Friday, May 5, 2017

Get Unstuck with The Random Game!

Post 5 of 31 for May 2017!

I'm so proud of Chapter 8 in The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion, in which I collected 100 Practice Games for common practice challenges like learning new music, achieving performance tempos, gaining muscle memory and more. 

Today's post includes a Practice Game that didn't make it into the book but happens to be one of my favorite teaching and practicing tools. It's very simple and about 99% of the time effective!

Imagine a lesson in which your student begins making the silliest mistakes imaginable. It's as if they've never played this part before. It's as if they've never read music before! In the past, I would have tried to immediately "unpack" the problem and coach them through a practice solution. Now, my very first go-to practice game is The Random Game.

Here's how it goes:

Student surprises me by playing something very badly.

I realize that this normally sane person has had a temporarily insane moment, indicating brain overload or fatigue. 

Me: Let's take a brain break! What did you have for breakfast yesterday? 

Student (after a somewhat dazed and confused moment): Oh, um... a bagel. 

Me: That sounds yummy! What kind of bagel?

I keep prompting them to describe their breakfast in greater detail until it's clear to me that their mind is completely off the original playing problem. 

When I ask a student to play again after we've played The Random Game, it's such fun to see how easily the problem has melted away! It's such a fast and effective tool, it's become a regular part of my lessons. 

In order to use The Random Game well, I am sensitive to the following things:

1 - How big of a break the student may need. 
2 - How long it takes them to get their mind of the playing problem.

If needed, I add other questions like "What is 17 X 3?" or "What was the last movie you saw?" These are my traditional questions for a nice brain reboot! 

To use The Random Game yourself, I highly recommend taking one or two minutes to play a game you like on your phone, making progress on a Sudoku or Crossword puzzle, or some other activity that uses brain power in a way that feels different from playing your flute. My favorite phone game for this activity is Brain Dots :-). 

Clarification: If you pay attention, it's usually pretty easy to tell when a practice problem is a TRUE practice problem or just a brain glitch. The Random Game is extremely handy for brain glitches, but for true practice problems I would head to Chapter 8 of The Aspiring Flutist's Practice Companion to find a practice game that works for you. 

Happy Practicing!
Terri Sànchez

P.S. If you've been following my posts in May so far, you know I'm posting every day this month so that I can raise awareness and support for the Maverick Flute Choir trip to NFA this summer. My students will be working so hard to fundraise money and any help you can provide will be much appreciated!!

To check out their GoFundMe campaign, click HERE. Thanks!!