The Rhy-No Practice Technique
Phyllis: “ClarinetMike! The All-State Music is hard! I don’t know how to work on it!”
ClarinetMike: “Don’t panic Phyllis. Just spend quality time with the Practice Rhy-No.”
One of the most important things that a music teacher needs to do is to teach students how to practice and prepare music. A few years ago I came up with a simple system: The Rhy-No Practice Technique. Originally designed for young students, I have found this technique to be very helpful with all my students’ (and my own!) music preparation.
The system is simple – just break a short passage into two parts: rhythm and notes. Work on each part separately and slowly, and then put them together. Hence, Rhythm-Notes or Rhy-No Practice!
Here’s how Rhy-No Practice works:
1. Pick out a hard passage – a measure or two.
2. Clap (or sing) the rhythm of the passage. Go as slowly as needed to accurately learn the counting. A metronome is essential, of course.
3. Play the notes of the passage without rhythm very slowly and deliberately.(If students don’t understand this, just have them play all notes as slow steady half notes.) Concentrate on finger movement, tone quality, note connections, etc. Repeat several times making sure that all notes speak well and there are no breaks in sound – esp. “Over The Break.”
4. Sing, then Play the passage with rhythm and notes combined as written.
It seems to help my students to sing the passage as best they can after Step 3 above, i.e. before playing it in Step 4. Make sure students at least get the rhythm correct when singing – singing on pitch is not important here. When doing this in lessons, some students are often shy to sing. So, I sing with them loudly. This generally encourages them to sing, at least a little!
I strongly encourage you to freely combine the Rhy-No Practice Technique with other practice methods. Also, make sure to include dynamics as much as possible.
NOTE: The above image is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceratotherium_simum_kwh_2.jpg
[The above is a slightly revised version of a previous blog post.]