How Can Paper Clips Prepare for Positive Performances?

Are you planning a holiday recital? Looking for a way to create confident performances for all your students? Me too... You might recall a recent post about practice pouches? As I roamed the aisles of the office supply store for the perfect products to include in the practice pouches for my pianists , I ran across paper clips. Not just the common silver paper clips, but the purple, blue, green, black, and pink coated paper clips. As I collected items in my cart, I continued to conjure up a reason why these paper clips could be essential to the pouches and my students' practice.

After some contemplation, it became clear. As you may notice, I have an affection for color --remember, it's not all black and white--see tag above--and here's my blog about color coding assignments.  As students prepare for the upcoming Christmas recital I ask them to isolate, concentrate on and listen for a specific music element such as articulation or dynamics. So, each element has now been designated a color. To remind students of the color for each element, I created a laminated card with the terms in color, and students store the paper clips on the card in their practice pouch and can refer to it if they forget what a color indicates.  When it is obvious dynamics need to be addressed within a certain piece, I fasten a black paper clip on the page and write "dynamics" by the paper clip.  Some of the benefits of using this strategy?

1) Students now remember what I mean when I say "look for and add all articulations"--one of those scary, long words has now become a regular word in their musical vocabulary!

2) The paper clips remain on the page until the teacher declares the element mastered throughout the entire piece. This visual record of what has been discussed shows proof that yes, it SHOULD be mastered as we have talked about this before. Ahem, do any of your students suffer from the "sorry-I-forgot syndrome"? Now there's no more reason to have excuses! If the paper clip is still there, that element STILL needs attention during home practice.

3) The eventual subtraction of paper clips by the teacher keeps pianists aware of accomplishments. Nothing motivates practice more than when progress is apparent and there's an added incentive: music money! Every time a paper clip is permanently removed, the pianist receives $50.

4) From the picture to the left you might be able to see that one of the elements is CREATE. At some point I will make sure to assign students to create an original intro or coda for the piece, isolate a brief chord progression on which to improvise or create a small variation on the main theme. Encouraging students' creativity provides a brain break away from the demands of the printed page. Many of these creative additions are so good, they become part of the students' performances.

FYI: I keep a storage of extra paper clips nearby as there seems to never be enough.

Since implementing the paper clip plan, wouldn't you know, I've come up with more elements to add--fingering (how could I forget!) and pedaling. Here are the new cards I'll be implementing soon.

Here's the cards for the paper clips: Paper Clip Cards

Here's the practice pouch info for the back side of the cards: Practice Pouch Info.

Don't forget to pack your pianists' practice pouches with these paper clip cards!

The best to you and your studio as you refine the art of practicing and

prepare for upcoming holiday performances.

Stay tuned for Part III of this series "Practice Pouches" coming soon.

PS: enjoy your trip to the office supply store. Personally, one of my favorite places to be besides my piano.