William Fitzpatrick - violin expert


Learn what this acronym stands for

In this new video of his new series, Prof. Fitzpatrick teaches you what S.M.A.R.T stands for and how it can help your violin practice.

Released on June 8, 2022

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

A while back while I was surfing the internet, I ran across something called SMART, a sort of an acronym as each letter stands for something. After reading about it I immediately thought that it was a great way to think about practicing. Here let me show you what I mean...

The first letter is S which stands for Specific.
You see we need to be very specific, very clear about what we are trying to do when we practice. Understand why we need to do it.

For example saying that I want to work on letter A to letter B perhaps isn't clear enough, specific enough. Maybe saying in measure 9 the shift needs work would be clearer more specific. We should try as best as possible to identify where it is and what we need to do to make it better.

The next letter is M which stands for Measurable.
Understanding how we will know when we have achieved our goal, or at least where we are in the process of achieving it is extremely important.

I remember once looking at the thirds in the fugue from the Bach G minor unaccompanied sonata. I counted the number of 3rds, there are 32 to be exact, and then made a spreadsheet like graph of 32 squares, one for each note.

I recorded the passage 3 times and then sat and listened to them, marking each time I missed, played out of tune, a third. After marking the 3 times I looked to see how many times I missed any of the thirds.

If I missed one 2 or more times I tried to identify what I needed to do to get it in tune. Doing this I knew precisely which thirds I needed to work on. Doing this my progress became measurable!

The third letter A stands for Achievable.
We need to identify what tools will be needed to achieve the goals we have set out to accomplish. For example if I was having problems say with the first shifts in the opening of Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole.

I would first need to ask if this was a problem that simply required repetitive practice or was there something fundamentally wrong with my sifting. If it was the latter I knew that repetitively practicing it wouldn't help so I needed to go back and study Yost or Dounis to figure out what needed to be changed in the basic gesture of my shifting pattern.

Once done I could then return to repetitively practicing the passage as now I knew what I was doing, now that it had become achievable.

R is the fourth letter and it stands for Realistic, I've seen relevant used as well but I think realistic works well in this context.

Here we need to ask ourselves if what we have set out to achieve is possible given where our skill level is at the moment?. Might it be wiser to wait and do the work at another time?

I mean perhaps I need to work a bit more on the skills required in the piece before working on something I may not be able to finish?

The last letter T stands for Timely
It is critical to be able to understand how much time it will take to achieve whatever goal, could be a performance or learning a section of a piece, that one has set out to accomplish.

So this is what this means to me. This is what it means to be "SMART" about practicing! To do "SMART" practicing!

Do take care and please stay safe!
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Cheryl * VSM MEMBER * on June 8, 2022 @8:45 am PST
Love this acronym! Great for violin/viola teaching, also many other areas of Life. Even the more mundane-- Sometimes we need to get down to the nitty-gritty and scrub just one corner of the bathtub, which is achievable (versus the entire tub & walls!). Thanks Bill!
William - host, on June 9, 2022 @2:49 am PST
You are welcome!
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