Winter Practice Challenge: Choose Your Own Adventure!

Saturday, December 14, 2019 by Rylin Erickson | Uncategorized

Hi Students! Read on for all the details on our (optional) Winter Practice Challenge!

WHO: all students who are enrolled in Uncaged Musicians classes for both Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 sessions

WHAT: it's a little different from last year so please read all the words. ;-) In the Practice Log page of your student portal, post an entry every time you complete one of the items on your Adventures list (see below).

WHEN: December 14th, 2019 - January 4th, 2020

WHERE: your car, grandma's house, a tent in the woods, an airplane, the comfort of your own home... Anywhere you find yourself this month!

WHY: many reasons! Establishing/maintaining a solid practice, listening, and video watching routine; preparation for spring classes; fluency with navigating the student portal; a window for me into your setup at home; and a chance to receive feedback during the break between sessions, to name some of the more tangible. Also, the arguably more important long-term benefits: a marked increase in joy, skills maintenance, and self confidence resulting from this careful attention to practice over time.

HOW: choose your own adventure, complete it, go to the "Practice Log" page in your student portal, click "+ Add Time," and enter both the duration and details as to what specifically was practiced, listened to, sent via video, or watched. Please let me know if you have any questions! *Logging is the responsibility of the parent/student; while you will still receive all of the benefits listed above if you participate without logging, prizes will only be offered to those who have logged their results.

PRIZES? Yes! As you are all probably aware, intrinsic motivation is more effective for student learning than extrinsic, which is why I do not tend to offer much in the way of prizes/rewards/trophies/etc. throughout the year. For this reason, the bar is intentionally low for student prizes: all students will receive a small participation prize if they log at least one practice, one listening, one current piece video watching, and send one video of practicing at home. Additionally, because students who practice are more rewarding to teach, like in years past I will be offering tuition discounts (for Summer 2020) to all who complete the Basic Challenge (25 Adventures) and the Above And Beyond Challenge (50 Adventures).


Q: We'll be out of town the whole time. Can we still participate?
A: As long as you have the ability to do at least one of each type (playing, listening, watching, and sending me a video) you can do all of the rest of your Adventures from one category. So if you have the ability to listen to your recording wherever you are vacationing, then yes, you can participate!

Q: 25-50 Adventures?!? Winter break is only a few weeks! How is that possible?
A: You can do more than one Adventure in a day! Students already accustomed to practicing several pieces in one sitting can easily tear through consecutive, concurrent, or overlapping adventures.

Q: Is participation mandatory?
A: Participation is completely optional.

Q: I forgot to log something! Can I get caught up?
A: As long as you know the date, amount of time, and other details to be logged, you can post retroactively it in your online Practice Log.

Q: I want to go screen free for the break. Can I log this on paper instead?
A: If your paper log includes all pertinent information (date, duration, and any relevant details) you are welcome post it retroactively into your online Practice Log before the challenge ends. Paper logs cannot be handed in, however; only information posted in your online Practice Log on or before January 4th will be accepted for the challenge.

Q: I have a question not addressed here. What should I do?
A: text, email, or call to ask it! If the student has a question about a particular spot in a piece, you can also take a video of them playing that spot and/or asking me the question themselves.

Winter Practice Challenge: Adventures List

(You may wish to print this list out for easier reference)

Listening & Watching

  • Listen to your current piece(s) while moving (swaying, marching, tapping hands or feet, etc.)
  • Listen to the next piece(s) coming up in your book while moving (swaying, marching, tapping hands or feet, etc.)
  • Listen to a whole book/album while doing a silent activity that allows you to listen (arts/crafts, cleaning, quiet play)
  • Listen to recordings or watch a video of at least three different people playing your current piece
  • Listen to recordings or watch a video of at least three different people playing an upcoming piece
  • Watch a professional musician (live or on video); write down (a parent can write for younger kids) the piece/song name, musician's name, and your impressions of the performance (if this is short, include it in your log! If it's longer, email the full version and log a brief version)


  • Make a Sandwich: play through your whole piece (or a large section of a larger piece), identify a small (2 notes to 2 measures long) hard spot, play that hard spot *correctly* at least as many times as you are years old (so a 7 year old plays it 7+ times correctly), and then play the whole piece/section again. Variations on the "Sandwich" filling: play it correctly twice as many times as incorrectly; work on it until you have done your age number consecutively without errors in between; play 2-3 notes correctly your age number of times, then 4-7 notes the same number, and so on, zooming out gradually.
  • The Backwards Method: play the last few notes/measure/phrase of the piece (or large section of a longer piece) until it goes well. Back up a few notes/measure/phrase and play from there to the end. Repeat until you are at the beginning of the piece (or large section, for longer pieces)
  • Adagio, Andante, Allegro: play a whole piece (or large section of a longer piece) Adagio (very slowly), then Andante (medium), and finally Allegro (fast). Be in "performance mode" each time; "performance mode" means you play through without stopping no matter what happens, trying to camouflage any mistakes on the fly if possible but otherwise just letting mistakes go and carrying on with the piece.
  • Piano, Mezzo Forte, Fortissimo: play each *phrase* (phrases are often 2-4 measures long; ask if you're unsure) of a piece (or large section of a longer piece) three times; once piano (quiet), once mezzo forte (medium), and once fortissimo (very loud). Then play the whole piece once through with hugely varying dynamics (volume).
  • Popcorn and Pudding: play a whole piece (or large section of a longer piece) through once completely staccato (disjointed, more percussive articulation with silence between notes) and once completely legato (smoothly connected). Note: this Adventure is intended for students Sparklers level or higher who know how to do both staccato and legato!
  • Morning, Noon, and Night: practice a piece (or large section of a longer piece) three times in one day spaced apart by a few hours (i.e., 9am, 1pm, and 5pm or similar)

Sending Videos

  • Send me a short video of you playing one of your current pieces and I will either offer feedback or check off the piece as completed