Practice & Parents
What to do when your child does not practice at home? Schmidt reminds us that “[p]ractice can’t be rushed or simplified. Unlike a lot of what we are all asked to do today, practice can’t be accomplished through shortcuts or multitasking. However, it can be accomplished efficiently and pleasantly—and that’s where parents can help.”
First, what is practicing? It is the discipline of incremental learning by isolating problems and devising methods to solve these problems. Ideally, we want practicing to be a self-motivated routine, with minimal groans, whining and fits.
Praising the young learner’s learning progress, no matter how minimal, will serve as a confidence booster in and outside of music study. “Make a point, often, to express and how proud and impressed you are with their progress.” There is no age limit to that satisfaction of making mom proud.
Give it time. When learning any instrument, it takes time to gain the stamina to control muscles needed to play an instrument fluently and for long periods of time. A teacher will provide practice aids or exercises to help with posture, bowing, breath control, embouchure, and so forth.
A common question a parent might have is how long your child should be practicing. In the very early stages, watching the clock is the demise of practice enjoyment! Instead, aim for setting a goal of repetitions; repeating a line of music ten times a day, for example. If you have a young child, the quality time you spend sitting with your child will be so well received. When the child nears the teenage years, understand that developing muscle control can be tiring, especially for singers. Give the teenager some time on their own to practice on their own, without your every comment. What you can do is check to ensure they are devoting their practice time more-often-than-not to the material assigned. Exploring other music is good, and very much encouraged, but we must be careful that it is not to the detriment of the progress-focused assignment of that week.
And please remember, you cannot compare your child’s learning progress to any other child. It is not only unfair to your child, it can be unhealthy to incite competitiveness in this manner. Enjoy the progress of your child’s musicianship as they become inspired to become a better, well-rounded musician for themselves. While one cannot help but hope that their child is a prodigy, they most likely are not. It is important to foster a healthy appreciation and expectation for playing an instrument, which, when given praise, time and efficient problem-solving goals, result in more motivation and eagerness to practice.
“It’s often helpful to remind students that their success on their instrument or in their vocal study is theirs—they own it.” The teacher is only a guide. The parent supplies the tools and reminder button. “The student does the work and makes the progress.”
Suggestions for your child’s practice routine:
Instead of asking your child to “try again from the top” when they stumble, ask them to address the specific problem area at hand and set a goal of ruling out the error by repeating the phrase.
Efficient practicing is necessary to fix a problem, not just for music, but valuable for essential problem-solving skills in other areas of life.
Schmidt, E. Practice And Parents. Retrieved from https://teacher-resources.rcmusic.com/sites/default/files/files/tcert/Schmidt_PracticeandParents.pdf