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Slow down! Using apps to make "slow" practicing fun

When my Suzuki families arrive for their lesson, there's plenty of hustle and bustle and amusing life updates. My 7-year old student proudly exclaims, "Guess what! I watched 'The Walking Dead' and I wasn't scared at all!" Mom quickly chimes in with an explanation, "She saw it at the neighbor's house when she knew she wasn't allowed to..." The spirited back-and-forth goes on for minute or so, until I redirect them to the task at hand. We take a moment of silence right before our bow, after which, I ask the same question that I ask at the start of every lesson: "How was practice this week?"

Most of the time, this is where the student proudly announce that they practiced every day or Mom pulls out the practice chart filled with stickers. Every once in a while, the student turns slowly and purposefully toward their parent. They eyeball each other, silently trying to pass off the responsibility of answering the question. Finally, Mom caves and a whirlwind explanation filled with frustration and exasperation comes pouring out. "She wants to practice everything too fast and I keep telling her to slow down, but when we listen to the CD, it's so fast! How can they expect us to play that fast?"

The great debate of practicing fast vs. slow. The great violinist, Itzhak Perlman, says,

"If you practice something slowly, you forget it slowly.

If you practice something fast, you forget it fast."

I couldn't agree more! (Note to self: Print this and put it on the studio wall)

But how do you get your child to want to practice slowly? When I was a kid, speeding along with the CD was my favorite part of playing. Frankly, I hated practicing slowly. So, I propose a compromise. Play with the CD slowed down. I present to you my new favorite app: Tempo SlowMo - the app that slows down (and speeds up) music.

It's really easy to use and makes practicing slowly (and review!) way more fun! Just grab your iPhone and a bluetooth speaker to blast your tunes. Think of it as channeling your inner rock star. :)

This app can be a little difficult to explain, so check out the screen shots below for reference.

Step 1: Click the music note in the upper right hand corner

Step 2: Select where you're getting your music from. If it's iTunes, click the top button that looks like an old school iPod.

Step 3: Select the song from your iTunes library

Step 4: Place your finger on the bright light on the circle and spin it around to reach your desired tempo. Going counterclockwise makes the tempo slower, and going clockwise makes it faster.

Step 5: Hit play (the triangle in the middle of the circle)

Other features: If you swipe from left to right, you'll be able to skip to different points in the track.

So next time your child is speeding through their review pieces, have them put on a concert where you choose the tempo. Record the concert and send it to your teacher (As a teacher, I assure you, it makes my day!) Of course, don't forget to keep them on their toes and alternate between sensible tempos and absolutely ridiculous ones. If you're trying to speed up to a goal tempo for a recital, you can keep track of your progress by logging your "speed". Keep it light and have fun.

Happy practicing!

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