Making Technical Work InterestingOne of the hardest things to motivate students to play at home is technical work. Without question, any educator will agree that developing technical skills is an essential part of the daily practice routine. Students need to be reminded that there is a purpose behind technical work. Scales and arpeggios of all kinds are used in every style of music from Classical to Jazz to Rock.
Below is a list of suggestions that may be useful in motivating and encouraging students to play technical exercises at home.
1. Firstly, remember you are not simply practising but “playing” through the exercises. Tone and articulation should be considered as well as trying different rhythmic patterns (see Examples 1 and 2).
2. Always analyse the key signature of any exercise you are about to play and, as in the case of modes, minor scales and blues scales for example, if there are any accidentals.
3. Use a metronome to develop rhythmic evenness. Always start with a slower tempo and gradually build up the speed. Turn this into an on going challenge.
4. Articulation patterns are important and exercises should be played with a variety of patterns.
5. Play the exercises with a variety of rhythms:
Example 2: with Triplets
6. Learn how to play the exercises on a keyboard instrument as well.
7. Use the keyboard to play the tonic chord of the scale/arpeggio and then play the exercise on your instrument. (For transposing instruments this helps with learning how to transpose)
8.Practising a scale "incrementally" helps students learn difficult exercises a note at a time making it easier to memorise the pattern:
9. Start from the top and go down.
10. Begin scales on a note other than the tonic.
11. Use band backings to make the experience more interesting and practical.
Here’s a link to a sample from the Get Jamming Beginners books as an example.
12. While working on your improvisation, include the exercises in your solos. Start by adding only 2 or 3 notes of the scale/arpeggio and then gradually add more notes as you go. Remembering to add articulation, rhythmic and expressive variety.
13. Most students have access to mobile phones and media devices with recording capabilities. Record yourself playing the exercises and listen to how accurate you have been.
· Start slowly to allow the fingers to "learn" where they need to go.
· Consider your tone. Aim at creating an evenness of tone.
· Set goals. Give yourself a deadline to learn a particular exercise by and establish clear goals. (Eg. Bb Melodic Minor by the 23rd June, as 16th notes at 80 bpm, all slurred)
· Make it fun. Importantly, make playing technical work interesting and challenging at the same time.
Good luck with it and enjoy your playing!