When young children begin to learn a musical instrument, there is a question on the tip of every parent’s tongue…
‘How much practice should my child be doing… And how can I help to ensure that they do it?’
If a child is to progress on a musical instrument, regular practice needs to be encouraged right from the start and a teacher will generally set practice each lesson (only a tiny bit for very young children). Generally speaking great things occur if a family member regularly guides a child in their practice, offering encouragement and praise. So, I’ve come up with some tried and tested tips and tricks to help you out, whether you are planning to sit down with your child, or encourage from afar:
Establish a set time for practice each day that doesn’t clash with other distraction. Make sure your child is alert and doesn’t have too many other things to think about (football to follow, just back from swimming).
Have a plan in place before you start, so that when your child is in the ‘practice zone’, it is focused and moving forward… this keeps them on the ball.
If there is more than one thing to practice, divide the time into bite-sized chunks of only a few minutes, so that practice is fresh and ever changing.
Occasionally, select a small section of music and work on it thoroughly in one practice session, your child will see a more marked improvement and be encouraged.
Often a child may become frustrated if they can’t play things straight away. Slow right down for practice, only playing something ‘at speed’ once the notes are mastered… that way mistakes are fewer and tasks more manageable.
Arrange ‘performance time’ in the home for a few weeks time. Choose a piece or exercise that your child can demonstrate for the family… And applaud loudly on the day. This one works every time!
When relevant, discuss opportunities with your child’s teacher with regards to small public performances, assessments and exams. The satisfaction of achievement will power them forward.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, INCENTIVES… a parent’s best friend. Get stuck in straight away with a nice big, bright practice chart. Award stickers (your teacher will lend you plenty!) for targets achieved… perhaps extra stickers or a small prize if practice has occurred every day.
If a teacher has a fun, engaging manner alongside a structured approach to achievement, then the battle if half won. A child learning music with a good teacher will automatically be motivated to acquire the skills, understanding and ability required to enable them to enjoy music through playing and listening. However, you can help too by actively encouraging them at the start of their musical adventure… It really is a gift to last a lifetime.