Discover effective Music Practice Tips for Children. Help your child progress and stay motivated with expert advice from Robert Boer.
When I was young, the first thing I would do when I got home from school was sit at the piano and practice. My parents never had to tell me to practice, and I was perhaps an exception to the average kid. My parents also never asked me to stop practicing! Later, I realized how supportive that was of them. The discipline I developed at a young age through practicing piano made me realize that it helped me in many other facets later in life. We all know, and it is a reality, that most children need some encouragement and parental guidance to develop good instrument practice routines.
1. Your child loves music but is not always motivated to practice?
2. Does your child practice but does not progress much?
3. Does your child like practicing music but often forgets or does not practice the teacher's homework?
4. Does your child like practicing but seems to lose interest lately?
There could be more scenarios. However, if any of these situations sound familiar to you, I encourage you to explore the music practice tips for children below.
PUT YOUR CHILD IN CONTROL OF THEIR PRACTICE TIME.
It is only human that we don't always like doing what we are told to do. During the day, your child has different people telling them what to do. (parents, other siblings, teachers, coaches) Add music to the list, and it is possible that your child could be less motivated sometimes. Avoid this scenario by putting your child in charge of the practice sessions. Doing this together with your child creates a beautiful bond without telling your child what to do. Let them decide on the practice schedule. That way, they are more likely to stick to it. Start with an "end goal" in mind. Make a simple practice chart, and have your child fill it out. You could do some research together on how much time is good to practice. How much do good musicians practice? It helps set the reality that one must practice being a good musician. Doing this helps your child feel a sense of control, and it will increase understanding of the value of practicing. Your child makes the schedule, and you can help reinforce it. Little rewards are perfect; even if we set small goals, it is an excellent start.
Regular practicing is a path towards self-discipline that goes way beyond music in life. It is a skill that hugely positively impacts personal fulfillment and lifetime success. Having a point of focus/goal for each practice session is essential. You can link them to a category like scales, songs, exam pieces, exercises, etudes, warmups, etc. Write those down and create a practice log you can be proud of. Ask your child's teacher for advice in getting this started if needed.
Create Practice Focus Points/Goals:
Scales and other technical exercises.
Write fingerings or other markings in the music needed to help the practice.
Isolate difficult passages and work on them, even if that is only two bars!
Playing through a piece connecting difficult bars that were previously worked on.
Playing through all the parts worked on over the past several days.
Try to come up with more ideas that could work for your child.
Scheduling different pieces in different blocks or days can help make things manageable.
The above points are proven to be workable for children, even if they may sound hard to you initially. A good practice is intentional; it is better to practice with a goal in mind for 10 minutes than to waste one hour.
Three times a week, 20 minutes of practice is already good! Especially in the morning, so your child can have something fun to start their day. This commitment is short and frequent enough to help your child develop the musical muscle memory and ear they need. You will be surprised how many children reach the end of the 20 minutes and practice a little more because they are just getting warmed up.
Feel free to use our handy practice planner. Or you can always make your own together with your child.
Here are a few short quick tips:
Listen to your child practice. Even if you don't know anything about music, being there and listening actively stimulates your child and helps turn practicing into a fun time.
Listen to some music together. Find some famous performers on YouTube and watch them together. Your child will enjoy this.
Have fun little mini-concerts on weekends. Please have your child showcase what they learn in an enjoyable and relaxed atmosphere. This is a fantastic practice motivator and can truly instill confidence. Most children love performing in a comfortable, safe environment with some encouragement.
UNDERSTAND THE GIFT OF MUSIC
Show your child that playing an instrument is a privilege and an opportunity not necessarily available to everyone. Music does enhance life. The discipline required to study this art form, and in this process, we cultivate a gift that we can share with others. Playing music for others brings pleasure.
Why not take your child to a concert sometimes? Find out if famous performers are passing through in your town or city or if perhaps an excellent symphony orchestra performance is coming up. I was blessed with having a very caring piano teacher when I was young, and I will never forget the piano recitals my piano teacher took me to a few times. Seeing famous performers perform live made a big impression on me as a child.
I've heard many adults say that I quit taking piano when I was young, and it was such a mistake. I wish I could go back and retake lessons, and parents can help children know the value that musical talent brings to society.
DON'T MAKE PRACTICING TOO MUCH OF AN OBLIGATION
This gets a bit psychological, and this may sound strange, but the idea here is that it is vital not to make the practice seem like an obligation compared to other fun activities. For example, if your son or daughter loves playing video games or outside, don't use a fun activity as a reward. This will create the mindset that practice is the obligation that stands in the way of the fun activity, which could generate resentment or dread for practice.
Learning to play an instrument is not an easy task, and it is a long process that can be full of ups and downs. It is important to celebrate little victories along the way.
Of course, verbal praise is essential. However, you can also try creating other ways to celebrate achievements.
For instance, you could create a journal to write about your child's accomplishments. Many children like to see it put in writing inside a nice-looking book, and you're less likely to forget the significant achievements. If writing in a journal is not your thing, you could display a small whiteboard on your fridge and write them there or display them on a cardboard wall somewhere in your home. Celebrating your child's victories helps your child keep a positive attitude when struggling to learn something new.
MUSIC YOUR CHILD LIKES AND A TEACHER
While there are always certain signature songs and classics for various instruments, your child will lose interest if they don't like the music they're playing. At the same time, it is essential to try and let your child try to develop a broad taste. A good teacher will help here. I always encourage my students to choose pieces they like. For example, students studying for ABRSM or TRINITY exams with me get to choose different repertoire pieces from the exam book. Let's say you select ten songs that you, as a teacher, feel are essential and good for them to learn, and then let your students choose two of the ten that they like best. This already creates a feeling of excitement, and the student will be more likely to practice and stay interested. As a conductor of youth orchestras, I would organize listening sessions for the entire orchestra and let the young musicians hear new music. While listening, I would let them choose their favorites. The songs with the most votes would be purchased and placed on their music stands. The excitement this created was heartwarming!
It is also fine next to your child's exam repertoire to have your child play a song entirely of their own choice. Your teacher can help you find the sheet music at the correct level of difficulty.
Finally, finding the right teacher for your child is essential. A teacher should understand your child's learning style and character and be a teacher who keeps your child interested. When your son or daughter likes their teacher, they are more likely to practice consistently.
Have you tried some of the above strategies? Which ones have been successful for you? Do you have other methods that you use to motivate your child? Let me know in the comments below.
About the author
Robert Boer is a music educator with over 30 years of experience in the field of music education. He is the owner and director of MusicTutorOnline and teaches piano and music theory at MusicTutorOnline. After studying at the Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, his music education career took him all over the world, teaching students of all ages and backgrounds.
More writings by Robert Boer:
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