The Five Secrets of Home Practice

Here are my five “Secrets of Home Practice” … I hope that they are useful to you:

SECRET No. 1: Kids will ALWAYS say they’ve done enough practice. The truth is that the job isn’t at all over after 1, 2 or even 3 repetitions of a musical task. As any experienced musician will tell you, it takes thousands (yes – thousands) of repetitions of even the most basic musical task before it starts to become a part of you.

SECRET No. 2: A beginner’s songs, chords and notes seldom sound perfect … More often than not, our first attempts at making a sound on the instrument are usually far from a soaring success. I like to think of the process as “shaping” … on each successive attempt, give some praise for even minor improvements (even now we are not at the elusive “finished product” stage) This job takes time and LOTS of repeating of the same things to get it right.

SECRET No. 3: Practice is a life-long and evolving process. This requires heaps of self-discipline, and I believe that self-discipline is a learned skill that is too-often missing in this modern age of quick returns. Children, through the act of regular home practice, are not only honing their basic music skills – they are also practising their ability to practise.

SECRET No. 4: I like to have children see that one of our main goals is to “get the feel of the chord (or melody) INSIDE our fingers”. Like any of the more athletic skills, instrumental development is a MUSCULAR development – we need to develop our muscles, ligaments and tendons to perform the task at hand with strength and dexterity, and this can only be attained over time with lots of repetition.

SECRET No 5: I still need to (and do) practise every day. All musicians do. It is the only way to maintain the standards of instrumental playing that you have currently attained.

March 2011
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Miss Mary Mac & other stuff

The children are coming along well with their skills development!

I want us to make sure that our little muso’s don’t get stressed out right now. They want so much to please, and they are frightened that Mr Gagen will be disappointed if they don’t do things perfectly. Do tell your child Mr Gagen is VERY happy with the way things are going. One step at a time is by far the best way to climb a staircase!

This week I was so impressed with the way our kids were able to hold the pick correctly, as per the diagram in the music book. See the photograph below for a good example.

We still do need to ensure that they ALWAYS do hold the pick correctly, because bad habits have a nasty way of creeping in at this stage. The only way to get those bad habits is with the development of GOOD habits.

I have attached the words of a favourite playground song “Miss Mary Mac” on the link below. Children can accompany this on uke with a G chord – just strum up and down and play/sing.

Miss Mary Mac.lyrics

Stuff for the big musos

This week I would like our budding guitarists to concentrate on the 3 “slow tempo” songs – The Chord Circle Song; E minor and G; A minor and C. Our main goal is to change the chords in time with the music – and that isn’t always easy. Practice really does make perfect however, so do encourage your child to play along with the CD multiple times per practice session.

Also, I would like us to see how far we can go with the song “Boris”. Even if only the first couple of chords would be fine at this stage.


February 2011
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The importance of home practice

One thing that is very important to learning an instrument is home practice.

No-one improves at anything unless they regularly rehearse their new-found emerging skills. I suggest that your child spends at least 15 minutes daily on practice at home.

The CD should be useful – not only for physical practice, but also as a means of familiarising with the songs. Children should play the CD often, and I hope that they all enjoy the songs!

In the early weeks, I would like the children to concentrate on skills including holding the pick correctly,  and strumming up and down. Also, it would be great for children to memorise the shapes of chords, all ready for class.

Paul Gagen

February 2011
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