I have bloged quite a bit on practicing but it seems to be a subject that comes up a lot in lessons so thought I’d write yet another one on practicing but this time from a different slant.
Before I go into how to motivate your child (or yourself) to practice, I would like to focus on what practicing looks like for a student just starting out.
Believe it or not, less is more. It is all about consistency. — Often parents will expect their child to practice an hour each day right from the get go. For one, there isn’t enough material and as well your child will be bored. On our practice sheets at Pardalis Studio, the amount of practice needed for each level is clearly explain. Our teachers will also explain to parents how much practice is need. For a beginning student, we recommend 15 mins, 5 times a week. It is quite doable. As I always tell students, “there is 7 days in a week – pick 5 days to practice”
So how does ideal practicing work?
1. A child will not practice alone – it is the parents’ responsibility. Do your kids like to brush their teeth? No practicing the piano is no different. Francis Clark (music educator and teacher of Natalia’s mom) writes that teacher, child and parent create a perfect triangle. Lang Lang speaks how his father attended all of his lessons and would practice with him. Yo Yo Ma mentions something similar and that his wife will often remind him to practice. Humans are lazy funny enough.
2. Find recordings of your child’s music (often our teachers will send specific records/videos). Listen to the records with your child. Make it fun. Ask them what they heard? Is it different from the way they play? Etc? If not music they are learning, use songs on the radio or cultural music to do this. Encourage your child to figure out songs by ear as well. Often parents think that only time spent at their instrument is practice but other things are too.
3. Have you child demonstrate what they have learn in lessons. If someone shares knowledge – most likely s/he will remember it more. It will also give a sense of importance to you when you share something that you have learnt.
4. Make sure theory/activity work is done. Read instructions with your child. Make it interactive.
5. Never approach practice with a place of anger. It has to be done from a place of joy and love. I remember reading that if parents yelled at their kids during potty training then the youngest would most likely have issue. Playing the piano is no different. It has to be done with love, joy, and enthusiasm. If you are happy and excited – then your child will be.
6. Get your child to put on “concerts” for Grandma and Grandpa. Maybe a treat can be given after. Make it fun
7. Consistency – make it part of your schedule. Children thrive on consistency and they won’t question it.
Lastly, does this mean that there won’t be bad days and your child will always want to practice? Not at all … but through constant consistency and encouragement – you and your child will get through it and it will be become easier. Often parents are quick to quit when things get difficult. As well, maybe your child is practicing enough and you don’t realize it. Discuss with your teacher – progress can be measured in different ways and conversations with the teacher will help motivate your child to practice more.