Dr. Suzuki famously said “Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill.” Repetition is the key to useful practice, but there is another important aspect of practice time - fun! After all, Dr. Suzuki also said “An unlimited amount of ability can develop when parent and child are having fun together.” Here are some ideas on how to keep repetition fun for your child, no matter their age!
For younger students or beginners:
Play the piece like an animal. Play like a whale (big, heavy, deep tone), a hummingbird (light, airy, quickly) or whatever other animal your child likes! Discuss what traits each animal has and how to evoke them on the instrument.
Add a pause button. I usually tell my students that the top of their head is their pause button. Tap them on the head randomly as they play their piece. When you tap them they have to pause until you unpause them, and continue the piece from where they left off.
For older or advanced students:
Make up new fingerings. This is a great way to practice intonation in higher positions, or alternate ways to play open string notes. Aim to keep musical integrity while playing with this.
Practice with special challenges. Some examples: play only in the lower or upper half of the bow, play using only your right hand pointer, middle and thumb, play without using one of your strings, play with a certain articulation like accents, legato, or tremolo (while keeping the musical integrity of the piece.) You can target these to whichever techniques your child is working on in lessons as an added repetition of that as well.
For all ages:
Start one string lower. This works best for those of us with even intervals between strings, since the finger patterns remain the same.
Make up a story that the piece tells, and discuss how to emote it while playing! Try out different stories to see what suits the piece.
Play while keeping your eyes closed, or fixed on a certain place (left hand, right hand, a picture on the wall, etc). This can be a good way to gamify bringing your child’s focus to a certain aspect of their technique.
Do a distraction practice. This one is especially useful when a performance is approaching. The practice partner tries to distract the student while they’re playing by making disruptive noises or distracting motions. Your child’s goal is to stay focused and keep playing.
Whatever your child’s age, dreary winter days are the perfect time to introduce a new game. Happy practicing!