Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cat Burrito! Cute Pictures

Here is our adorable kitty Mead all wrapped up like a burrito!



This is Lynx kneading on my bathrobe.



Lastly, here's Mead lounging on our cat tower.



Other Cat Picture Posts:

Cat Like Box

Bringing Home Our Kitties

Moby Kitty

Adorable Kitty Videos

Christmas Kitty

Cat Burrito!

Lynx Snuggling my Socks

The Lord of Shoes

Our Sweet Kitties

Friday, September 28, 2012

James Joyce's Dubliners--"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"


The first three stories of Dubliners take place from the perspective of a young boy ("Sisters," "An Encounter," and "Araby").  "Eveline" is from the perspective of a young woman. The next two stories, "After the Race" and "Two Gallants," show Dublin from the perspective of young men.

In "After the Race," a young, wealthy Irishman named Jimmy is reveling in his wealth and his many friends.  In particular, he's captivated by his French friend, Segouin.  The night begins happily--Jimmy is excited to be dining with such fine Europeans, and his family is proud.  But as the night progresses, tensions arise in the party.  First, an argument over politics threatens to disrupt the peace of the party.  But it is quickly resolved, and the party decides to visit a yacht owned by a wealthy American.  On the yacht, Jimmy begins drinking heavily--it is the "Bohemian" thing to do. Once he is terribly drunk, the men begin playing card games and gambling. He becomes is confused that he "frequently mistook his cards and the other men had to calculate his I.O.U.'s for him." It's here that Jimmy begins to doubt his friends, wishing that they would stop.  He dimly feels that they are taking advantage of him (with good reason).  He dreads that the morning will bring to light his follies, and he longs for darkness to cover up his mistakes.  But within moments of that wish, a friend of his announces it's dawn.  This story captures what Joyce considered the over-eagerness of the Irish upper class to prove themselves to a treacherous European upper class.  Dublin, he writes "wore the mask of a capital," although it was still legally controlled by the British empire at the time.  Jimmy naively assumes that his friends value him for himself and admire him for his wealth. But by taking advantage of him, they demonstrate their contempt for him.  Tellingly, the other man they rip off is an American, another outsider to Europe.  The coming of dawn is usually a metaphor for enlightenment, but in this case it is unwelcome; Jimmy wants to cling to his illusions about himself and his supposed friends. His realizations about his place in European society are devastating, and his humiliation is complete.



"Two Gallants" focuses on two young men in Dublin, this time members of the lower middle class. Corley and Lenahan are discussing Corley's tricks for seducing women.  He has a new girl that he's going to meet, and Lenahan comes along to get a look at her, then meet up with Corley afterwards. As Corley leaves with his girl, Lenahan absently wanders the streets of Dublin.  He's short of money, so he only buys some pea soup for dinner.  He worries that Corley is going to betray him or abandon him in some way.  When he sees Corley leaving a park with his girl, he anxiously wonders if their gig is up.  But when Corley finally meets up with Lenahan, he shows him a gold coin he's gotten from his girl.  It's not until then that the reader fully understands--the two men were not only talking about taking advantage of women sexually--they also intended to take money from them, either as loans they'll never repay, or perhaps as some kind of extortion.  The title of the story thus has a bitter irony--these men are far from gallant.  Instead of being brave or heroic, they are parasites who leech money and sexual favors from the women they prey on.  The young woman in their scam is described as "stout short and muscular" with "blunt" features.  Her "Sunday finery" includes a "ragged black boa." It's clear from her description that the young woman is herself poor and plain, and thus particularly vulnerable to the flattery Corley likely uses to entice her, and that she can ill afford his leeching away of her hard-earned money.  Lenahan's fear that Corley will abandon him makes more sense; Corley is clearly practiced at abandoning the women he's using.  The casual cruelty these men demonstrate indicates the deep fissure between the sexes in Joyce's Dublin--many men no longer show gallantry or concern for the women, but only try to use them.

