One common concern of parents and music teachers is the daily practice students must adhere to. At first, the child is excited and enthusiastic, enjoying the new instrument and practicing every day. But life is not all fun and soon enough, the daily practices seem boring and less attractive, especially when compared with other options of activities. At that point, the music teacher usually receives a phone call (or has a face-to-face conversation with a parent) along the following lines: “The kid is not practicing much any more. What should I do? Is it worth the investment of time and money? Should I force him/her to practice? Should I be angry? Should I threaten with some punishment?”
Well, my answer, which may irritate conservative music teachers, is not unequivocal.
Let me explain why:
Music, unlike many other activities in a child’s daily schedule, demands many hours of practicing, self-discipline, and commitment. Moreover, this activity requires a high level of concentration. Based on one or two lessons a week, the child must repeat and incorporate all that he/she learned throughout the week. This is not a simple task, even for adults. Therefore, it is unlikely that a child who has just started learning music will have perfect practicing habits. He/she needs a work plan, a gradual program of becoming more committed to daily practices.
So here are a few tips to help you with the daily practicing:
1. There is nothing worse and less effective than just saying to your child “go practice your music.” It’s not much fun for them playing to themselves, with no one listening. So ask them to play you a mini-concert. You can do other house chores at the same time, but do listen and react encouragingly to their efforts.
2. Always complement the playing, even if it is not perfect. You have no idea how much it helps. It boosts your child’s self esteem and self confidence. Your child craves a positive feedback, much like they waited for you to say “”Wow!”” when they started walking.
3. Allow your child to play even in front of the TV. Even the great cellist Misha Maiski does it – I heard him tell it himself. And why not, actually? Music playing should be an part of the activities in the house, not a lonely pastime.
4. Encourage the practicing through a system of rewards. Keep count of the time they practice and reward them with a small gift or a privilege. You can keep a chart of stickers, one for every good day of practice, and decide that a certain amount stickers entitles your child to a bigger reward.
5. Kids love performing and showing off what they can do. Film your child playing and upload the clip to YouTube or social media sites. They can also watch themselves playing and perhaps improve on what they see. Knowing others are watching will spur them to improve their performances.
6. Try to be part of the lesson itself. Even if it is not always convenient, make an effort to be present in the lesson. Ask the teacher how you can help your child at home, perhaps with a system of memorization.
7. Ask your child to teach you how to play. Teaching is a great tool for learning. They can practice techniques and melodies through teaching you. This way, the usual practice can turn into a fun activity for both of you. Moreover, you will then understand the teaching method and the challenges your child faces.
Don’t forget to update me with your progress. Send me video clips of your child or student playing. I will be glad to post them in a special post on my blog. But don’t forget to share with me what’s happening during your lessons and at home, so we can all learn and improve our approaches and teaching techniques.
I will also publish it in a special post. Please, share this with anyone who can enjoy and learn from this post.
Good luck and pleasant playing.