Halloween Practice

I always like being able to make one set of materials and use it in multiple ways. Most of my kids used these Halloween cards to compose a rondo, but one lucky girl also used it to work on her current songs.

What You Need:

  • These Halloween cards, printed and cut (you won’t need the second page)
  • Dice
  • A mini pumpkin or anything else you can use as a playing piece
  • A list of Halloween jokes. I have a little book of jokes, but you could also use these, either printed out or just available on a device.


  • Make a list of the pictures on the cards and assign them to things you need to practice. It’s okay to repeat, it’s okay not to use all the cards, and it’s good to include a few things in there that are more exciting. For example, here’s a sample list:
    • moon: current song, section A
    • raven: current song, section B
    • haunted house: current song, hardest phrase
    • jack o’lantern: current song, hardest phrase
    • skeleton: current song, hardest phrase
    • bat: review song
    • trick or treat bag: review song
    • cat: current scale or arpeggio
    • witch: current scale or arpeggio
    • spider: next step in the composition book
    • skeleton: Halloween improv duet
    • mummy: sing a Halloween song
    • ghost: sight read
  • Arrange the cards face down in a circle on the floor and place the pumpkin or playing piece on one of them.
  • Hide the jokes so the student can’t see them all at once.

How to Play:

  • Roll the dice. Advance the pumpkin that many cards, moving clockwise.
  • Flip the card. Spend a couple of minutes practicing whatever goes with that picture.
  • Keep the card just as it is and roll again, continuing the same pattern.
  • If you land on a card which has already been flipped over, you have earned a Halloween joke. Conveniently, the likelihood of getting a joke increases the longer you play.


Happiness on the Music Floor

Happiness on the Music FloorI’m sure it’s never happened to anyone else, but on occasion my daughter is a trifle upset during music practice. She’s actually quite good about coming in the first place, but sometimes she’s mad at me because I asked her to do something she didn’t want to do and sometimes she’s mad at herself because she isn’t automatically perfect at everything and sometimes she’s mad for no discernible reason at all.

I’ve tried various tactics to deal with this, but the one that’s currently working is this handy little poster.

I’ve laminated it and posted it on the wall by our piano. Every day after music practice, I update the number of days of happiness. if we’ve made it through without an argument, it goes up. If we haven’t made it through, it goes to zero. When she reaches 20 days, we have a Mommy-Daughter date to the dessert location of her choice, which we have done. If she can reach 20 three separate times, we’ll go out to dinner at the restaurant of her choice, which we haven’t managed yet.

As a side note, I’m always somewhat interested (and depressed) at how parents manage practice (or fail to manage practice, as the case may be). There’s more than one way to do it, but here’s what works for us. My daughter is 8 right now, but we’ve been doing this for several years.

  • We practice in the morning before school. Yes, that means I wake her up early. There are no exceptions. If it’s a school day, we practice. If it’s a week day but there is no school, we almost always practice anyway, though I don’t wake her up early for it. We take weekends off.
  • Theoretically, we practice for 50 minutes, roughly split between piano and cello. We alternate days on which instrument goes first. In reality, we’re often a little late getting started and the end time is fixed by the school bus schedule, so no wiggle room there.
  • We do lots of games, improvisation, composing, etc. to keep it interesting and to spend at least part of that 50 minutes standing up or moving around.
  • I always, always, always spend the entire time there with her. I have never sent her to go practice by herself. That day is coming, but not at age 8. 

I have often wondered how much progress my other students would make if I could convince their parents to maintain a schedule like this. I do realize it’s harder if you have more than one child or if you’re not a natural morning person or if you have very little musical knowledge yourself.

Even so, practice really does work.