Dubliners blogs:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"

"Araby" and "Eveline"

"The Boarding House"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"

"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"

"Grace" 

"The Dead"


Blogs for James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five


Blogs for James Joyce's Ulysses: 


Chapter Six, Hades

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Some Great Apps for Musicians and Music Students

I'll admit, I'm a huge iphone fanatic, and I use my iphone for everything.  Seriously, I think once Apple adds a photon laser to their phones, they will officially have created a Star Trek blaster/data scanner/communicator.  But some of the things I use most on my iphone, or the ipad that I have in my studio at the Frisco School of Music, are music apps. Here are a list of some of my favorite music apps, all of which are very useful for music students, their parents, teachers, or even professional musicians.

1. Musebook or Tempo Advance: 

These are metronome apps, and both do a good job.  I use musebook on my personal iphone, but tempo advance is on the ipads at my job, so I've been using it there.  I have to say, tempo advance has grown on me, since it's easy to use and has so many settings.  

2. Cleartune:

This is my tuner--it's versatile, but easy to use. It can play a tone for you if you'd like a tuning note or need a drone, but it has a needle-tuner that indicates the pitch you're playing as well. You can adjust the calibration to 440 or 441 or whatever hertz you like, and you can adjust the temperament as well.  In fact, it has settings for just, meantone, and well-tempered temperaments.  (I know I just lost non-music nerds, but bear with me).  

3. Flashclass

This app is designed to help students learn to read music.  Basically, it's like digital flash cards--it shows a student a note on the treble or bass clef, and the student has to identify the note name.  Its settings allow a teacher to customize the notes or key that the student are learning.  I've tried this app with several of my students who are struggling to read music, and I think it has helped.  However, I'm careful to have students show me the fingerings for a note on their violin, not just touch the note name--I think that makes finding the notes more directly relevant to their instrument.  I do like the fact that it sounds the correct note when students touch it--I think that helps to develop their ears. But I wish that they made a version of the app that used alto clef, instead of only treble and bass, so I could use it with my viola students.  

4. Better Ears

I found this app when I was studying for listening exam in music theory.  It's an ear-training app that can test you on intervals, chords, scales, pitches, tempo, and key signatures.  You can customize the settings to focus on the sounds that you struggle to identify the most.  I found it helped develop my recognition of chords and intervals dramatically.  It's probably a bit advanced for beginners, although you can put it on easy settings if you'd like.  

5. Pluto Music

I didn't think I'd use this app very much, since it's mostly a fairly simple game.  However, I often teach very young children, around three or four years old, and they can get tired quickly.  Now, when one of the little ones seems overwhelmed, I let him or her play with the adorable Pluto the Penguin for a few minutes.  I think it has really helped them--sometimes giving a young child a quick break allows them to recharge while having fun, then when you return to the lesson, they are happier and learn more effectively.  Some teachers even use Pluto Music as a reward for students, but I prefer to limit the rewards I give to kids.

Related articles on Suzuki Method and Violin/Viola teaching or performing:

Suzuki Method--a Violin Teacher's Perspective

Suzuki Philosophy: Every Child Has Talent

Suzuki Techniques--Listening is the key

Violin Life Lessons

Inspiring Practice

Practicing Violin Effectively

Great Apps for Musicians

Excellent Supplemental Books for Suzuki Violin and Viola Students

Inspiring, Helpful Books for Violin and Viola Teachers

Suzuki Method for Adult Students

For Parents: How to Support your Child's Music Practice and Development

Overcoming Performance Anxiety: How to Help Music Students Prepare for Recitals, Auditions, and other Performances

Music Lessons for Children with Disabilities 

Seven Ways to Develop Listening and Aural Skills in Music Students

Persistence--The Most Important Aspect of Talent

Pascale Method for Violin--A Review

More Apps for Musicians and Music Students

Classical Music Isn't Dying--It's in a Recession

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Celebrating Octoberfest, Visiting Bavarian Grill


I spent my weekend at the Oktoberfest celebration in Addison, TX, which is one of the largest Oktoberfest events outside of Munich.  This is my third year at the Addison Oktoberfest, and I think that this year had the largest crowds that I've ever seen.  Addison Circle was stuffed with people, most of them jolly and drunk on the excellent beer and wine that was available.  The weather was decent, the food was good, and I was happy to be around family and friends.

