Do you ever get frustrated that your child rarely practices without you nagging them to get their instrument out? Are you bummed that you spent so much money purchasing an instrument your child rarely touches? Are you upset that you got them lessons with a private instructor and they still won't practice? Do not fear - you are not alone! I find that all of the young musicians I teach love music, but most don't love to practice. Remember, practicing is a skill and needs to be taught - it is not instinctual! Your child needs many reminders, just like brushing their teeth. Eventually, practicing will become a habit with daily encouragement.
Here are some tips to help get your child to practice more.
1. Make practice fun! Kids are more likely to do something they enjoy. Purchase music that they love to play.
2. Help your child practice by designating a special practice schedule each week. By having a specific practice time each day, kids are more likely to practice. Remember, quality over quantity! A musician's rate of improvement is directly proportional to the amount of quality practice.
3. Treat practicing like homework - kids need to do a little every day. It's best to practice early in the day. Most people don't want to hear loud sounds late in the evening.
4. Encourage your child to play for people at church, hospitals, senior centers, and convalescent homes.
5. Have your child perform for you, relatives, and friends regularly. This really helps kids get comfortable performing in front of people. Encourage them to share their music on a regular basis. Do this when they have an audition or performance coming up!
6. Encourage classmates to come over and play their instruments together.
7. Try to make practicing a reward, not a punishment! When you want to reward your child, buy them a recording, sheet music, or tickets to a concert.
8. Listen to lots of great musicians as often as possible with your child. Remember that music is a language and that the fastest way to learn a language is through imitation. Talk about the music and how it makes you feel. Go to concerts to hear great live music.
9. Get private lessons. Make short, medium, and long range playing goals with your child and their teacher.
10. Make sure your child has good, working equipment. An instrument is a tool. If the tool doesn't work, it makes performing much harder. Your child should have the following:
A recording device
Notebook for their music
Necessary supplies (for brass players - valve oil, slide lubricant, tuning slide grease)
11. Attend masterclasses with your child. These are often very inspirational and kids learn so much in a short amount of time.
12. Use accompaniment programs such as Music Minus 1 or Smart Music. These are fun and help kids a lot with rhythm, tuning, and phrasing.
Finally, I found a great quote by bass trombonist, Doug Yeo, on the floor of a band room that sums up practicing perfectly.
"If you practice, you get better.
If you get better, you will play with better players.
If you play with better players, you play better music.
If you play better music, you have more fun.
If you have more fun, you practice more.
If you practice more, you get better......"