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Practice Pointers: Work Zones

It seems these days that regardless of the time of year, there’s one thing you can count on when driving: sooner or later, you’re going to encounter those orange barrels and cones that signal you’ve entered a work zone. Those are the places where a pothole needs to be filled, new pavement needs to be laid down, or perhaps even an entirely new roadway need to be constructed. We brace ourselves for a delay, slowing down or maybe even coming to a complete standstill. And although we may dislike the inconvenience, the end result of a better driving surface is almost always worth the pain.

Sometimes a student will encounter a problem spot when learning a piece. It may be a short area of just a measure or so, or maybe a longer section. Fingerings may be difficult, rhythm may be tricky, or maybe some of the notes are new and harder to recognize. Whatever the problem may be, one thing is clear: the student has found their “pothole!”

This is the time for a student to create a “work zone” in the piece, a place where they need to slow down, maybe even stop, and work for a while. In our lessons, we have a couple of different ways to mark work zones:

Highlighter tape

This stuff is terrific! Each student has one roll of this in their Practice Kit. It comes in a multitude of colors and looks just like regular tape. However, it acts like a highlighter when it’s applied to the page, so the notes beneath are still visible. Students can mark areas where they need an extra reminder, such as accidentals, or places where they need to give special attention when practicing. They can even write on the tape. And here’s the best part: it’s completely removable! When they no longer need the reminder, they simply remove the tape. Pretty clever, right?

Highlighter tape - one of my favorite practice tools!

Post It Notes

Another easy way to mark work zones is to use small Post It Notes. This is also something each student has in their Practice Kit. Using two Post Its, mark the beginning and end of the work zone. This helps students visually block out the measures around the zone that could be distracting. One thing that I especially like about this method is that the zone can be very, very small at first, and then gradually expanded. In the example below, perhaps the focus could be on just the last measure of the zone at first, then moved back one measure at a time until the entire section has been practiced thoroughly.

Post It Notes - easy to move, easy to use

We’ll talk more about what to do when practicing the work zones in a future post. Take a look at your child’s music and see if you find any work zones marked. Ask them what they’re doing to “fix” them.

And then, hopefully the work zone markings will eventually be removed when the student has “repaired” the problem. Just like those pesky orange barrels.

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