Practice Tips & Parent Involvement
I spend only a short time with each student every week to review progress, introduce new concepts, and prepare students for productive practice during the week. The number one indicator of success and satisfaction with music lessons is practice outside the lesson, and parental involvement is often key to consistent practice. Students under age 10 or so really benefit from an adult encouraging them to practice and helping them practice - at these young ages, students aren't usually ready to make self-directed practice a habit on their own. Ideally students will practice 3-5 days per week, playing a piece as close to correctly as possible 3-5x/day (and as many times as needed to get it right before they begin counting those 3-5 times!). We're looking for consistency, not perfection, and it's important to encourage and praise the habit of practice versus perceived improvement in playing.
Here are some ideas to get involved with your child's music lessons and encourage consistent practice (even if you're the student!):
- Create a safe, comfortable environment in which students can practice. Some students enjoy playing piano in the family room; others prefer privacy while they practice. You may want to ask your child what works best for them.
- Ask "Can you show me what you learned this week?" This takes away pressure to be perfect and expresses genuine interest in what they're learning, not how well they're playing.
- Use the 3-minute timer! Set the timer on your phone for 3 minutes and watch it count down together while your student works on one section or concept.
- Use practice charts as a visual way to mark consistent effort. Remember to encourage and praise consistency over progress!
- Add practice to the daily routine - whether it's in the morning right after they brush their teeth or in the evening between Math and English homework, consistency is key.
- Create a weekly calendar/schedule with all activities and commitments listed. Include lessons and practice time for a visual reminder that practice is a commitment!
- Set aside time each day that will always be “music practice time”. Post a schedule on your fridge or put a reminder in your phone and stick to it as best you can. Practice is more likely to happen if it takes place at the same time each day.
- Encourage short, consistent amounts of practice - I generally suggest playing a piece 3-5x a day, and that often equates to less than 5 minutes of practice a day. Practice can include playing their assigned pieces AND "noodling" on their instrument, or active listening, or playing musical games, or coloring musical pages, etc.
- Try to be present during your children’s practice, even if you are just listening. Depending on age, your musician may need basic assistance (a reminder to play some music that day, organizing materials, reading lesson notes, troubleshooting instruments) or they may simply appreciate your physical presence in the room. You’ll likely look forward to this “break from reality” too!
- Be encouraging and positive about your children’s attempts. Don’t worry about fixing mistakes you may hear (that’s my job!) and instead be a cheerleader to your musician's learning efforts. Mistakes can be easily fixed. Right now, the focus should be on being enthusiastic about the learning process.Our goal is simply to encourage your musician to play a little music every day.
- Don't be afraid of mistakes. Whether it's you or your kids, mistakes are how we learn. If mistakes are frustrating your musician, gently remind them that we all make mistakes, and it's part of the learning process, and it's 100% okay!
- Provide “reasons” for your children to practice. Many students say recitals are their musical highlight of the year - so create mini performance opportunities. Record a song and send it to grandparents, FaceTime with cousins and have your musician play a song...you can even record a performance and text it to me for feedback!
- Play musical games with your kids! Take advantage of this time at home and review flash cards (many have the answers on the back, if you're not a musician), ask your student to teach YOU a line of music, take turns playing or singing short phrases and copying each other, etc. You can also do this in the car, or any time you're listening to music together. Ask your student how the music makes them feel, what instruments they hear, is the song slow/fast/quiet/loud, etc. It all adds up!
If your student is struggling with practice, please let me know so we can explore additional practice tips and techniques to ensure a successful musical experience.