Issue 34: Olympic Practising

The athletes competing at the Olympics will have got there through spending hours and hours working on the different elements of their sport.

In one way, playing an instrument is exactly the same as learning as sport. It is about learning the physical skills which are required in the same way that a footballer learns to dribble a football, a tennis player learns to serve, or a basketball player learns how to shoot goals. Sports players do drills at their training sessions to work on particular elements, and in the same way, instrumentalists do exercises to work on particular elements of technique.

Might the Olympic season might be a good opportunity to encourage your students to practise the relevant technical exercises by relating them to various sports? I’m thinking especially of Wider Opportunities classes, where many of the children might have no real reason for wanting to play the instrument other than the school having decided to buy in Wider Opportunities.

Designing up a set of  “instrumental Olympics” might encourage these children to participate more fully. The obvious sports could included marathon running (playing a longish piece at a steady jog), sprinting (who can play the exercise the fastest, once you have learned it properly), swimming (legato phrases), long jump (a phrase with a  rhythmic pattern of short and long notes), high jump (a phrase involving an approach to a higher note).  There’s an opportunity for the children to compose their own “Olympic tunes” here as well.

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