Practise Does Not Make Perfect – Perfect Practise Does
So a few months ago you bought a piano and started your child in music lessons. Or perhaps it was a violin, flute or guitar. Are you fighting about practicing yet?
Many parents find that their child starts out enthusiastically and then the novelty begins to wear off, and they start to resist practicing and seem to be losing interest. Are you wondering what you can do to keep the interest alive?
Parents do play an important role in their child’s success when studying an instrument and so a few do’s and don’ts for parents will hopefully give you the rewarding experience of sitting at the year-end recital, proud as punch that you played a part in your child’s success!
THE BEST TIPS FOR YOU IF YOUR CHILD NEEDS TO FOCUS ON PRACTICING MUSIC:
MUSIC IS A COMMITMENT
It might be a little late to tell you this now, but at the outset, it is good to make it clear to your child, in an enthusiastic manner, that music training is a long-term process, just like school, but with many high points of pleasure along the way.
RESPECT YOUR CHILD’S INDIVIDUALITY
Remember that your own child has his own unique pace, so avoid comparing him to siblings or neighbour’s children, or other students in the teacher’s studio who may appear to be playing better than he is. Anticipate ups and downs in his attitude and progress, along with a number of ‘growing pain’ periods.
KNOW WHEN TO HELP
Seriously contemplate how to help your child. Knowing when to help, when to be supportive, and when to withdraw to encourage him to help himself is a parental art in itself. Ask your music teacher for advice on how you can help with music practicing.
FOCUS ON QUALITY PRACTICING, NOT QUANTITY
Stress that quality, not quantity, of practice, is what results in real progress. Encouraging your child to “play each song three times” is not necessarily the best advice. It is important, for example, for a student to single out difficult sections and work on them in a variety of ways so that when they get to those parts that they don’t always stumble. Counting aloud and naming notes aloud (especially in the early stages) are also good ways to ensure that your child understands what they are playing and that they aren’t just playing by rote or by ear.
ENCOURAGE IN MUSIC IS KEY
Be pleasant and encouraging about your child’s practicing. Of course, there will be times when you will need to be firm. But remember that with “music in your voice”, you can coach him, guide him, and not police him.
MUSIC PRACTISING NEEDS THE SAME RESPECT AS MUSIC LESSONS
When you help your child, be at his side—not at the other end of the room or in the next room. Yelling from the kitchen while you’re replying to an email just doesn’t cut it! Teach him to treat the music practice session with the same respect he gives to his music lesson time.
During a crisis, always talk it out with your child in an atmosphere of mutual respect. If the issue is serious, you may need to discuss it with the teacher first. Allow your child to participate in the final decision so he feels that his thoughts have been heard too. Teach him to interact constructively in group decision-making.
MUSIC IS TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, BUT HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR!
A sense of humour is a powerful tool with which to resolve disagreements about practicing. Always let your child feel you are proud of his achievements, even when they are small. Encourage him to play for family and friends—if you play, suggest that possibly you could learn a duet to play together. Set goals for your child. Perhaps a reward program for practicing will be a good motivational tool. If your teacher suggests an exam or festival, don’t view it as something negative that will put pressure on your child. Instead view it as a goal to work towards and an opportunity to receive constructive suggestions from professionals other than his teacher.
IMPORTANT DONT’S IN MUSIC PRACTISING:
Never belittle your child’s efforts. Don’t despair at temporary lapses in practice. Your child will make progress in the lesson itself, although less rapidly. So if you’ve had a bad week, don’t cancel the lesson because you don’t feel your child is prepared. The lesson is a good opportunity for the teacher to reinforce what needs to be done at home and reinforce short-term goals.
DON’T TAKE AWAY YOUR CHILD’S PRACTICING
Don’t threaten to stop his lessons if he doesn’t practice. Threats can work during periods of high motivation in music but may boomerang during a ‘growing pain’ period. The day may come when he will remind you of your threat and insist that you make good on it!! Do you let him quit school when times are tough? Or if he’s struggling at school, do you pull him out? Of course not! The same applies to music lessons—when you allow your child to quit because it’s a bit difficult, or because they balk at having to do something they don’t like to do, then you are encouraging bad habits that will carry through into other areas of their life.
DON’T CRITICIZE WHILE MUSIC PRACTICING
Don’t criticize your child in the presence of others, especially the teacher. The teacher has skillfully built up a good relationship with your child, and his losing face will tend to undermine it. Speak to the teacher, and only the teacher, privately about problems.
DON’T OVERWHELM YOUR CHILD WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Your financial investment in your child’s music lessons pays its dividends through the skills he acquires over the years, not by the amount of his daily practice, nor in how much he plays for you or your guests. Remember, you are giving your child a music education for his artistic use, for his self-expression, and for his pleasure. Don’t expect him, as a child, to be grateful for your sacrifices. His gratitude will come years later when he can play and enjoy music as an adult. I know it seems like I long time to wait—but the day will come!