Even after our weekend sampling the delicious bratwurst and sauerkraut at Oktoberfest, my husband and I still wanted to try more German food, so we visited the Bavarian Grill in Plano.  The  good people at Bavarian Grill celebrate Oktoberfest by offering their customers eighteen different types of schnitzel, which we were more than happy to eat.  I had the Weiner Art schnitzel with spatzle and red cabbage.  My schitzel was very traditional--breaded pork, served with lemon and capers.  But although it was not the most unusual schnitzel, it had a comforting homey-goodness that I loved.  It was tender, but crisp on the outside, and the lemon and capers added a beautiful tang to the dish.  My side of spatzle was amazing--this humble German pasta was tender but still chewy, and the light buttery flavoring was addictive.  The red cabbage added a nice tangy, acidic bite to the meal, and kept the richness from feeling overwhelming.
 My husband enjoyed the Pfeffer schnitzel, which was unbreaded, but served in a wonderfully rich, peppery sauce.  He also had the vegetables, and I was very impressed with the delicious flavor that the simple vegetables had--they must have been cooked in a rich meat broth that left them tender and delicious.  In addition, we had excellent breads offered with our meal--in particular, I loved the pretzel roll.

There was a live musician, Jim Rommel, singing and playing German music on an accordion.  Jim's performance was lively and enjoyable, and he encouraged audience participation.  

The only problem we had at Bavarian Grill was that our waiter was rather inattentive--he rarely filled our drinks or checked on us, and we had to wait for our check.  Still, there was a large party sitting next to us, so it's possible that one couple was easy to overlook. In addition, the food is a bit expensive.

Overall, I was very happy with our experience there, and I look forward to sampling some more German food and music in the future.

Kostas Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dubliners--"Araby" and "Eveline"

After "Sisters" and "An Encounter," the next story in Dubliners is "Araby."  This story follows a young boy in Dublin, perhaps the same one from the first stories (Joyce drew inspiration from his own life, so this young boy is likely somewhat autobiographical). The boy is in love with his friend's older sister, although he does not completely understand his own feelings.  One evening while visiting his friend, he at last manages to speak to his love.  She asks him if he's going to Araby, a bazaar planned for that Saturday.  She longs to go, but can't because her convent school is having a retreat (Is this a commentary on how the church spoils even the most innocent pleasures?).  He tells her that he will bring her something if he goes to the bazaar, then he anxiously begs his aunt and uncle to let him go.  Although they agree, on the day of Araby, his uncle forgets his promise.  He comes home late, and it is implied that he is drunk--he talks to himself, and wobbles around.  His uncle tells the boy he's sorry, and finally gives him money to go the bazaar.  But the train is delayed, and when he finally arrives, everything is shutting down.  The shopgirl at the one stand he finds open ignores him, and he realizes that he likely can't afford any of the china at her stand anyway.  The bazaar grows ever darker as it shuts down, and finally in complete darkness, the boy "[burns] with anguish and anger."  Just as the girl's enjoyment of Araby is ruined by the demands of the church, the boy's dogged attempt to visit the bar is relentlessly spoiled, first by his forgetful alcoholic uncle, then by the indifference he encounters at the stand.  The sweet innocent desire to please his beloved is transformed into bitter frustration with the failures of society.


In the story "Eveline," a young girl is at first eager to escape her dreary life with a lover who plans to marry her and take her away to Buenos Ayres.  Yet as she contemplates her life, she becomes more and more reluctant to leave.  Her father is a greedy, abusive alcoholic, but she starts to remember the pathetically few goods times she had with him as a child.  She tries to reassure herself that he's getting old, and isn't so bad after all, even though she fears his violence and he has violently shaken her several times.  Her self-deception keeps her from fully recognizing the miserable trap her life in Ireland has become.  A street organ reminds her of a promise, that she made to her dying mother to keep the family together. But she also remembers her mother going mad right before her death--this implies that Eveline has only imagined this promise, perhaps creating it in her mind to justify her staying.  Yet, she also feels that her current life is a trap that she is desperate to escape.  Her emotions swirl so powerfully within her that she becomes paralyzed with dread as her ship is about to leave, and she refuses to board it with her lover.  By remaining behind, Eveline has doomed herself to her mother's fate.  The ship stands for the hope of immigration, but Eveline is stranded on the docks, unable to even bid her fiance farewell, or give him a sign of love.  Eveline's paralysis reflects the economic and political paralysis that Joyce observed in Ireland.



