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  • Tuesday Tips: How to Practice, Part III: Time Management by Dan McGuide

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Sep 13, 2022

    Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of “Time Management."

    With the concept of “Triage” in place (see Part II), the next step is teaching students how to approach practice time for each category of material. I often have students tell me they practiced for an hour but then, after asking them to break down what they did, find out that they spent 45 minutes working on their fulcrum and only 15 minutes on their music. While this can be okay for a short span of time, it will stymie the student’s improvement long-term.

    Given the context of a 30-minute practice schedule, following is a suggestion as to how that time might be used. As the teacher, you can adjust these numbers to whatever you feel is most appropriate for a given student or ensemble.

    • 5 minutes: Focus on one technique issue using a known exercise.
    • 15 minutes: “Chest Pain” assignment. This is the primary focus for the practice session.
    • 10 minutes: “Broken Bone” assignment. This is something due in the future that needs to be consistently worked on.

    It should be noted that, with only 30 minutes of practice, it will be difficult to get through all three stages of “Triage.” Sometimes students will be hard-pressed to find 15 minutes for practice; other times they might be able to spend over an hour. Utilizing this concept will help them to be efficient in however much time they have, allowing them to feel successful and stay engaged in your ensemble.

    Dan McGuireDan McGuire is Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of The PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have garnered honors such as winning the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire served as Vice-President the Tennessee PAS Chapter from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

  • Tuesday Tips: How to Practice Part II: Triage by Dan McGuire

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Aug 09, 2022

    Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of “Triage.”

    Every day, students must make decisions on how to best utilize their practice time. A fundamental understanding of this approach is that no student can work on everything every day. Younger students in particular can easily become overwhelmed with the volume of material they must learn. This necessitates the ability of students to prioritize assignments so they can continue to improve over time.

    For this analogy we will prioritize our practice time in a similar fashion as an emergency room must prioritize their patients. We have three tiers: chest pain, broken bone, paper cut.

    CHEST PAIN
    This is the assignment that is due soonest and/or has the highest priority. This is what the students will spend most of their time practicing.

    BROKEN BONE
    This material is important but not critical. This is the “touch on every day” material, or assignments that require a long-term investment of time to master.

    PAPER CUT
    These are assignments that are not due in the immediate future and do not require a long-term investment of time to master.

    By teaching students to prioritize their assignments, you can help your students feel successful in class and keep them motivated. The next article in in this series will use this concept to help students proactively plan their practice session so that they use their time efficiently.

    Dan McGuireDan McGuire serves as Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of the PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and performing at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have garnered honors such as winning the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire was on the board of the Tennessee PAS Chapter, serving as Vice-President from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

  • Tuesday Tips: How to Practice Part I: Tools for Success by Dan McGuire

    by Rhythm Scene Staff | Jul 12, 2022

    Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of having the “Tools for Success.”

    Have you ever had students come into class or a lesson and not be appreciably better than the last time you saw them? This can certainly be due to a lack of effort on their part. There are times, however, when students are putting in the time but are not getting better. This means that there is something wrong with the way they are practicing. The following are two critical tools that can help every student practice effectively when used correctly.

    METRONOME
    Rhythms, at their core, are sound expressed in mathematical ratios in time.  In order to understand how rhythms relate, a student must first have a method for determining accurate time. Do you have students who can consistently land on the downbeats but the rhythm isn’t even? Make sure they are using subdivisions. This is another critical function of a metronome: teaching students how different rhythms relate to one another in time.

    RECORDING DEVICE
    A recording device with immediate playback has consistently made the biggest difference in student achievement for those I work with, especially at younger ages. Listening accurately whilst playing, reading music, and thinking about things to improve is extremely difficult. By using a smart phone or tablet to record themselves, they can focus exclusively on their performance of the given section of music, then come back moments later to evaluate. As an added bonus, many metronome apps will also play while recording, allowing the student to hear the metronome during playback.

    The recording device can also be used as a mirror. For example, a student playing a simple exercise can use the device to work on having their sticks come up to the same height consistently. By identifying something behind the sticks, such as a line or graphic on their shirt, they can evaluate this facet of their playing without the need for a mirror.

    By equipping your students with these tools, and teaching them how to utilize them properly, you can ensure that your students feel a sense of accomplishment after every practice session.

    Dan McGuireDan McGuire serves as Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of the PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and performing at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have won the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire was on the Board of the Tennessee PAS Chapter, serving as Vice-President from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

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