June 10


Practice Practicing: A New Guide to Practice

Many of us have grown up with the idea that you have to practice your instrument if you are taking lessons.

This is true, but how we practice and how we think about practice looks very different for each student depending on their age, abilities and musical level.

As we learn how to play we are also learning how to practice or play our instrument without the guidance of our teacher.

Somewhere along the line there was some consensus that students must practice 30 mins a day. This mindset has led to many unhappy students and parents as they try to attain a temporal goal for their practice that might not be practical for the student’s age and abilities.

For example if you don’t have 30 mins worth of activities as a beginning student then forcing 30 mins is impossible and not productive.

In the case of music practice, quantity over quality is not the best path.

Practice is something that is taught and developed slowly over time. For some very beginning students they don’t yet have the skills in place to have an effective home practice without guidance.

This is where the parents can help with practice at the beginning. Here are some tips for beginning students to start their practice at home with help from their parents.

  1. Know how to tune your child’s instrument. Many stringed instruments are too difficult for youngsters to tune well and they need help. Parents should tune their instrument each time they play. This might mean watching the first class or lesson or checking out some online videos. Once you have the skill it will only take a minute to have your child’s instrument in tune and ready to play.

  2. Provide a nice environment to practice. Not many musicians want to practice in a busy or loud part of the house. Choose a place where they can focus and enjoy their instrument with peace from the outside world.

  3. Decide what will be practiced, not how long. Throw the egg timers out the window and focus on quality. For a beginning student it might be bowing on all the open strings and identifying them or playing their first tune. They might be able to do this on their own and it might only take 5 mins. If they had fun and played then it’s a successful practice. Practicing for a long amount of time takes years to develop. What we are looking for is a practice session that is rewarding and fun. They can achieve just as much with a couple of short practice sessions than one long one where they get tired, bored and frustrated. We don’t expect our youngest students to read a novel when they are only reading picture books. If the song your child is playing is 30 secs long that’s a long way from 30 mins!

  4. Support their practice. You can develop the desire to practice by taking an interest and listening to your students. Maybe they want you to participate and clap along or sing? Maybe they want to be alone and share later? Maybe they want to do a concert and show you their bow? Lots of applause and cheers can really motivate our young players.

  5. Finally, listen to your student. Playing a musical instrument is challenging. Students will get frustrated and want to quit. Parents can listen and be there to encourage their musical endeavors even when it’s hard.

  6. Remember that playing the instrument is only part of your student’s musical education. Watching videos of great performers, going to concerts and listening to music are other great ways to support their practice. There are many children’s books out that focus on music that are another fun way to read about music.

  1. Variety is the spice of life. I don’t know many musicians who have only played one instrument in their lives. Almost everyone tries several instruments or enjoys playing more than one. Sometimes having another instrument handy like a drum, keyboard or guitar can make the practice session fun and work on other musical skills.

  1. Finally, count on your teacher to help guide your home practice. Often the teachers are modeling how to practice at home. Does the teacher always start with a simple warm up or song? That’s a great opportunity to try that at home. Do they always incorporate a game or rhythm playing? Copy the structure of the lesson and you will begin great practice skills at home. 


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