Miss It? Mark It! Practical Advice for Music Practice.

A good rule is that if something is missed twice during music practice, it needs to be marked.

But how exactly is music “marked?” We musicians have a bad habit of using jargon but not explaining it in a clear way. In fact, there are lots of ways to mark music. Here’s one example from a lesson this past week:

I assigned this A-flat major scale to nine year old Nicolette* (names have been changed). At her lesson one week later, she played it for me, but it was a disaster. I asked her to color the flat notes orange then added a pair of eyeglasses to remind her to “watch out!” Finally, I showed Nicolette that the four flats spell the word BEAD. She thought that was funny. Then she played the scale again and only made one tiny mistake. I wish that I had been there to help her earlier in the week. It took a few minutes to mark the music, but would have saved her much practice time. This is a picture of her music after we marked it:

A-flat major scale

ideas for marking during music practice


Parents, you can use color, pictures, and humor to help your kids with tricky music. All music can be marked with pencil. Ask your teacher if it’s OK to use colors on the method books. In future blogs, I’ll show some other ideas for “marking” music. Marking Part 2….  Marking Part 3

The first post

A blog about practice, for musicians and the people who love them.

The first post.

A couple of days ago a Facebook friend posted an article titled “Why Students Really Quit Their Musical Instrument (and How Parents Can Prevent It).” http://www.musicparentsguide.com/2015/02/17/students-really-quit-musical-instrument-parents-can-prevent/ . Among other things, the article suggests that kids quit playing a musical instrument because their parents don’t know how to support their practice.

That’s when I knew that I had something to contribute to the conversation.

You see, I have been a flute teacher for 20 years. Before that, I studied music since the age of 5, earning both Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Flute Performance. Perhaps most importantly, I’m the parent of two children who take music lessons.

Practicing an instrument is something I think about… a lot. It’s something I talk about with other parents whose kids take lessons and it comes up daily in my private studio of flute and recorder students. Adults who take lessons have a lot of the same questions.

“How long should a practice session be?”

“Every day?”

“How exactly do you ‘woodshed’ hard parts?”

“What should I do if the practicing causes anxiety, anger, frustration,…”

“How do I motivate my kid (and/or myself)?”

“Is all this (effort, money, struggle, equipment) worth it?”

“What does the teacher mean when she says I should ‘mark the music'”?

These questions are good ones and the answers deserve thoughtful examination. Search the web and you’ll find lists of things to try, but this blog aims to start a conversation about ideas that are practicalinspiringcreative, grounded in research, and tested in the studio.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re self-taught, learning the instrument at school, the parent of a music student, or taking private lessons, this blog is here to support the very important work that is achieved in the practice room.

Let’s begin, remembering always that the journey is as important as the destination.

Marlene Metz Hartzler

Marlene Metz Hartzler