Practicing with Technology

"I'm not a fan of this video homework stuff Ms Joy. This gives you two opportunities a week to tell me I suck and I am only paying you for one...." 
- Belle (15 yr old cello student studying with me 6 years. If in my cello studio witticisms were a John Wayne film, she would be the fastest gun in the West)

This past semester I decided to start assigning my young cellists video homework. Each week they take home an assignment that must be recorded on their phones/iPads and emailed or texted to mine. Although this has not been my most popular ingenious idea, it has been one of my most effective. Musicians spend a whole lot of time with their instruments each day, and this makes it very easy to press the cruise control button (or autopilot setting if you will) when you have scheduled blocks of time for practice sessions. Using video to record their playing, and then critiquing it, helps the student and even the professional set specific goals for their practice so that precious minutes and hours are not wasted. I find that in my own practicing, making use of this technology has not only improved my cello playing, but it has significantly sped up the rate in which I learn new music and increased the length of time in which I can stay 100% concentrated. Now despite what my students might imagine, I do not assign them recording homework so that I can listen to their beautiful playing on my Sunday afternoons ;) My goal is that they watch themselves throughout the week and learn to be their own teachers, perfecting every measure and every note. I find that this can also have the added benefit of dealing with performance anxiety. When students watch themselves on recorded tape play a certain difficult passage several times throughout the week, it gives them the added assurance that they can be successful the next time they tackle it: whether it is in front of an audience or just a very picky cello teacher.