4/27/21

Final Post- Practice Project

This project’s goal was to produce content that is clear and coherent in regards to practicing and the process of practice for young musicians ages K-12. This area of study is highly important to be effective, clear, concise, and precise with language and presented ideas so that it is understandable to all ages while still retaining quality.

The results of the project were a great success; the Practice Cycle handout was the culmination of the project, with videos walking through specific pieces being produced with the intent of more to follow in the future.

Over the first 1-4 weeks, research and study into the methods and ideas behind practice and learning were done, including study and transcription of videos on the topics from Prof. Molly Gebrian. Weeks 4 and 5 included refinement of the Practice Cycle chart and the ideas within, alongside the graphic and aesthetic design element were worked on. Weeks 6-7 were focused on creating a video walking through a simple piece, as well as a video talking about how to use the Practice Cycle (and what it even is).

Overall, given the context of COVID, finish my degree, my recital, working 3 jobs along the way, etc. I am happy with where the project landed. Having done the Practice Cycle and being so precise with its ideas paves a smooth road towards more usage in the future, alongside presentations in-person with schools as well. The practice flow chart can be the next large graphic design goal, and I am very excited to continue producing content with the foundation I gained by doing this project!

Thanks for following alongside the journey!

Raiden

4/6/21

Week 7

Today we have two videos! The first is on the idea of the Practice Cycle, the second takes the practice cycle into context with a specific example from a beginner Suzuki Violin piece: Lightly Row.

This project has been a blast to complete; I am hoping that demonstrations for it and active in person presentations can begin in schools next year. The pandemic has been difficult with getting any school to desire an in-person experience, but I am sure that in the future with more content and fewer masters degree recitals to prepare for () it will be easier to focus on the project and round out some more ideas!

3/30/21

Week 6

Wow… Only a week left…

Welcome back to the Practice Project, where the goal is content accessible to beginner, intermediate, and advanced musicians K-12!

The project was slow last week, but it’s ramping back up in the end to get a great video out about the Practice Cycle, and possibly a video/handout about the Practice Flow chart! These will be the goals to complete during the class, but the end goal will continue with more content produced once I graduate.

The flow chart is progressing well; ideas are being sifted through, sorted, color coded, and placed into a particular practice area. These include things like: intonation, rhythm, sounds weird, LH/RH coordination (left and right hands), etc.

I am utilizing ideas from Dr. Buchholz’s and Gebrian’s handouts which can be found here. They contain relevant research and info that will be utilized with my own ideas alongside other resources to create the videos/docs.

One interesting idea that came to mind is using metronomes for kids. This is NOTORIOUSLY difficult! I’ve found that the idea of a ticking clock can be a great gateway into the idea of using a metronome. The problem usually lies not in the intellectual side of understanding what it is, but actually focusing on being able to play with one while doing a million other things on your instrument. My solution for any child might involve physically walking with a beat. Garnering that sense of pulse in their stepping and body will create the feeling of what it is like to play and match something, while focusing on the physical sense of their body to time the steps. This can then translate to the idea that if they are going slow enough, and have a good enough ability on the basics of the instrument, they can line but and utilize the metronome, increasing the tempo and tactics in difficulty from there.

More next week, and then the final show!

3/23/21

Week 5 of the Practice Project: the goal is to create videos and pdf content for K-12 musicians that cater to their levels and nuances.

This week did not really go as planned; not nearly as much got done as I had wanted to and the result is little to nothing to show in terms of new pdfs or videos. I did gather many resources to use for the flow chart, so that can begin in earnest in the coming weeks I suppose. Preparing for my Masters recital and oral examinations took precedence.

In a funny way, this sort of slump can be related to the practice ideals that I am trying to push for younger kids. The reality is that I don’t even know if I would have done them any better, even if I had known this info as a child growing up learning violin. We will always fall short of perfection, but some part of me never really wanted (needed?) to practice constantly. There was a fundamental pull away from it. Whether that was electronics in the age of the early 2000s on a premature mind, or a truly deep ill-fitting contortion to the art of practicing, who knows?

Perhaps the sharing of these struggles and stories from other artists could be of interest. I almost wonder if it would have a healing effect on kids who feel the same. Not having to feel that guilt and shame alone, to be able to understand that sometimes this happens to other people too and it might just be ok not to practice today, that as healthy as it is to understand how to practice well on the days when you want/need to get some learning done.

No pictures this week; the point of this post is a heart to heart, not a perky, catchy blog to draw in newcomers.

3/16/21

After a mini spring break from school, we are back for Week 4 of the Practice Project! The goal of this project (for any new comers!) is to provide handouts, videos, and resources for students who are beginners, intermediate, and advanced players K-12. So far we have made great progress on the most difficult visual design, the Practice Cycle. Next up is thinking about the Practice Flowchart, as well as the videos to go along with both of these handouts!

Sometimes easier than it sounds… (credit: Pexels)

Practice Flowchart (Motivation Not Included?)

Practicing for any musician can sometimes be a challenge. Whether motivation is an issue, deterrents related to pain or fatigue, or environmental issues like having the space to play in your home, practice can often be difficult to enjoy and keep consistent.

I find the idea of motivation to be not quite enough to keep practice consistent. Motivation is emotion dependent, and often we are so easily distracted or fluctuating with our emotion on a given day. A combination of motivation and discipline is a much more consistent way to retain practice.

Given this idea, we still do want to encourage a fun and joyful learning environment for kids, especially those who are younger. The best way to engage and motivate is hands down the idea of gamifying music and those aspects we have to practice!

Right now I am working on elucidating the musical games that go within each large category (as well as level) for the Practice Flow chart. These include examples like:

• Play something 5x in a row; if you mess up before 5, you start at zero again!

• Tally system- get a certain number of tallies for a technique or measure done correctly, and you earn a sticker next lesson.

