Practicing Tips For Parents

Practicing tips for parents - How to get your child to enjoy practicing music.So your son or daughter has started to take lessons or maybe you are considering starting lessons but are a little unsure about how to get a younger kid to practice. Maybe they are already taking lessons and the honeymoon period has worn off and you are having a hard time getting them to practice. No matter what the issue is these practicing tips for parents will work. These are the tricks and techniques that we use in our lessons at the studio.

Reward Based Habits
As parents we have all probably used this technique at one time or another to help our kids learn something or to develop a new habit. It’s not a new concept but one that often gets overlooked for practicing music.

My wife and I used this technique to help potty train our oldest son. Here is what we did, first we noticed that he was crazy for stickers, he loved stickers, stickers would send him into a joy-filled frenzy. So we came up with a system to reward him for good behavior. We bought a small notebook and kept it in the bathroom and every time that he went to the bathroom and had a dry diaper we gave him a sticker. The system worked great, soon he was going all day without any accidents.

The point of this system in music is to help them to develop a habit of practicing 5 days a week. Here are the steps:

  1. Pick a reward that your child will like.
  2. The reward needs to be immediate.
  3. Use the reward to help them develop the habit.
  4. Once they are in the habit of doing it, then wean them off of the reward – Often times this happens naturally as once they begin practicing reguarly they will start improving and improvement is a reward in itself.

Practicing music is a learned skill much like anything else in life it takes effort to acquire that skill. Most younger kids don’t have the life experience to realize that if you spend a certain amount of time doing something every day then at the end of a month you will be much better at that task. Use this system to help them get in the habit of practicing

Egg Timer
The lure of a timer for most kids has an almost magical effect on them. Get creative with using this timer and fifteen minutes of practice time can just fly by. Here are some ways to use the timer:

  • See how many times they can play through a song in one minute.
  • See how long it takes them to play the song, scale, or exercise that they may be working on.
  • Break their practicing up into smaller amounts of time. Three 5 minute practice times in a day instead of trying to do 15 minutes all at once.

Using games is another great way to get kids more motivated to practice music. Remember that the reward is used to get them to practice for a certain amount of time on a regular basis. These games are used to make their practice time more fun. If it’s a game, no matter how simple the game is, it will be more interesting for most kids. Here are some games that I have found helpful.

  • 7 pencil game – this game is a great way to get your kids to work on something several times in a row in a short amount of time. This can work with a whole song or just part of the song. I use this game a lot with my students and it helps them improve quickly. So this is how to play the game:
  1. First off you have to pick either part of the song, and this could be just the right hand or left hand, two measures, four measures, really anything other than the whole song. You can can also use this with the whole song, but I don’t recommend starting out that way. Kids need quick goals that they can reach easily. If you pick too big of a part of the song, it will not have the desired effect.
  2. Get 7 pencils, pens, crayons, marbles, it can really be anything that you have seven of.
  3. Put the 7 pencils in a pile on your music stand.
  4. Every time they play the part correctly, move one pencil into another pile.
  5. If they make a mistake while playing you have to take one pencil from the new pile and put it in the old pile.
  6. The goal is to get all of the pencils moved to the other pile.
  7. When they reach that goal you can pick another part of the song to work on.
  • Tic tac toe – So you can use tic tac toe or hangman or any game like that for this. You play the game as normal just adding one rule. Before your child can take their turn they have to play through the song they are working on once. This could also be done with part of a song, scale, or technical exercise.

With all of these the idea is to use these games and fun things to help them have fun while they are practicing. It is also a great way for you to see your child’s improvement.

Daily Routine
Making practice time a regular part of their routine will be the engine that drives their success. The physical part of learning an instrument involves a lot of coordination. The coordination is very small movements that are very fast and extremely accurate. Basically we are trying to establish a muscle memory. If you know how to type you have a muscle memory that you developed at one point in your life. The key to gettting these muscle memories to form is regular repetition. For most beginners if they will spend fifteen minutes a day for five days a week, that will be enough. It will help them to excel and to have fun while doing it. A lot of people make the mistake and think they can cram all of their practice into one or two days. Don’t fall for this idea, it’s not just the total amount of time per week, but the consistency of doing that five or six days a week. I recommend just making practice part of their regular weekday routine.

Practice Routine
Most kids also do well with a routine for their practice time. This can be the same everyday or you could come up with a couple of variations and switch them from day to day. At first I would recommend sticking with the same routine each day and if over time you sense your child becoming bored then you can come up with a new routine. Here is a sample routine I use for a lot of my students:

  1. Tuning – If you play an instrument that needs tuning, make sure to tune before you play.
  2. Note naming – Use flashcards, Tenuto app, or your instrument to go over the names.
  3. Technique – if you are working on any technique do that next. This could be scales, etudes, or any other technical exercise that your teacher has given you.
  4. Songs – Spend the rest of the time working on songs.

Don’t Make It Too Long
When trying to decide on how much to practice, start out small. Young students don’t have the stamina or patience to practice for a long amount of time. I recommend to start out with fifteen minutes a day. This makes it an easy goal that they can attain, and if they happen to be frustrated with what they are doing that day it will be over very quickly. This also has another positive effect for you and your child. As your child progress’s they will be able to play longer and they will probably need more time. This is a natural progression and when you do it this way it is much more encouraging to have your kid ask for more time to practice than to go the other way with it.

Hopefullly these will give you some good ideas to help your kids develop good practice habits. If you have any specific questions you can leave them in the comments below, call, email, or talk to your teacher personally.

Have you tried any other techniques or games for practicing music?