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Ideas on Learning

How to practice when you don’t feel it

As much as I love to run and bike, there are days that I really don’t feel it. I’m busy. I’m tired. On those days, my wife, Helen, encourages me to “go do a BTN” — a better-than-nothing.

My BTN is a 20-minute walk on a nearby trail.

A BTN has nearly the same benefits for me as normal exercise. It gets me outside, stretches my legs and sets me up for the day. It keeps a routine I enjoy in place. It makes me feel like internal resistance and inertia didn’t win the day.

Practicing music is like exercising. They both require effort and are most effective when they are sustainable.

The first step for good practicing habits is building a routine — a time each day (or a set day or days each week).

For parents of beginning violin students, once you have set upon a routine for music practice, the next important step is coming up with a practice activity that is enjoyable and not depleting. This activity will be a BTN that you can call upon when necessary.

Having a BTN you can do with your child is useful. A few ideas (in order of increasing effort) are:

  1. Listening to songs together (on Spotify or FiddleQuest, for instance) that your child will be learning.

  2. Clapping along with the songs.

  3. Bowing along with the songs.

  4. Singing along with the songs.

  5. Playing a song that has already been completed.

The BTN needs to be enjoyable for both the parent and the child. Having an activity you can count on that you can do together will give you a foundation for practicing that you can return to on low-energy days.

In the first year, the most important thing your child is learning is routine. Some days you will both have energy and momentum and other days you need to pull back a little.

That is when a BTN is useful. It is a nice way to connect with your child and to not let inertia win the day.


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