Dubliners blogs:

"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"

"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

"The Boarding House"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"

"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"

"Grace" 

"The Dead"


Blogs for James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dal Riata's Performance at Classical Open Mic--Video


The first public performance of our Celtic Band, Dal Riata occurs at about 1:13.  The song we're playing is called "Came Ye Over France."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reading James Joyce's Dubliners--"The Sisters" and "An Encounter"


I went on my first trip to Europe in the summer after my freshman year in college at the University of Oklahoma.  I was taking a study-abroad class that summer, called "British Literature Between the World Wars" and for part of the class, we studied in Oxford and stayed at Brasenose College.  As part of the class, we read Irish author James Joyce's Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I loved this class, more than any literature class I took in college.  Studying at Oxford was exhilarating--the cobblestone streets, the ancient library full of historical books, and walking through what seemed to me to be a living museum.  I even loved the books I was assigned, so much so that I later took another class on Joyce's Ulysses and wrote my honors thesis on the works of Virginia Woolf, another author I discovered that summer.  

This wonderful trip reinforced my strong desire to travel, and gave me confidence in my ability to handle myself in a different country.  No doubt, that's one reason why I insisted that my husband and I go abroad for our honeymoon, and one reason why Ireland had so much appeal. 

After enjoying the glorious Irish castles and countryside for a few days, it occurred to me that I would really like to explore Irish authors and books more deeply as way to remember our trip.  I felt that visiting Ireland might give me a new perspective on the books I had read a few years before.  With that in mind, I've decided to try to read or re-read all of James Joyce's books, and blog about them.  I've started with Joyce's first written book, Dubliners, which is a collection of short stories inspired by Joyce's experiences with Dublin's people.

The first story in Dubliners is "The Sisters," which despite its title mostly concerns a young boy who learns that his friend, an elderly priest, has died of a stroke.  Joyce vividly depicts the boy's confused reaction to the old man's death, while exploring the character of the disappointed and disgraced old man.  When the adults discuss the priest, it's revealed that he had been accused of simony, which is the buying or selling of sacraments, and that he (or perhaps his alter boy) had broken a chalice for the communion.  The priest had been kind to the boy, and had tried to teach him the meaning and importance of the sacraments of the Catholic Church, but his dreary and disappointing life leave the reader questioning whether the old man was satisfied with his choice to devote himself to religion.  In the end of the story, one of the sisters who had given the priest a room in their home describes the incident that lead the church to retire him.  Late one night, the elderly priest had gone missing, and another priest found him sitting by himself in a dark confession box, laughing to himself.  This incident reflects a painful and unknowable ambiguity--was the old man laughing at night in the confessional because he had lost his own faith?  Or was it because he felt guilty for his sin of simony?  He is described as a "disappointed man," but what caused this disappointment is left murky.  It reminds the reader that people are fundamentally a mystery--this old man's inner life is unknowable, perhaps even to himself, and even less so to the mourners who try to remember him.

