My nearly nine year old son and I like to practice in the morning before school. It is nice to have practice accomplished before the day even really begins. Additionally, at the end of the day when we’re exhausted and hungry and dinner needs to be made, homework accomplished, and screen time is begged for, we don’t have to negotiate practice as well. The morning schedule requires that we both get to bed on time so we can get up about half an hour earlier than required to get to the bus. The time we practice is finite, which means I don’t have the option to keep coming up with interesting things to try and my son doesn’t worry that practice might go on forever. We follow a workout routine and do as much as we can until it is time to brush teeth and dash for the bus. The morning practice is less stressful for both of us. Here’s an example of our morning practice routine.
1. Warm up with a review piece. We try to do one or two every day.
2. Work on specific exercises to learn the tricky measures in the new piece. We do the exercise 10 times – 10 times correctly played. Sometimes the exercise is a scale or arpeggio, sometimes it is a tricky bowing technique, a new rhythm, or tricky left hand finger pattern. We play the tricky measures backwards or using a bowing other than what is marked, or standing on one foot or holding the bow upside down, or whatever else we can come up with. I try to mention what the next day’s workout will be after we complete the current day’s work out. Isolating and mastering the tricky parts in the new piece before tackling the piece as a whole means we’ll learn the new piece quicker and not try to combine learning the tricky parts with developing musicality.
3. Play through the last finished piece. We try to remember what didn’t work well the prior day and try to fix it in the play through on the current day.
On weekends when we have more time, we might add in a duet or some sight reading or improvisation practice as well. Whenever we are in the car together, we listen to the current and new piece and sometimes review pieces. If it is a long ride in the car we also listen to pieces that we will work on as much as a year or two later. Weekday morning practice goes for 15 – 25 minutes.