• Changing a rhythm based on a random series of options in a bowl on pieces of paper, to practice speeding up a section

The list is infinite, with many teachers having their own games and ideas for students. The goal of this is to have a concrete list for any level (3 different versions of the flow chart maybe?) of starting points, with the clear implication that the list and ideas for practicing something go on and on.

Ah stock photos… great for inspiration, not for technique!

Videos- Explaining the Meaning

With the Flowchart or Practice Cycle, some terms are not obvious to readers without further explanation. This is not something I plan to remedy visually, because they are already maxed out with content to still retain visual appeal. Instead, I plan to provide and create supplemental videos explaining both, while also walking through a simple piece with the practice cycle and demonstrating use of the flowchart on the same piece as well.

My goal is to provide help on simple pieces, so that once we transition to more info or guides in the future as an organization, there will be the early videos and ideas that stay true throughout the progression.

Flow chart for next week, videos soon after! Stay tuned for more!

Look for a video coming soon!

3/2/21

The Practice-oriented project continues in Week 3! After the alteration last week, new ideas and plans continue to arise for the overarching idea. For now, we begin with perhaps the most difficult part of the project, which was creating my idea for The Practice Cycle from scratch!

Practice… the never-quite-final frontier!

The Practice Cycle is an idea I really wanted to flesh out in both a succinct and also scientifically accurate way. The research and ideas that Professor Molly Gebrain has compiled and translated for older students (high school up to adults) was the main inspiration for this cycle and the content in it. You can see there is a certainly cyclic aspect to this image: we begin something new, it progresses to the point of being able to do it at some speed, and from there it’s a constant cycle to perform, improve, add new ideas, and spin around in space until you gain enough momentum to shoot for the stars!

The PRactice Cycle: Never-ending, fearsome and yet beautiful, just like space!

One key idea to note is the range at the bottom, showing Blocked vs Random practice. Blocked practice is the idea of doing 30 minutes straight of the same thing, then moving on top another 30 of a different topic, and a final 30 of a third topic. Random is rapid fire changing between topics for an equivalent amount of time, which science has proven to be most effective for preparing our performances for true mastery. The coloring of the range is also indicative of fundamental truths about this idea:

1. We never purely have blue (i.e. only Blocked Practice)

2. Therefore, Random Practice should always be used to some degree, even during the new stages of learning

3. Random Practice must increase as we aim for Mastery

Look forward to some more visuals and video ideas next week!

Magnolia Strings

It’s always important to take a step back, even from practice, and admire the view…

2/23/21

As with all great projects, this one has evolved towards a slightly different path during the second week!

Our original idea was to have outreach presentations for schools, creating two different methods for in-person and pre-recorded online experiences. In our discussion with professors, between ourselves, and individual though, Raiden has decided to pursue a different path for this project. The new idea centers around one key word:

Practice!

Me hearing I have to practice tonight…

Practicing is often a volatile word and concept; we are often conflicted between knowing what to practice, how to practice, and improving in the best way possible on our instruments. Raiden has become particularly interested in sharing ideas on how to practice well with pre-college musicians, gearing videos and resources towards all skill levels and age ranges. The goal is to work on creating these materials (videos and handouts), with a future goal of doing small presentations to school orchestra/band programs about practicing and how to practice in the best way at all kinds of different musical skill levels.

This second week, Raiden spent brainstorming what videos to create alongside various PDFs. Designing the layout and visual aspect to make it appealing and digestible for all ages is important. The content is also being drawn from a variety of sources, including personal experience, professor resources from the University of Arizona, and other scientific studies that relate to sleep, performance, and practicing!

Below are two early ideas about The Practice Cycle (just like the Water Cycle we learn about in science class) and ideas for a Practice Issue Flow Chart, with a ranging degree of difficulty based on the color of the solution (green = beginner, yellow = intermediate, red = advanced). Resources and content continue to be compiled, and planning for videos and visuals are under way!

Stick around in the coming weeks to see improvements and the final videos/PDFs!

Magnolia Strings

The beginnings of the practice cycle…clean up and clarity are coming for the future version!

The current idea for the Issue flow chart: start in the middle, spiral outward, and have ranking systems for different solutions based on color!

TUSD OUTREACH PROJECT!

2/16/21

This week was the first of eight weeks in Magnolia Strings’ Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Outreach Project! The goal of the project is to provide free, engaging, and fun string content to schools within the Tucson area during the COVID pandemic by utilizing two distinct methods: via a pre-created video presentation for schools who cannot accommodate in-person presentations and a live, in-person presentation for schools who can have in-person visitors!

The COVID pandemic has created an artistic drought across the country: live performances by orchestras, chamber groups, and individual soloists have dwindled in number for months. Right now is an important time for the arts to have deep and meaningful impact during this period of hardship. Students in schools are in danger of missing out on wonderful and life-changing musical experiences at critical ages in their development. Katie and Raiden are passionate about contributing what they can to these students, in hopes of brightening a particularly difficult period in history, while also sparking a potentially life-long interest in the arts.

This week, the focus was on organizing our plan for the two distinct presentation methods, as well as reaching out to schools in the Tucson area to see who would be interested in having us present! We realized that the details of a project and presentation like this are immense: you have to really think through what you are going to do at every minute to be engaging, fun, and still educational. In-person seems to offer an easier method for engagement, while created a pre-determined video requires a lot more planning. We have started to gather pieces and idea for what to perform for students; current options include Star Wars, the Mandalorian theme, and some Bach!

The eight week project will begin with a few weeks of planning, creating a presentation for both in-person and online formats to cater to the needs of as many students as possible. The process of designing and tweaking these presentations will continue to be documented in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back in next week for a new update!

To a brighter tomorrow,

Magnolia Strings