Our journey through the 100 Days of Practice challenge.

100 Days of Cello Practice Challenge

Tessa gave me and my three year old the 100 Days of Practice Challenge at her second cello lesson on Saturday 8th of October. At first I thought “Heck, how on earth are we going to manage that?” as my daughter spends 2 days a week with her grandparents, plus we have a 4 day break planned at Christmas, but on closer inspection of the challenge, there are plenty of things that you can do that constitute music practice even if you are not with at your instrument.


Day 1 (Sunday, 9th of October 2011): The morning after the second cello lesson and there is much excitement in the house. Iris asks to play the cello as soon as she wakes up so the practice session is easy. We then do a jigsaw and listen to Twinkle Twinkle on the Suzuki CD and she happily dances and sings along. This is going to be easy!!

Day 2 (Monday, 10th of October, 2011): The novelty hasn’t worn off yet so another easy morning of practice. We don’t listen to the Suzuki CD today. I should add that a practice session is around 3 minutes for a 3 year old. I also receive an email from the cello teacher saying “You may find that she becomes less enthusiastic about practising as the novelty wears off so ideally you should try and set a regular daily time for cello – routine is the way to make it easier and just a normal part of the day rather than something which is negotiable!”. It’s as if Tessa predicted what would happen tomorrow…

An early morning practice session!

Day 3 (Tuesday, 11th of October, 2011): The novelty of practising each morning has most definitely worn off as I end up negotiating 1 jelly tot at 8am in return for practising if Iris can play her “Tick Tock” correctly on the two highest strings on the cello. This is what she learned in her lesson on Saturday and so far has not managed it until today when the promise of a jelly tot spurs her into action!

We listen to the Suzuki CD about 15 minutes after the practice session. This is met with indifference and Iris asks me to turn it off and put on her phonics DVD instead. As a compromise, I find some Youtube videos of little Suzuki cellists and she is fascinated by their robotic performance and asks to watch it three times.

Day 4 (Wednesday, 12th of October, 2011): Today Iris is with Granddad. He is armed with the Suzuki CD plus is going to practice her rhythm and posture exercise where she copies his actions in a clapping and movement game. This all goes to plan so we tick off another day on the chart. However, since she has seen the Youtube video above, she is not that interested in listening to the CD as it has nothing to look at.

Day 5 (Thursday, 13th of October, 2011):
A very quick practice session today as Iris didn’t really want to practice but I said I would withhold going to Goose Green playground later that morning if she didn’t practice so she managed to do her rhythm and a bit of playing.

Day 5 (Friday, 14th of October, 2011):
Today was a mad rush to get to nursery by 8am so we didnt have time to practice in the morning as we usually do. We are out later in the evening visiting friends so today’s practice session will consist of listening to the Suzuki CD and doing some clapping and rhythm exercises. Iris’ cello lesson is tomorrow afternoon so we will have time to do a practice session in the morning. She is observing her first Suzuki group lesson tomorrow which should be fun!

Day 6 (Saturday, 15th of October, 2011):
As Iris’ cello lesson was later in the afternoon, we used the morning to do a quick practice which was met with some reluctance. However, she really enjoyed her lesson today and had lots of fun watching the group lesson which was 6 little cellists, all around the age of 5. It will be lovely when Iris can join in the with the group sessions.

Day 7 (Sunday, 16th of October, 2011):
Sunday should be a day of rest, but not if you are doing the 100 day challenge! I couldn’t really be bothered supervising any practice today and was going to fob Iris off with some clapping games and listening to the CD as her daily practice. However, she came into the room as I was practising the piano and demanded to play the cello, so we just worked on holding the bow and doing some games as I was a bit pressed for time! If she is not too tired later, I’ll try and do a proper practice session this afternoon.

Tessa Oakley, cello teacherDay 8 (Monday, 17th of October, 2011):
By the time I finished teaching at 7pm, I was too hungry to supervise any cello practice, so Iris listened to Twinkle, Twinkle and this was her day’s ‘practice’!

Day 9 (Tuesday, 18th of October, 2011):
If we don’t practice in the morning, then we rarely manage a proper practice session so we had a 9am practice session which was reasonably successful. I started filming the session halfway so she was pretty fed up by this point but managed to do a bit of “Tick Tock” on the two highest strings. We are making progress!

Day 10 (Wednesday, 19th of October, 2011):
Today is Granddad Day so there was just listening and dancing to Twinkle, Twinkle and watching the Suzuki cellists on Youtube!