The next story, "An Encounter," also depicts a young boy in Dublin, this time one who wants to have an adventure, like the ones he reads about in comics about the Old West in America.  He and his friend Mahony decide to skip school so they can wander through Dublin's streets and catch a ride on a boat to Pigeon Island.  Their trip through the streets of Dublin is at first exhilarating as they watch large ships leaving the docks and explore the lively city streets.  But as the day grows later, the boys realize that they have missed the last boat out to Pigeon Island, and that they only have a short time left to enjoy their freedom.  While playing and resting in a field by themselves, they see a strange, shabby old man approaching them.  At first, he walks by, but he turns around a sits down to talk with the boys.  He initially seems friendly enough, asking them about school and books and their "sweethearts," but they are wary enough that the boys secretly agree to go by different names, so he won't know who they are. Once Mahony runs off to chase a cat, the old man turns darker and more vicious.  He tells the remaining boy how much pleasure it would give him to whip misbehaving boys, especially ones who have sweethearts.  Joyce describes how as the old man continued to elaborate on his desire to whip unruly boys, his voice "grew almost affectionate and seemed to plead with [the boy] that he should understand him." Understandably unnerved, the boy waits until the man pauses then stands up to slowly and carefully escape him.  He is relieved when his friend comes back and they can leave.

The whole story creates an atmosphere of casual menace.  Why would this old man at first encourage the boys talk of girls, then abruptly switch tactics and describe his desire to beat them?  It's notable that the change only takes place when the one boy is alone--once he is more vulnerable, without a friend for support, the predator can reveal his claws.  It's also interesting that the old man justifies his desire to hurt a young boy by suggesting that it is a just punishment; but his eagerness and enthusiasm for the whipping suggest that he is only trying to excuse a far darker desire.  He voices pleads with the boy for understanding, perhaps even forgiveness, for the violence he wants to inflict on him.  The boy escapes from the old man before he can act on his desire, but the incident leaves him frightened, and reveals an ominous side of the city they were excitedly exploring only a few moments before


Blog Posts for James Joyce's Dubliners:

"Araby" and "Eveline"

"After the Race" and "Two Gallants"

"The Boarding House"

"A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"

"Clay" and "A Painful Case"

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"

"A Mother"

"Grace" 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Janet Dowd at Davitt's in Kenmare, Ireland

After our awe-inspiring drive along the Ring of Kerry, we decided to stop for a night in the quaint sea-side town of Kenmare.  We had a refreshing meal at Prego's, a delicious Italian restaurant, then we wandered the charming streets of the town, looking for a place with good traditional music.  We stumbled upon Davitt's Restaurant, where we heard the most beautiful music pouring out the door.  We settled in a for a Smithwick's and listened to the haunting music of Janet Dowd and her band.

Janet's voice is pure, clean, and sweet, but with an amazing power.  I was deeply moved by songs like "John Condon," a ballad about the youngest soldier to die in World War I, an Irish boy from Wexford.  Likewise, Janet's performance of the traditional ballad "Loving Hannah" was a heart-breaking depiction of lost love.  Janet's gorgeous voice was beautifully complimented by her band members.  Her guitarist, who I believe is her husband Michael Dowd, played extremely well, and sang quite well, too.  

At the end of their set, I had so enjoyed the music that I bought Janet's CD, 300 Miles. We spend the next day listening to it, and her music made our drive through Killarney National Park all the more enchanting.  

The Irish music that we heard on our trip was definitely one of the highlights of the experience for me, especially since we are developing our own Celtic band, Dal Riata. This trip has inspired me, and I hope to someday create music as beautiful as Janet Dowd's.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kyteler's Inn Bodhran Session and Traditional Irish Music

On our trip to Ireland, we had a lovely time listening to traditional Irish music. One of the things that makes Irish music so enjoyable is that they encourage audience participation. At Kyteler's Inn in the charming city of Kilkenny, not only is there traditional music, but they also have free sessions where visitors can learn to play the bodhran, a frame drum.  My husband has been learning the bodhran with our Celtic Band, Dal Riata, so we were eager to see the bodhran sessions at Kyteler's.

The session we attended was lead by an energetic and friendly guy named Damien Walsh, who plays bodhran in the Irish band Na Fianna. I was impressed that Damien so quickly engaged all the would-be bodhran players; he had us playing along with real melodies in what felt like no time at all.  I had never played bodhran before, and I enjoyed the class so much that we came back to watch the second session after our class was over.  We played through many different songs, including "The Gael" from the Last of the Mohicans, a beautiful song to play.

After the bodhran sessions, we listened to a few songs by the Raglan Rogues.  I'm afraid that we were so exhausted from the intense first few days of our trip that we didn't stay for the whole show, but I enjoyed the songs that we heard.

