Abacus for Practicing

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Have you ever used an Abacus for Practicing?  In this post I will teach you how you can make your own abacus and how I use mine for practicing.
abacus for practicing

How to make your own Abacus:

This is something I made for myself and have also used for students.  Some students already have an Abacus at home and can use that, but others don’t know what an Abacus is and can have fun making their own.  You can make them with ribbon, glue, beads, paper and some kind of board or foam block (I used a foam block from old packaging).  If you want to get creative you can use a piece of cardboard, tape, some string, and fruit loops, cheerios, life savors or some other kind of cereal or candy!  Kids have fun making their own, especially if you use candy items.

How to use the Abacus for Practicing:

The way I would teach a beginner how to use an Abacus for practicing is to assign them 5 or 6 short  pieces of music.  Then tell them that they need to keep track of what pieces they are playing every day. I start with one row and tell them when they play one of their assigned pieces they get to move a bead over to the other side. If you have 6 rows (as you see in the photo) then you can tell them to play each piece 5 times.  This instills good practice habits from the beginning.

For students that are a little farther a long I give them more of a challenge.  You can assign certain sections of a piece and tell them that they can’t move the bead over until the section is played correctly.  For example if their rhythm in that section isn’t quite right I tell them that they need to practice the rhythm correctly (which we cover in the lesson) then go home and practice it just like that 5 times each day they practice.  Every time they play it correctly they get to move a bead over to the other side.

For students that really like a challenge I challenge them to play it correctly 5 times in a row.  If they mess up, they have to move a bead back over to the starter side (I like the start side to be the left side).  This may be a bit frustrating for some, so I don’t tell all my students to do that, but it can be a good way to make sure a piece, or a section of a piece, is learned the right way.  It makes my students more aware of what they are doing when they are practicing as well, to ensure a more focused practice session.  If there is any other way you can think of to use an Abacus, you may post in the comments bellow!

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4 Replies to “Abacus for Practicing”

  1. Hi Lacy, new follower here and a fellow piano teacher/blogger! This is SUCH a creative idea!! I agree, I bet the majority of students don't even know what an Abacus is 🙂 Having something tactile to help keep track of practicing really helps. Thanks for sharing!! I look forward to reading more of your ideas!

  2. This is a really good idea. I've used if for ages, and call it "practising beads" with my students. Lots of different designs are possible. I use it for "putting notes into the fingers". Take a little section, and do it ten CORRECT times. It should only take you 2 minutes. If it takes more time, then your chunk is too big, you are going too fast, etc., etc.

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