The Reluctant Child. Some Top Tips to Help Them Practise.

Those of you who have young children learning a musical instrument, and I include singing too, know the pain of coaxing them to practise. Unless of course you have a musical prodigy in your midst then this post is not for you......cue the feelings of jealousy from everyone - me included!

Practising is obviously very important not just for the student or the parent as they are paying for the lessons, but also for the teacher (I'll get to that bit shortly) But in most houses a frustration builds around this aspect of learning an instrument. In fact it can become a bartering activity in households with full on negotiation skills being drawn upon by the adult to make the child see things from 'a wallet' point of view!
 

So, what do you do?


As a piano teacher and with children of my own who are accomplished musicians, I have always asked parents to NOT force practise time in the way it was forced on our generation back in the 70s and 80s. Learning an instrument has so many advantages helping your child develop, the last thing we want to do is turn them off, hence why I have never asked any student to sit for half an hour or so continuously practising (remember I'm referring to younger children in this post). They get agitated, lose focus and ultimately lose interest.

 

1.       The best type of practise is organic - where the child (regardless of age) feels they are in control of when they practise. Encourage them to do 5 mins in the morning before they go to school you could be loading the dishwasher, or putting on your coat. Example, if your child has been given a new scale e.g. D Major, they now have to get used to playing a scale with two black notes -  They only need to do the first three fingers to get used to the feel. This is a small but productive step and will be on their mind - even if they won't admit it to you.

 

2.       When they come home from school - another five-ten minutes - add in the passing thumb, this will help build muscle memory, and get them used to the movement across the black note. If they're of an age where they bring home work from school, a few minutes break at their instrument can be a welcome relief from the copy books and can do wonders for their concentration when they sit back to finish their reading/writing.

 

Notice anything? THEY'VE ALREADY DONE 10/15 MINS!

 

3.       Now use the same process for the rest of the scale. Remember, your child has a full week (normally) to have this scale prepared for the next lesson. By the end of step 3 (which generally happens around bedtime) 15-20 mins over the course of the day can be achieved without all the hassle and frustration. But most importantly, as the child gets used to this routine you will find that they'll practise longer, and when this happens don't stop them.

Success!

Now congratulate yourself on breaking down practise time into manageable chunks and having a stress free household.

Oh yeah, did I mention the teacher?

Ah yes, us piano/singing teachers, who look out the window and see our student coming towards the door, with head down and eyes low, knowing in our heart of hearts what is about to greet us :(
It can range from:
"all my other activities are taking up so much time" (that's a whole other blog post)
"I didn't think of it"
"I left my books in .........."
and the list goes on and on and on.

Compare that with the child that walks in with the head up and says "I was able to manage 10/15 mins most days" Now that's music to our ears! In this scenario, the teacher feels valued for the lesson taught the previous week, and it doesn't matter if there's an error or technique to be corrected, that's why we're there, but we can tell instantly if effort has been made.

Music teachers know that not every student is going to play Carnegie Hall, but we want the student to enjoy their instrument, benefit from lessons and take that skill with them into the future and preferably, without falling out with you in the process.

Happy practising.

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