How to support your child’s instrumental practice
Your child has started learning an instrument! You are paying out large sums of money for your child to learn that instrument, not to mention the cost of buying or hiring the instrument. However, for your child to progress and make the best use of their instrumental lessons, they need to be regularly practising their instruments between their lessons. How do you encourage your child to practice their chosen instrument?
Here are many different ways that you can support your child to practice their instrument.
Help your child to find regular slots in the week when they can practice their instrument. Young children need to be told to practice, they need help with their time management skills. Aim for four to five sessions a week. If the practice time is at the same time in then becomes part of the family routine. It could be first thing in the morning before school, or as soon as they get in from school. Remember that little and often is better than one big practice session.
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Make sure their instrument is the right size for them, is set up correctly for them, is well maintained and in tune. Ask their teacher for advice on how to set up their instrument and if it is the right size for them. A lot of instruments these days have beginner models, that are designed for young players, they are lightweight, and smaller in size, and they still produce a reasonable sound for beginner students.
They need to practice somewhere where it is warm and well lit. Some children need to feel like they are not on their own while they are practising, so keep a door open so they can still feel like they are not shut away.
Even if you are not a musician, you should still be able to hear small improvements in their playing, tell them when you do.
Talk to their teacher about how you can support them with their practice. Even if you have lessons in the past, remember that teaching methods have changed. Find out the approach to music reading and technique that your child’s teacher uses.
Take an interest in what your child is learning.
There should be a harmonious triangle of communication between your child, the teacher and you. You should feel that you are able to communicate with your child’s teacher and the teacher should be able to talk to you.
Learning an instrument is hard work, practice at times can be tedious. While music should be fun, learning something new, whether that is a new instrument or a new piece of music with increased technical demands can provide some challenges. While these challenges may be brief, you should encourage your child to preserve through them. Help them to find ways to persevere with their practice and to learn the new techniques.
There are also conflicting demands on a child's time, whether that is school work, other activities and spending time with friends. You need to help your child prioritise their time depending on their priorities at the time.
Avoid any arguments at their instrument and avoid resorting to bribery to get them to practice.
If you have any concerns, please talk to their teacher, who may be able to help.
When your child is practising, you should hear lots of small fragments of music repeated lots of time. Practising an instrument does not always sound pleasing, it requires patience and tolerance while a child learns how to get a good sound from their instrument or tries to learn a tricky couple of bars.
A child should not be playing a piece all the way through without out stopping, or correcting any mistakes. There should also be moments of silence while they are practising the child should reflect at times on what they are playing and how they can improve it. If you want some strategies on effective practice, please see my previous blog. You should also ask for help from their teacher.
While learning an instrument requires hard work, it is rewarding and teaches children much more than being able to play their instrument. However, don’t let the discipline of learning to play an instrument get in the way of the joy of making music.