So you got your child started on music lessons. Now he must practice. That’s right, your child’s music teacher expects your child to actually practice between lessons. And if you really want to make those lessons worthwhile, you will have to help your child with this. What does that mean? What does that look like? Keep reading for some suggestions.
Practice is NOT what is supposed to happen during a music lesson.
During your child’s music lesson, the teacher expects to hear how your child has progressed since the last lesson. Has he mastered the material that was assigned? Has she corrected the mistakes or difficulties that were discussed at the last lesson? Also, the lesson is the time to focus on new concepts, new techniques, new music. But if the student does not demonstrate mastery of the last material, how can the teacher justify presenting new material? Practice at home is what allows the student to master material already taught. No practice = no progress!
What does it mean to practice music?
I suppose a good definition of practice is the repeated performance of a new skill or technique with the goal of improvement and mastery. The goal of every practice session should be to improve or perfect at least one problem.
Ideas you can use to help your child practice
Be present, not absent
Be present at the lesson so you know what the teacher expects your child to do.
Be present at practice times to encourage your child, to be sure your child is doing what the teacher expects.
Be positive, not critical
Encourage your child while he is practicing. Tell him he is doing a good job at working through something. Tell her she is following the teacher’s instructions well. Encourage him to keep going.
Consider practice time as play, rather than work.
I know real practicing is hard work, but a young child should view practice time as fun, not a chore. Have a set time every day for practice and see if you can turn at least some of it into a game.
Give praise, not pressure
Praise your child for doing something well. Praise her for following instructions. Praise him for completing an assignment. Don’t let your child come to associate practice time as stress time or pressure time. Don’t threaten.
As a child gets older and advances with his music the demands on the parent change. You are not required to be at every practice session – he becomes more independent with his practicing. But even them some parental involvement in still important. Continue to take an interest in their music. What are they playing? How does his teacher want him to play the piece? Show interest in his work and accomplishments. Maintain good communication with the teacher – is your student meeting the teacher’s expectations?
Notes to musical moms
- Don’t sit down and play every piece for your child before they begin to learn it! This will not help your child learn or improve his music-reading skills. And it will not help your child to think through and interpret a piece for himself.
- Don’t over-correct. I had problems with this. Listening to my kids practice and play things incorrectly would drive me crazy! But if I told them everything they needed to fix, they would never learn to listen and find the errors themselves. What to do? Sometimes you just have to leave! Leave the room, leave the house. I have just gotten up, walked around the neighborhood until I figured they were done practicing, and then came back.
- Play duets with your child – just for fun! Or accompany them – just for fun! That will help to teach them that music can be fun! They also will see that playing with others is truly enjoyable.
What further suggestions do you have for help with practicing? Let us know in the comment section!