Beginning Music Lessons – A Parent’s Survival Guide

Suggestions for surviving beginning music lessons

Has your child just started beginning music lessons? Let me guess – you were all excited for your child to start music lessons. Your child was excited, the instrument was great, the music books were captivating…and then your child came home to practice. And the sound is driving you crazy! This wasn’t what you signed up for! How can that lovely instrument produce these horrible sounds? Or maybe you are wondering how your child can play so many wrong notes! Perhaps the incorrect rhythm is grating on your nerves! Relax. Give them time. Your child will improve.

But in the meantime, here are a few ideas to help you handle the sounds of beginning music lessons.

        Positive Attitude/Smile

        Patience

        Perseverance

        And Perhaps, Ear Plugs

Have a positive attitude!

Smile! Your child will get better with practice, I promise! He will learn to produce a better sound. She will learn to play in tune with herself. He will start to count the rhythm correctly. She will play more right notes than wrong ones.

How you can help:

Encourage your child to keep practicing. Praise any progress he makes. Don’t complain about the awful sound, or the wrong notes. Don’t tell all the relatives about your child’s problems with his instrument. Smile and make them continue to practice. Take your child to concerts and recitals to inspire him. Let her talk to more advanced musicians who can encourage her to keep practicing. Smile!

Be patient! And realistic.

Most students will not be playing at an advanced level after their first few beginning music lessons. Give them time to learn! Just like any other skill set, music takes time and effort to learn and do well. Give them time! Some day they will be able to practice on their own. Sooner or later they will remember to take all their music with them to their lessons. But until that time they will need some help from you.

How you can help:

Smile! Encourage them to keep practicing. Make a recording of your child after the first couple weeks of practice, and then again after a few months. Play the recordings to them so they (and you) can see how they have improved. Make this a regular practice. Celebrate milestones – finishing a book, learning all the fingerings, getting a great sound, the first concert or recital, etc. Sit with them while they practice. Establish a practice routine. Help them keep all their music and supplies organized and together.

Persevere!

Don’t let quitting be an option! (Or at least not for the first year). Especially, don’t have them quit because you don’t want to listen to them practice! You will soon get beyond the sound of beginning music lessons. Things will get better! Practice will not always be their top priority. There will be times you will have to “force” your child to practice. But that’s ok. You “force” them to do their homework, to brush their teeth, just add music practice to the list.

How you can help: 

Smile! And insist that they practice. Don’t let them argue about it with you. Just make it part of the daily routine. Set reasonable goals and give rewards when those goals are met. (Work with your child’s teacher for some mutual goals.)

Perhaps Ear Plugs!

Let’s be real here – it is not always pleasant or enjoyable to listen to students practice, especially beginners! You may think the poor tone quality is going to drive you crazy. Or the mistakes. Or the intonation issues. So, put in some ear plugs to keep you from constantly commenting on (criticizing?) their playing. Or go for a walk! (providing your child is old enough to be home alone, or that someone else is home with him!) I have done that! When I couldn’t stand the mistakes, and couldn’t constantly correct my child about the same mistakes, I just walked out the door and around a couple blocks – figuring that by the time I got home my child would be finished practicing and I wouldn’t be tempted to say something I would later regret!

How you can help:

Realize that beginners will occasionally screech, squawk, blast, etc. They will play wrong notes. They are still learning! If it bothers you, take a break. Put in ear plugs, go for a walk. But don’t criticize and discourage them!

I remember trying not to listen to carefully to my beginning string players when they practiced because too often the intonation issues would be almost too much to handle. But they improved! Now I miss listening to them practice.

When one of my sons was first learning to play French horn his tone quality was awful! The sound was something like a sick elephant sneezing. I was afraid we had totally chosen the wrong instrument for him! And then he got it figured out. I am so glad we let him keep going with his horn. I loved listening to him play!

And then there were the times when my kids were practicing piano and continually making the same mistakes. I could only correct them so many times before we both went crazy. So, I shut my mouth, put on my shoes, and took a walk until they were finished practicing. They had to learn to recognize and correct their own mistakes!

Your child will improve; give him time! Don’t give up on them – give them time to figure this new instrument out! You will be happy you did.

Still trying to figure out what instrument your child should play? Read this post for some help – Which Musical Instrument Should my Child Play?

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