interview by Robert Rickover, Alexander Technique teacher in Nebraska, interviewing Dr. Theodore Steinman, MD, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a pain management expert, specializing in polycystic kidney disease.

They discuss how the Alexander Technique is an educational process that helps people learn how to improve their use of themselves in daily activities and a byproduct of that is often pain reduction or alleviation. At the end of the interview Dr. Steinman reiterates that for all the people out their dealing with chronic and acute pain, be your own advocate and learn what you can that can help you. The Alexander Technique is one such method that you can learn for yourself that can make a difference in your daily life and activities. He points out that in addition to learning a technique that often helps with pain management and alleviation, the overall effects contribute to your entire life and well-being.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Sign up for a class this fall to learn more about the Alexander Technique and how it can help you.

Summer Practice Post 2

Hi Everyone,

Great article on practicing: “5 Essential Skills for Ensuring Efficient Practice.” Simple, easy, and essential skills to apply right away to your practice sessions each day to improve the quality and results of your practice!

Read it during a practice session with your kids! Pick one of the 5 points to focus on in a practice for that day or week and then read it again and keep working on these 5 points. They are all excellent practice techniques and will lead to quality practice and progress.

Hope everyone is having a great summer! Angela

Summer Lesson Practice Guide 1: Summer Practice Intentions



Summer is almost here!

My intention is to post some summer lesson guides/inspiration throughout the summer for my students. To get started, as you are planning out your summer, talk to your child about your summer lesson goals. What are your goals and what are their goals? …and then share them with me in lessons, and we’ll come up with shared goals and how to make them happen. Summer is a great time for rest after a busy year of practice, group classes, rehearsals and performances. It is also a great time to focus on individual practice.

Momentum: I have been told many times over the years that students (and parents!!) need a break over the summer. I do too! However, just as many times I’ve been told that after taking one summer off almost completely, parents realize the painful reality of trying to get back to where you were when you start up in again in the fall. I always say it is like exercise. If you take off for 3 months or practice very intermittently, it will take a couple of months to get the physical, mental, and emotional stamina back for practicing regularly and sounding as good as you did a few months ago. Come up with a plan to keep your momentum from the year going while also finding the right amount of rest and rejuvenation that fits you and your child. I love to set some summer practice projects with students. It might be a review project, it might be technical, it might be a reading project. For my traveling students it is usually listening and review. Go to a summer camp or Suzuki institute; lots of momentum building there! Take summer lessons! It will keep you going and give you some focus!



100 Days in a row…13 times!!!

GabrielCertOne of my students, Gabriel Klein, has practiced a 100 days in a row…again…for the 13th time! I asked his mom to write about their practicing experience.

“100 Days of Practicing” by Jodi Klein

Our son Gabriel joined the 100 day “club” when he was 4 or 5.  It has been a wonderful motivator which has empowered him about practicing his violin.  He receives a certificate from his teacher (Angela) and a little gift from her when he completes 100 days of consecutive practicing.  As for us, every time Gabriel completes another 100 days he can choose either a family activity or a toy or game of his choice.  (Yes, we do have a budget and we make that clear before entering the store!)

Last week Gabriel, now  8.5 years old received his 13th 100 Days Certificate!  You may wonder how we do this?  You may think that we are “Dragon Parents”, but honestly, Gabriel is the one who is in charge…he owns it and this is why we seldom hear,” I don’t want to practice!”  If we do hear those famous words that parents dislike, we simply say, “OK Gabriel we can start back to zero again the next time you want to practice”.  He never chooses to go back!

GabrielJodicampsiteWhen he was younger we used a grid to mark the days practiced and it was easy for him to see how long he had to go to accomplish his goal of 100 days.  Now we simply mark it on a calendar so he can see which month we will celebrate 100 days.

Once he completes a 100 day cycle, then, besides celebrating with a toy, game or family outing, he continues to feel empowered because he decides when the next  100 Day Cycle will begin.  We are surprised to find out that each time, he will take a day or two off from practicing then practice a day, then take another day off for about 5 days.  Then he is eager to mark the calendar (or my iphone!) to start the next 100 day cycle.  Once he begins he knows that, “Not practicing is not an option”.

You also may ask, “What are these practices like”.  We practice every day once we are in the 100 cycle from 15 min to one hour depending on time available.   Sometimes we play games to make it creative  (much more when he was younger), and sometimes we just run through our checklist.  He is a “checklist kid”, so this really works well for him and it helps him to know what is expected and when we will be finished.  By the way, on the day of a lesson, concert, ensemble class etc., he still knows that he needs to practice if he wants that day to count.

GabrielbackpackYou also may ask, what about vacations, or if Gabriel is sick?  If he is sick then listening to his pieces or other composers,  count. When he was younger,  doing three bow holds or clapping a rhythm  would also count.   On vacations, the violin comes!  We love to camp and backpack and we have pictures of the violin strapped to my pack while backpacking!   Or, practicing by our campsite by a beautiful lake.  This summer on a long car ride to Canada Gabriel actually practiced in the car!  His bow arm kept hitting the cooler, so we had to make some adjustments to the backseat paraphernalia!

GabrielOliverNow after 4 years of 100days of practicing, Gabriel just sees this as part of his life, (Like brushing his teeth),  and there is seldom a complaint about whether he will practice or not on a given day….it’s just the way it is in our family!

Happy 100 days to you!

Dr. Suzuki’s keys to success

suzukisteppingGetting back to practicing and need some inspiration? Dr. Suzuki noted these 9 conditions that lead to success and excellence. Choose one to focus on to get you and your child going this fall. Ask your child which one he or she would like to work on.

1. To study daily without exception.

2. To study with proper focus on key points and not to practice wastefully.

3. To strive daily to produce excellent tone.

4. To attend to one’s posture with proper care.

5. To practice according to a set daily schedule and to gradually increase one’s practice time.

6. To practice pieces already learned so as to continually improve one’s performance. This is one effective method to cultivate ability.

7. Not to rush ahead but to dedicate oneself to attaining excellent tone.

8. To be able to play any piece well, no matter how long ago one has learned it.

9. To listen frequently to superior models.

by Dr. Shinichi Suzuki from My Study of Violin Playing, 1951

Would love to hear which one you and your child choose for September–or if you have your own key to success you want to share and add to Suzuki’s list! Happy practicing!

Constructive Rest

Constructive RestYesterday I wrote about the 15 minute practice session to get you going. This can be applied to anything. This morning my first 15 minute practice session was Constructive Rest (at 6 am). I put my timer on for 15 minutes and laid down on the floor, on my back. Some of my violin students know this counts as practice time! (Usually I start people off with 5 or 10 minutes of Constructive Rest).

The main thing to do when lying down on your back for Constructive Rest is to learn to not do or to undo. It may take a bit to learn–surprisingly! Usually there is a lot of doing going on when lying down on the floor and not a whole lot of resting. Notice all the parts of the body that you are holding up away from the floor (unconsciously). Let each part of your body come down to rest on the floor. Learning to rest is important. Usually our back is held up from the floor a little. Over a span of 5-15 minutes your whole body will slowly unwind and come to rest on the floor. Just observe. Learn to rest. Your head, whole back and spine, your arms, your feet (I usually have my legs bent, with feet on the floor, which is better for your low back than stretching out your legs long, but choose whichever way is most comfortable for your legs and back.)

Allow your neck, back, spine and whole body unwind and come back to its full, natural resting length, width and depth.

Coming soon: resting the bow on the string, which is like resting your body (and mind) on the floor.