SPITMESS: Parents Guide to Practice


The SPITMESS acronym breaks down the important elements of practicing.

Small chunks- You should not hear long stretches of music played over and over. They should be playing a few measures of music at a time (about 10-15 seconds). Avoid “run-throughs” by starting at the spots that need work. They should not always start at the beginning.

Pencil- Students should keep a pencil in their folder/binder to mark tricky fingerings and rhythms.

Identify the problem(s)- Don’t be afraid to ask them why they are practicing something. If they can’t tell you why they are practicing something, then that is a bad sign. Here are some examples of “problems:”
• Notes(This could be reading the note or fingering the note on their instrument)
• Rhythms(They may be unsure of a rhythm and could use a pencil to write in the counting or use a metronome or light toe tapping to keep a steady pulse)
• Articulation(Brass & Woodwind players have specific ways a note should be started. Percussionists should have some markings telling them which hand to use)
• Tone(Quality of sound… they may need to work on a stronger or smooth sound.)
• Breathing(Practicing breathing at specific spots, or being able to sustain notes for the full counts)
• Dynamics(How loud or soft)
• Style(There are directions written in the music telling them how notes should be played)

Time- It may take multiple practices to fix a problem or learn a new technique. Be patient! Multiple practices for smaller lengths of time are more effective than one or two practices. Set up some regular practice times or block out a certain number of minutes.

Metronome- A metronome is a small device that helps keep a steady beat by a clicking sound. Students often tap their toe along with the steady beat. If you don’t have a metronome, there are free apps as well as websites available (ex: www.abestmetronome.com/, www.webmetronome.com/)

Early Start- You cannot prepare for your lesson by only practicing the night before.

Speak/Sing- Speaking rhythms out loud and singing pitches go a long way toward reinforcing what the music should sound like. They can also clap and count out loud!

Slow- Hard parts must be practice slowly. Kids love to say it is easier to play fast, but this may be sloppy.
Students need to practice the small details.

• You played that on your band concert last year. Practice the music that your teacher gave you for your lesson!
• Why are you playing such big chunks of the music? (Run-throughs are important, but should not be used as a regular method of practicing)
• Is it suppose to sound like that? Maybe you should listen to a recording on youtube. (Students should have a general idea of what their sheet music should sound like. They should be able to tell you what spots they play well and what spots need practice.)
• Are you using SPITMESS? I can show you what it’s all about! It has some great ideas!
• That sounded great! Now do it five more times to show me it wasn’t magic!


Click here to a printable version of the SPITMESS: Parents Guide to Practicing



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Music Education Services (MES) provides comprehensive band programs to elementary schools.