Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Colour my Vivaldi

I've been a fan of Cuisenaire rods from way back. Their simple use of colour and length to convey numerical value has led my children to many mathematical discoveries. I think the colour attribute cannot be underestimated -- it enhances the identity and meaning of the rods. A brown is four reds. A dark green is two light greens. The colour is integral to how the rods are remembered, understood and communicated about.

Sophie is psyched to polish up the Vivaldi g minor violin concerto. It's a huge work for an 8-year-old to self-teach. (I confess that she has been doing the majority of her practicing without my help for almost a year now. She's way too young for this, according to the Suzuki party line, and I know she'd be progressing faster if I could be there with her every day, but she does pretty well, and enjoys her practicing more, this way. And I like to think that she's learning some problem-solving skills and diligence that she wouldn't otherwise.)

Anyway, in her lessons she's still doing polishing work on the preceding pieces, and technical work on bow-arm and tone issues. But she's been given permission to work ahead now (truth be told she's been working ahead for quite a while now, but until this week without the official sanction of her teacher) and since she's very much enjoying working at this alone, I thought I'd do my best to help her out without interfering with her sense of independence. I tried a technique that I've used before with older, newly-independent-practicing violin students and it seems to help them deal with big challenges efficiently in manageable chunks.

I photocopied the whole piece (hurray for my photocopier!) and then used scissors to chop it up into logical sections of a few lines. I glued each section onto the centre of a different coloured sheet of construction paper. Above and below and all over the sheet, with arrows pointing to the relevant notes and phrases, I wrote practice suggestions, tips and ideas. I added as much humour as possible so that my ideas wouldn't come across as an attempt to micro-manage and prescribe. Comments like "Oy, yet another 4th finger vibrato note!" or "don't let yourself be won over to the dark side!" and "first, practice 400,000 times with stopped slurs".

Then I hole-punched the construction paper sheets and tied them together in a booklet. The booklet lies flat on the stand, but you can only see one section at once. That's the whole idea. Now the vast first movement is in eight coloured sections, each with its own personality and set of challenges. I can't say for sure whether this will work well for Sophie, though it's been very successful with other students I've tried it on, and I love doing it for myself! Sophie likes the idea, so I think it will likely be helpful.

1 comment:

  1. Gee, I'm trying to imagine this!

    It sounds like a lot of work, but certainly helps a child who needs to learn to practice in sections.

    I've done something similar for our 8yo boy who needed to polish up his Etude for his Erhu exam, and also b/c it has to be played memorised. But the closest I came to your "job" was to "cut" it up with coloured pens and name the sections "I, J, K, L" and "A, B, C, D":

    For our 10yo who's currently working on Bach Concerto in A-minor, he didn't want me to mark his score nor help him in anyway, but he took my suggestion to break up his score in manageable portions. So his sections "A,B,C,D" are invisible to others. Only he knows. But he does work on them individually . I sort of recognise them from his practices, that's all.


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