Day 11 (Thursday, 20th of October, 2011):
Today is my day off work, so after a bit of lounging around and a late breakfast, Iris asked to do the cello which was great. She practised holding her bow high up in the air with her fingers in the correct place. We then did a recap of the rhythm and clapping games, then she held the cello and launched straight into “Tick Tock” although it was backwards, so more like “Tock Tick!”. This practice session was about 3 minutes from start to finish, including packing and unpacking the cello.

Day 12 (Friday, 21st of October, 2011):
Iris asked to play the cello this morning which always makes my life easier if I don’t have to negotiate. Here is her practice session:

Day 13 (Saturday, 22nd of October, 2011):
Today was lesson day with Tessa. Iris definitely acts up when I’m in the lesson and she didn’t really achieve much today as she kept running over to me and demanding snacks. She gets really distracted when I sit in the room next door when she has her piano lessons so I just drop her off at those and she concentrates much better. With the cello lesson, I may have to sit in the car whilst her dad waits in the room with her as she is never bothersome when she’s with him! I’ll try that next time but I will pop in five minutes from the end so I can jot down what we have to work on at home. Seems a shame to miss out on the lesson but if that’s the only way to get things done, then I’ll try this for a bit.

Iris Smith

Day 14 (Sunday, 23rd of October, 2011):
Sunday morning and Iris is keen to try out the skills she learned yesterday including holding her bow, doing Tick Tock (still the wrong way round) and trying out “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.

Day 15 (Monday, 24th of October, 2011):
On Monday we had to do a long train trip to Maidstone and back to the hospital but we managed to listen to some Twinkle Twinkle, do “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and practice some rhythm on the train. No actual cello practice today!

Day 16 (Tuesday, 25th of October, 2011):
I wasn’t really in the mood to do any practice today after a morning spent chasing goats at the City Farm, but luckily Iris’ cousins came over and she was keen to show off her cello skills, so I combined that with her daily practice requirements and hey presto, job done!

Day 17 (Wednesday, 26th of October, 2011):
Lou had the day off work today, so we both supervised cello practice. This was the longest practice session so far and Iris managed to (just about) get Tick Tock the right way round.

Iris the cello gladiator!

Day 18 (Thursday, 27th of October, 2011):
We were out all day from 8am to 6pm so practice today consisted of going through all the fingers and the name for each one plus singing Twinkle, Twinkle many, many times in the car!

Day 19 (Friday, 28th of October, 2011):
Iris is having a grommet op today, but we have plenty of time to kill whilst waiting for the operation, so we’ll use this as ‘practice time’. Poor mite, there’s no slacking off on the 100 Day Challenge, not even when hospitalised!

Day 20 (Saturday, 29th of October, 2011)
No cello today as it’s half-term but we had a brilliant practice session today. The grommets must have really worked as Iris managed to clap and do tick-tock in time, where previously she has not displayed any sense of rhythm.

Day 21 (Sunday, 30th of October, 2011)
Another good day of practice. We are doing lots of work on holding the bow correctly and she loves the song we do to practice the bow:

Up like a rocket, down like the rain,
backwards and forwards like an express train.
Fly around the world and land on the moon.
Touch my nose with my bendy thumb.

Day 22 (Monday,  31st of October, 2011)
Iris came home from nursery dressed up like a scary pumpkin and did some cello practice in the evening. This is not usually the best time of day for cello practice but she did very well and managed “Up like a rocket” three times as well as tick-tock in time.

Day 23 (Tuesday, 1st of November, 2011)
A somewhat reluctant practice session this morning. I think I should have fed her breakfast first! I might see if I can slot in another practice session before we head out in the morning.

Day 24 (Wednesday, 2nd of November, 2011)
Another day with Granddad so an easy practice session with the Suzuki CD and the Youtube video!

Day 25 (Thursday, 3rd of November, 2011)
I make the effort to do a proper practice session in the morning and although it’s met with a bit of resistance at first, we manage to cover all the required bits and pieces.

Day 26 (Friday, 4th of November, 2011)
We squeeze in a very short practice in the morning before nursery but as the lesson is tomorrow, I’m using that as an excuse for not having done a particularly comprehensive practice session this morning!

Day 27 (Saturday, 5th of November, 2011)
Cello lesson today with Dad as I am off at Steinway Hall playing the piano. It mostly goes well. Iris finds it hard to concentrate for the full 30 minutes so gives up after about 20 minutes. However, this is much longer than we manage at home so it’s fine for now, especially as she is only 3.

Day 28 (Sunday, 6th of November, 2011)
Dad supervises this practice session and all goes swimmingly. Why does she act up with me but not with her dad? Most frustrating!

Day 29 (Monday, 7th of November, 2011)

We don’t do any practice in the morning before Iris goes to nursery, so the practice session by the time I finish work around 8pm consists of listening to her new Suzuki song, Allegro, on her iPod. Not really a proper practice but just about enough to keep the 100 day challenge ticking over!

