“How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”
We’ve all heard that old joke, and while many of our children are not planning on playing Carnegie Hall any time soon, it is still important to include music practice in between their lessons. Unfortunately, music practice can be a struggle for some students, especially those with perfectionist tendencies, and cause a daily battle between parent and child. Here are some tips to help make practice time a little easier and the progress a little faster:
- Create the environment: How does your child practice best? Does he need a music stand, a metronome, or pencils to make notes? Is he more comfortable sitting or standing? Is he comfortable practicing in the middle of the household hustle or does he need to be away from the rest of the family? By setting up a specific practice environment you are setting up your student for success when he starts a practice session.
- Set a time just for practice: It doesn’t necessarily need to be 4:00 pm on the dot, but if children have a practice time set into their routines they know it is coming and what to expect. This can also help alleviate the argument by pointing out to the child that this is his designated practice time and it will happen every day.
- Set a timer: Just like setting a time to practice can help a child know what to expect, setting a timer gives the child the expectation that his practice time will be over after a given number of minutes. If it helps your child you can place the timer in view, but if he tends to stall until time is up you may need to keep it with you.
- Break it up: Part of practicing music is strengthening hand muscles and building muscle memory. If a child begins to fatigue his music will not sound as nice and he may feel frustrated and grumpy. Start with small sections of time 10 minutes for example, and set two or three practice sessions up (depending on the amount your child needs to practice). As they get older and stronger, they can practice up to 15 minutes at a time and will be practicing 30-45 minutes total a day. That allows for a lot of improvement!
- Let the teacher teach: Even if you are a musician it can create conflict with your child if you try to override what his teacher has told him to do. If you are able to help read notes with your child, count and clap a difficult rhythm, or turn pages during a long piece, great! By supporting your child’s teacher and offering support and praise to your child during practice sessions you are allowing your child to see that other adults have valuable information to offer and that you are encouraging their process.
Music lessons are a beautiful gift to give your child, and will benefit him academically and spiritually. By helping your child invest time in this gift, you will be helping him see progress and success at a valuable skill that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Best wishes on your musical journey!