It was nice to hear from you. Thank you for your feedback. As promised I am back with some practice tips for you. I know that this is a vast, multifaceted topic so it seems best to start at the very beginning. Today’s discussion will focus on practice tips for the young beginner. The information presented in this series of posts is the cumulative result of years of practical experience reflecting the perspective of many of our teachers. Much of the information for this post comes to us courtesy of piano teacher, Denise Porter.
Regardless of the instrument or the teacher, your young beginner will be sent home with weekly practice assignments and in the beginning, they will need help. We sometimes hear parents lament that since they themselves don’t play, they feel that they can’t possibly help their child with their assignments. In reality that is not the case. Parents and caregivers who are able to be involved in their young beginners lessons and practice are usually rewarded with the joy of witnessing consistent musical growth leading to a sense of pride for both the student and the parent. In time, after the parent has helped to lay the foundation,the student will develop age appropriate independent practice habits and the desire to practice without the same level of involvement.
How can you, the parent without musical training, help your child to practice? First, with or without a musical background, as a parent, you have garnered the organizational skills and real life experiences to help your children develop the discipline, cognitive skills and practice routines to accomplish almost anything. And, whether you have experience with a musical instrument or not, if at all possible, sit in on your child’s first few lessons or sit in periodically, or just in response to an occasional challenge. Even if you have no training, you will learn the skills that will enable you to help your child to practice effectively at home. I know that this is not always possible due to your own time constraints and the needs of the other children in the family. Another consideration is that some students are more focused at their lessons without a parent in the room. Whatever the reason, if you find that sitting in on the entire lesson is not practical take time during the last 4 or 5 minutes of the lesson to discuss the next week’s assignment with the teacher. This will also give you access to valuable progress reports. Don’t be shy, I can assure you that the teacher will welcome your interest and involvement!
Now it’s time to go home and establish a routine. Remember consistency is the key. Daily practice, even if only for 10 minutes is very important. As mentioned in the last post, make practicing part of your child’s daily schedule, finding a time of day that works best for them and for you. Many young children have too much energy to either sit or focus for long periods of time. Most have problems focusing when they are tired. Practicing does not have to happen all at once. Have your child play 3 or 4 times a day for just a few minutes at a time, to optimize their desire and ability to practice effectively. Recognize that your child might want you to sit with them during their early practice sessions much as you sit with them to help them with their school assignments. As with their schoolwork, they will need you less as they progress.
Remember the old adage about all work and no play? Young children love to “noodle” around on their instrument, and it’s good for them to do that. Of course their teachers’ assignments are important too. It is beneficial to include both in your child’s practice routine. This actually applies to students of all ages. As does the inevitability of having to skip a day or two or more of practice on occasion. And contrary to what you may think, it is important to attend the next lesson after a week of little practice. This is the best way to get back on track, refreshed and invigorated for the next week of practicing. If your child has been consistently practicing all along, one bad week is not going to deter learning at that lesson.
Finally, when problems or questions arise, write them down so that you remember to address them at the next lesson with the teacher. This helps with your memory and teaches good habits through constructive role modeling. On the subject of writing things down, please do share your thoughts on all of this with me, while they are fresh in your mind. The next post will address your comments as well as dealing with problem areas and frustration!