Day 30 (Tuesday, 8th of November, 2011)
A granddad day although we did a quick sing-song and practising the bow in the morning before heading over to Ealing. A bit of reluctance today about practising whilst at Granddad’s, I think that’s because Iris overloads on CBeebies when she’s with Granddad!

Day 31 (Wednesday, 9th of November, 2011)
Still more reluctance today to do any practice which is a bit frustrating as when Iris is with Granddad, she only has to listen to the Suzuki songs, not actually do any cello practice! I did some song singing when she got home but it was after 8pm and she was a bit grumpy.

Day 32 (Thursday, 10th of November, 2011)
I’m woken up this morning at 7am by Iris demanding to practice her cello, although she then swiftly tries to negotiate for a sweetie so there is an ulterior motive! She knows the words for ‘Bobby Shaftoe’ and ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ which is good that she can sing along with me. We manage a couple of songs with the bow but only a swift practice with the cello as she then starts demanding TV!

Day 33 (Friday, 11th of November, 2011)
Today was a brief practice session as I was absolutely knackered by the time Iris got back from nursery yet I still had to head over to the Beckenham Festival to perform a duet with my student later that evening. We did a couple of songs which Iris really likes singing along with, practised her bow and then she did a reasonable amount of “tick-tock” on the cello, not with any apparent rhythmic pulse.  She also listened to her new piece, Allegro, on her iPod.

Day 34 (Saturday, 12th of November, 2011)
We’ve been up since 6.30am so we managed to squeeze in an extra practice before the cello lesson. I sat in on the lesson today and Iris managed to (just about) keep it together for the class.

Day 35 (Sunday, 13th of November, 2011)
I spent 10 hours at the Beckenham Festival and got home around 7.30pm. I only remembered just before putting Iris to bed that we hadn’t done any cello today, so I hastily shoved on the Allegro song and we sang along to that. That concludes day 35 of practice!

Day 40 (Monday, 14th of November, 2011)

Day 41 (Tuesday, 15th of November, 2011)

Day 42 (Wednesday, 16th of November, 2011)

Day 43 (Thursday, 17th of November, 2011)

Day 44 (Friday, 18th of November, 2011)

Day 45 (Saturday, 19th of November, 2011)
Cello lesson today. Iris is still desperate to try out the bow!

Day 46 (Sunday, 20th of November, 2011)

Day 47 (Monday, 21st of November, 2011)

Day 48 (Tuesday, 22nd of November, 2011)
A very quick practice in the morning before heading off to stay overnight with grandma and granddad.

Day 49 (Wednesday, 23rd of November, 2011)
Grandparent day!

Day 50 (Thursday, 24th of November, 2011)
My day off so we spend some time trying to learning Twinkle, Twinkle on the piano (not successful) and then a bit of cello tagged on the end.

Day 51 (Friday, 25th of November, 2011)
Day 52 (Saturday, 26th of November, 2011)
Cello lesson today.

Day 53 (Sunday, 27th of November, 2011)

Just bow practice today.

Day 54 (Monday, 28th of November, 2011)

Day 55 (Tuesday, 29th of November, 2011)
A longer stint than usual at her grandparents’ so this is songs and watching videos of Suzuki songs!

Day 56 (Wednesday, 30th of November, 2011)
Grandparent day!

Day 57 (Thursday, 1st of December, 2011)
Grandparent day!

Day 58 (Friday, 2nd of December, 2011)
The advent calendar is working wonders – no chocolate until cello practice is done!

Day 59 (Saturday, 3rd of December, 2011)
Cello lesson today. Not the greatest concentration but small progress was made. Iris is just about getting the hang of which string is ‘Do’ and which one is ‘So’.

Day 60 (Sunday, 4th of December, 2011)

Day 61 (Monday, 5th of December, 2011)

I finally picked up the new bow. Iris was very keen to use the new bow today and even did some evening practice today.

Day 62 (Tuesday, 6th of December, 2011)
A second long stint than usual at her grandparents’ so this is songs and watching videos of Suzuki songs!

Day 63 (Wednesday, 7th of December, 2011)
Grandparent day!

Day 64 (Thursday, 8th of December, 2011)

Day 65 (Friday, 9th of December, 2011)

Walking to nursery today we sang all the Suzuki songs. This counts as practice! I am picking up Iris early from nursery so cello practice is the first thing on the list. The advent calendar is working well as bribery as cello practice must be done before the chocolate is unleashed!

Day 66 (Saturday, 2nd of December, 2011)

Day 67 (Sunday, 3rd of December, 2011)

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