In addition to its lively music and fun bodhran sessions, Kyteler's Inn also had excellent food.  I had an appetizer of deep-fried rounds of brie with raspberry coulis.  The raspberry sauce perfectly complimented the delicious brie, adding just the right amount of sweetness and acidity to the rich cheese.  My husband loved their Irish stew, which had large chunks of lamb and a rich earthy taste.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Enjoying Irish Traditional Music at Kate Kearney's Cottage



Last week, my husband and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon.  We had a wonderful trip--Ireland is a beautiful country that far surpassed our already high expectations.  I hope to write many blog posts about the ancient beauty we experienced there, and I'd like to start with the music.

Irish pubs have regular musical performances, and even the best traditional musicians still perform in them frequently.  The first night we heard a performance, we were at Kate Kearney's Cottage in the Gap of Dunloe.  Kate's is famous for it's Irish Nights, which include traditional food, dancing, and music. The food was excellent, some of the best traditional Irish food we had on the trip, but the highlight was the music and dance.  The band that played, Tuatha, had three musicians, Mike Dowd, Donal Moroney, and Barry Lynch, who play the fiddle, bodhran, accordion, Irish flute, bones, and tin whistle.  Their music was fast-paced, lively, and exciting--they quickly inspired the audience to bounce along with the beat. The dancers demonstrated traditional dances such as the jig and the hornpipe, showing the great energy and grace it requires to perform these complicated dances. 

During the musicians' break, they allowed people to come up to the stage and play on their percussion instruments.  The fiddle/bodhran player, Mike, showed me how to play the bones, until one of our companions outed me as a violist.  At that, Mike cheerfully lent me his violin and asked if I could play a song with the band.  After a few tries, I remembered the song "Wild Mountain Thyme," and had an exciting time playing with the band for a completely unrehearsed, spontaneous performance.  Improvisation--it's fun, and scary, and rarely turns out as you expect (especially when you are doing it in front of an audience).  But it does make for an incredibly memorable night.  More than anything, I think it helped me to feel true Irish music--it's about expressing the joys and sorrows of life, and sharing your most vulnerable moments with an encouraging crowd. 


Kostas Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lynx snuggling my socks


I came home from a long walk in the park with my husband, and as soon as I took off my dirty socks, Lynx started lying on them:)


He also started licking them, which got weird, although still kind of sweet.


That's my cuddly Maine Coon.


He still likes our shoes, too.

Other Cat Picture Posts:

Cat Like Box

Bringing Home Our Kitties

Moby Kitty

Adorable Kitty Videos

Christmas Kitty

Cat Burrito!

Lynx Snuggling my Socks

The Lord of Shoes

Our Sweet Kitties



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Umma's Olive Loaf from Inn at the Crossroads


Here's some pictures of the gorgeous olive loaf I made today! It tastes every bit as delicious as it looks.  I got the recipe from Inn at the Crossroads, a great recipe website for Game of Thrones fans, which I've written about in the a previous post. Seriously, even if you think you can't bake bread from scratch, try this recipe--there's no kneading.


Practicing Violin Effectively

In a previous post, I discussed how to inspire violin practice (or other instrument practice, for that matter). Once a young musician has enough inspiration, it is time to learn how to practice effectively.

I can remember becoming very frustrated with my practicing--it felt like I was improving so slowly.  On really bad days in graduate school I would weep with frustration over a difficult passage that seemed so overwhelming.  I wish I had known then what I now know--it would have made my life and my practicing far more enjoyable. So here are my recommendations for making your practicing as efficient and effective as possible.

First, use all the tools that you have available.  These include a metronome, a tuner, and hopefully some kind of recording device, even if it's only the voice recorder feature on an iphone. Nothing can help your intonation like practicing very slowly with a tuner. Once I started doing that regularly, my intonation improved dramatically. And by slowly, I mean Slowly. Once you become used to constantly playing in tune, you can immediately hear and correct any problems that might come up.  As for a metronome, it's amazing the difference it can make with struggling students. When I first started teaching, I was often frustrated by how often students rushed ahead, or missed rhythms. Finally, I insisted on them using a metronome. For the most stubborn rushers, I used a trick I learned from a Master Class with a world famous violist, Roberto Diaz--walk or step in time with the music before you play. Most people feel the beat of music in their body (think about dancing).  If a student can't stay in tempo or keep a steady beat, it's likely that they can't feel the beat in their body--walking or stepping to the beat with the metronome helps them to feel it. 
A recording device helps students listen to the their playing.  One of the keys to learning is feedback--in fact, giving frequent feedback is a vital part of effective teaching.  A recording is completely objective feedback on a musician's sound quality, intonation, and other aspects of a musical performance.  Students should regularly record themselves playing, then listen for what they'd like to improve about their own performance.  Incidentally, my Celtic music band, Dal Riata, often records our songs like this when we practice--it's really helpful for all the members of the band to hear how the song is sounding overall.

After you have started using all the right tools, you need to start involving all of the right senses. As we all know from health class, humans have five senses--sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.  While we don't use taste or smell in music, we do use sight, hearing, and touch.

All people are different kinds of learners. Generally, we break the different kinds of learning into three types--visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. In other words, some students learn best from seeing, some from listening, and others from doing or touching. However, in music all of these aspects are important--students have to read music visually, play the instrument physically, and listen carefully with their ears. In this way, music encourages global learning using multiple learning styles, which is likely why it's so strongly associated with high IQ and other markers of academic success.
So how do we use different senses or learning styles when practicing? When I teach students, I often ask them to focus their awareness on different senses while they are practicing. For example, intonation and a beautiful vibrato depend on having a good left hand position.  If a student is struggling with their left hand, I first ask them to put down their bow (which is a distraction) and play pizzicato. Then, I remind them to feel the strings with their fingers, and stay aware of the tiny muscles in their hands.  By focusing entirely on the movement of their hand, I can engage their kinesthetic sense.  I might next ask them listen to a CD of their music, or else sing the music.  That helps them focus on the auditory learning style.  Finally, I tell all my students to practice in front of a mirror.  Before they play, they can check their hand positions in the mirror, and while they are playing they can make sure they have good posture and good bow position by looking in front of the mirror.

By engaging multiple senses and learning styles, students can learn music more thoroughly and develop a more complete understanding of their instrument.  Often, when a musician becomes frustrated with their practicing, it's because they are only focusing on one sense or learning style, and not engaging their other senses.  A passage that I might struggle with if I'm only staring avidly at the notes on the page can become much better if I instead think about how my hand feels so I learn when it's becoming tense.

The last aspect of practicing effectively is one of the most neglected, in my experience.  Professional musicians often think of practicing as something we do alone.  It's true that much of our practice is most effective when we're alone, but I think that practicing with friends can be an extremely useful tool.  For one thing, it reminds you that many other people are struggling and working on the same issues you are.  Friends can also give you encouragement and positive feedback, which can be invaluable.  They can also be a good resource for practicing tips and ideas. Finally, many more social people enjoy practicing more when they can do it with friends, and enjoyment and camaraderie makes a huge difference. 

Related articles on Suzuki Method and Violin/Viola teaching or performing:


Suzuki Method--a Violin Teacher's Perspective

Suzuki Philosophy: Every Child Has Talent

Suzuki Techniques--Listening is the key

Violin Life Lessons

Inspiring Practice

Practicing Violin Effectively

Great Apps for Musicians

Excellent Supplemental Books for Suzuki Violin and Viola Students

Inspiring, Helpful Books for Violin and Viola Teachers

Suzuki Method for Adult Students


For Parents: How to Support your Child's Music Practice and Development

Overcoming Performance Anxiety: How to Help Music Students Prepare for Recitals, Auditions, and other Performances

Music Lessons for Children with Disabilities 

Seven Ways to Develop Listening and Aural Skills in Music Students


Persistence--The Most Important Aspect of Talent

Pascale Method for Violin--A Review

More Apps for Musicians and Music Students

Classical Music Isn't Dying--It's in a Recession