Making Practice Fun and
"Deliberate Practice"

They work together:

Continuing in this series about deliberate practice, and what making practice fun has to do with this - I discovered a marvelous resource for piano students, a great teacher by the name of ILINCA VARTIC.  But before I point you to her site, I'd like you to read the following, from her introductory report:

"Piano playing doesn’t have to be a continuous struggle. It doesn’t have to be boring, lifeless and it certainly doesn’t have to be painful and full of stress. [...]

"There are many things - I call them magic ingredients - that can bring a spark of life and a sense of fulfillment to your daily practice and your performances.

"One of them is correct phrasing.

"Unfortunately, phrasing is often neglected or misinterpreted by most piano beginners and intermediates (and their teachers). However, this little ingredient can make the difference between a mechanical, raw and boring performance and a beautiful, meaningful and captivating one.

"Piano phrasing is not difficult: things seem difficult only when we lack the proper information. Phrasing gets easy and FUN once you understand the basics! [< emphasis mine]

"That’s what I plan to do – reveal the basics of correct phrasing and spice up the recipe with several secrets which will considerably simplify your practice!

~ Ilinka Vartic

Consider this: One naturally desires to do pleasurable things, rather than unpleasant things. The quest for pleasure is very strong in a human being, and can drive behavior more strongly than the avoidance of pain.. Witness the zeal with which dirt bikers and football players attack their sports, without much heed to pain or injury.

Now, learning, according to ‘enlightened’ teachers and educators is also supposed to be and intended to be a pleasurable experience.  There are innumerable works published which reflect this basic idea.  The “taught to the tune of a hickory stick” days are, hopefully, long past.

This is especially true in music education and training - research shows that one learns much faster and retains more readily when the attainment of pleasure - in other words making practice fun - is part and parcel of the practice routine.

Of course, one is going to want to be as present and as ‘into it’ as possible if something fun is going on, right?  This also has to do with ‘mindful’ or ‘deliberate’ practice - being as personally aware as possible while practicing, not just moving one’s fingers, bored to death and just ‘trying to get through it’.

So, let’s take a look at this idea in action: Here is one of Ilinca’s videos - you’ll see that she is very personable, not boring, threatening or overbearing, and that she herself obviously finds true joy in the music and in conveying the knowledge of how to play piano beautifully.  In other words - she provides a great example of making practice fun.

Here’s Ilinca Vartic:

Ok, as promised, here's the link to her excellent site - the 'scales' page, with the above video explained with full data on the numerous benefits of applying scale exercises correctly:

To sum up: I'm very happy to have run across her site. [By the way: I have no "affiliation" with it, in case you were wondering. - Just happy to pass the info along.]  Do visit there and take her advice, watch her videos, download her free pdf, and even sign up for her master classes.  You can see she knows her business.  Enjoy!

Here are some more resources for making practice FUN:

And, to recap the earlier pages:




Also, to help you get started on this right away, here are some more great deliberate practice resources for you to investigate:

Data on CREATIVITY you will also like:

And while were at it, let's kill the "inner critic"!

David Grisman [above] uses "The Original" Cowling System:

Hand Strengthening Exercises for Musicians -

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"The Cowling System © is a set of 12 exercises designed to increase the flexibility and strength of the hand, wrist, and fingers.

"I bought the course in 1978 and have found them to be invaluable.

"I've kept them all these years and still use them to warm up with before playing."

~ Richard Barton posted on VIOLINIST.COM



‎"My fingers actually DO what my brain tells them to do, WITHOUT getting confused."

~ Anthony Jerome Smith, 35-year veteran bass player.



"In 1976, my teacher gave me his copy of all the exercises, whereupon I made xeroxed pages to put in a binder.

"My teacher was amazed at my progress that in a year I could play, for example, the prelude #17 of Chopin!

~ "RPN58" (from a pianists' discussion board in England, 2006)



"I was introduced to the Cowling System © in the 1980's by a violinist in his seventies, who had amazing dexterity on his instrument for HIS age.

"Through the use of the COWLING SYSTEM ©, I went from "amateur" to an "A" level in music in a very short number of years.

"I have been using the exercises continuously since my friend gave them to me and believe me - THEY WORK."

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"I must say I am highly delighted with the way my fingering has improved since I commenced your hand strengthening exercises.

"Recently, I became very depressed about my playing and almost decided to give it up, but now I feel it's a pleasure, thanks to the Cowling System. ©"

~ "THE VIOLINIST" Magazine, December, 1924

I'd love to see YOUR testimonial on this list! If you really do "THE ORIGINAL" COWLING SYSTEM © of Hand Strengthening Exercises", you CAN master and truly enjoy your music!


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