Practice log leads (for today) to holy grail

Today I tried something different. I made up a weekly practice log that lists all the things we need to practice during the week. I set my own arbitrary parameters — e.g., we will practice two review songs a day and will practice all of them in the course of the week. (You can see a blank log on

Within those parameters, though, I let M pick what to do. And each time we completed something, I gave her a blank playing card whose back she can color (I will write the names of practice activities on the front so we can use the cards in future lessons).

After our lesson, which took a little over an hour (note: she didn’t have hands on the instrument all that time), I was telling my wife about the new chart and that the lesson went well. In the background, M chimed in:

I liked doing it.

So for today at least, I found the holy grail: a productive practice that M enjoyed.

We did:

  • Targeted, repeated listening of Meadow Minuet to learn the notes and the structure.
    • For structure, we counted groups of eight measures and said A, B, C, or D at the beginning of each group of eight measures.
    • For notes, we sang the melody.
  • Practiced the C section of Meadow Minuet once I knew M could sing it. I played the bass notes.
  • With Steady Hands — played through once or twice, but because M still has trouble knowing when she’s at the end, we played alternating sections: B1 (me), B2 (her), A1 (me), A2 (her), B1 (me), B2 (her), A1 (me), A2 (her). This way, she was responsible for knowing when the piece ended. It seemed to help.
  • French Folk Song — played through once, but then focused on two 4-bar sections, B and E. We played themrepeatedly  with the metronome and gradually increased it to 176 bpm. M still played with ease at this tempo.
  • Allegretto — played through a couple of times.
  • M conducted me playing Lightly Row and Aunt Rhody while she sang the note names. Flawless.
  • G scale — played a few times.

When we went over the practice log before starting, M added a practice item to our choices by writing on the page: “Make up song.” Then she wrote a song name with arbitrary German letters. Today’s completed log, with M’s annotations:
Suzuki guitar book 1 practice log – first draft, filled out

Listening; small rewards


This month, I’m taking an SAA online course of sorts for Suzuki parents (“Parents as Partners Online“). It’s a series of short videos.

One video was notable. Michele Horner, a Suzuki guitar teacher/violin parent, advocated “listening like a maniac” — listening to a student’s working piece and upcoming pieces over and over again. (A summary of the same talk is in this SAA newsletter.) Specifically, she talked about getting great results from creating CDs containing:

  • 10 x working piece
  • 10 x next piece
  • 10 x next piece.

Her supporting anecdotes were convincing, as was a testimonial by her 14-year-old daughter. And given how insecure M’s mental image seems to be of many of her pieces — including pieces that she has played in recitals — I decided to give this a try. So I created 4 identical CDs, each containing Steady Hands (working), Meadow Minuet (next), the Führmann Tanz (two pieces ago), and the Bach Tanz (previous piece).

Review; small rewards

M and I haven’t been reviewing her past repertoire broadly enough. We  do some review songs in each lesson, but we don’t have any method for ensuring that they all get covered regularly.

So I decided to follow a suggestion I saw on a teacher’s site: write song names on slips of paper, place them in a bag, and pick out a few to practice every lesson. (Some teachers suggest practicing every review song every lesson, which strikes me as nuts. Our teacher hasn’t given us explicit instructions about how much to review.) M wrote half of the slips (and thus worked on her handwriting), and I wrote the other half. For slips of paper, we used business-card-sized blank punch cards from a coffeeshop I used to own.

These were a great choice for two reasons. First, they have ten boxes on the printed side on which I can record when, and how many times, we practice a song. Second — and more importantly — M thought they were cool. So cool that she wanted to earn them in her lesson, as “money” that she could then decorate. What better way to motivate your kid?

“Play through that song, and I’ll give you a piece of scrap paper! Do a great job, and maybe you’ll get more than one!”

On a more-serious note, it occurred to me later that I should give her the chance to decide how many pieces of paper she should get, to continue to develop her self-evaluation skills. Continue reading Listening; small rewards