Regular practicing nurtures the skill of self-discipline that goes way beyond music — it has huge positive ramifications for personal fulfillment and lifetime success. But self-motivated discipline doesn’t come naturally for most kids, so it’s up to parents to help create positive, engaging and fun ways to practice as a path towards self-motivation.
1) Keep it short and sweet
Good practice is like an athlete training for the Olympics. An athlete needs to train regularly, he can’t skip training for a month and then train 12 hours in one day and expect the same results. The same with practice! Your child will achieve more in 15 minutes 5 times a week than practicing for hours on the weekend. Short practices are also more fun and less stressful for your child and will aid with muscle memory. If you are already practicing regularly but are finding practice times a battle try splitting up practice on the same day. For example try 10 minutes before school and then 10 minutes after supper.
2) Visual Visual Visual!
Children love visual reinforcement and to be able to see what they have achieved, there are lot’s of great ideas for practice charts so your child can visually see their accomplishments and you can print off free practice charts online. Here are some ideas:
- Put a sticker on for every day you practice
- Check off each day you practice
- Colour in each day you practice
- Colour a section of a picture each time you practice
- Draw a flower/car etc in the garden/road every time you practice
You can add extra incentives of a large sticker or dollar store prizes after 20 practices are achieved or 5 in one week.
You can even use visual cues during practice time to help with the quality or practice. Erasable highlighters are great for highlighting the whole piece and erase each measure as you learn to play it, or use sticky notes for the same effect or simply have a list of the pages to work on during the practice section and check them off as you go.
3) Practice what needs Practicing.
Practicing is a learned skill- most people when asked to practice will simply play the piece over and over again whereas good and effective practice means isolating sections of the piece to work. Just like scrubbing a floor, we mop the whole floor but sometimes we see a tough stain and have to zone in and scrub that one spot a couple of times by itself. It would be very ineffective if instead of scrubbing the stain we repeatedly mopped the entire floor (including the sections that were already clean) until the stain was removed. So when your child practices why have them play the whole piece repeatedly including the parts which are easy to them. Zone in on that tricky spot. Use erasable highlighters or post it notes to isolate a measure of the piece or photocopy the music and literally cut out the tricky section. Ask your child to play it slowly several times through, when they can play it 3 times without a mistake they can try it up to speed. It’s helpful for children to know where they are headed so be specific “we are going to play this measure 5 times”, and then keep track by putting checkmarks at the bottom of the page or colouring a petal on a flowere etc. You can also make a game of it, every time your student plays have them move a penny from one side of the music stand to the other, if they play it again and miss a note or beat, move a penny back. When they can move all their pennies over they it’s time for a special sticker or other prize.
4) Switch it Up and Plan Practice Carefully
There are lots of good music things you can do away from your instrument- these are great breaks if your child is getting frustrated with a piece or after playing tricky warm ups. Try to start and finish practice with a piece they enjoy (even if it’s not been assigned) and take regular practice breaks – Here are some great practice break ideas:
- Listen to the piece of music you are working on, if you can’t find a copy or a video on youtube, listen to something by the same composer or just someone playing the same instrument.
- Work on some theory homework or print off some fun free theory pages from the internet.
- Have some flash card fun. You can print off free flashcards online for free.
- Play some music games. You can find games online or if you have a smart phone or tablet there are lots of fun apps to download.
5) Be prepared and don’t be afraid to ask.
If you are unsure about an assignment from your lesson, make a note about it and ask your teacher at your next lesson. If you can, send an email to the studio to see if you might have your question answered before your next lesson so you can practice confidently. Keep all your music books in one place along with a practice kit of things you might need. Some ideas include, pencil and eraser for finger, breath marks etc, sticky notes, stickers for achievements, a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
There are lots of great websites offering free resources for music students. Here are some great ones to get started with: