Practice is integral to a student’s success in any music study. Below are some tips on helping your child be successful with practice at home:
Thoughts on Practicing
Students are often interested in playing a musical instrument for several reasons: it is interesting; they love music and want to make it themselves; it is fun to acquire new skills; they want to be able to play with others in a group such as an orchestra or band; they want to play in church; a relative or friend plays an instrument and it inspired them; parents want to teach their children the value and reward of discipline and consistency in developing a skill; parents want their children to have a creative outlet and explore their talents; it is just plain enjoyable!
In order to achieve any of these goals, practice is a must! Here are a few “practice pointers” that should help you develop good practice habits.
Practice consistently. Take one day a week off, but practice on all the others. This is especially important with children who may not always feel like practicing. Parents can help their children see the benefits of working hard at something even when they don’t particularly feel like doing it that day. It is much, much easier to get a child into a routine that includes daily practice than it is to argue with a child three days a week and end up only practicing on two of them. When students practice, they make progress and are able to play the music that drew them to the instrument in the first place. When they don’t practice much, the progress is slow and they lose interest.
Follow instructions carefully. We will give precise instructions on what and how to practice and then encourage students and parents to write them on a practice chart. Check the assignment often throughout the week. Strings are very “technique-specific” instruments. Learning proper basic techniques when you first begin classes is incredibly important for progress and ease of playing later. Please ask if you have any questions about an assignment.
Write down practice times. When students practice, they should definitely have the points they have earned credited to them. Please remember to write down the times and record them. These points will become very important when others at a concert receive awards. Students don’t want to miss an award just because no one recorded their practice times.
Listening is one of the most important parts of practicing. Everyone student has at least one recording assigned. Make sure your student is listening to it on a regular basis. It is more important than we can express for students to regularly listen to their assigned recordings. Hearing the tone, dynamics, phrasing and expression – the music – of a good string recording over and over puts these qualities deep inside your child’s mind. How will your child know what good playing sounds like if they rarely listen to it? It will be some time before any beginner can bring those qualities into their own playing, but they might never do it if they don’t listen (and listen a lot!). Students may count up to 1/4 of their daily practice time for focused listening. For the rest of the listening, we recommend playing the assigned pieces in the car or while doing activities at home.
Tips for Parents on Making Practicing Fun!
Repetition games. On difficult passages, it is very important that students isolate the tough spots and practice them correctly over and over. Make these types of repetition practices fun for your students:
- Roll a dice and play the passage the number displayed on the dice—and the rule is to roll again if you roll a one!
- Use a bead counter to practice repetitions
- Find anything in the room (erasers, pencils, pennies, etc.) and use those as counting implements
- For younger children, play a concert for each stuff animal or doll
- Making Goals. Make goals for your students and celebrate them when they achieve them. Can they practice for 6 days in a row? What about 14? 30? Make reachable goals and allow them to visualize the process (marking days on a calendar, coloring in pictures for each day, etc.)
Be Present. Be involved in your student’s practice. This varies according to your child’s age, but especially for the younger ones - be willing to learn with them. They will be so excited that you are helping direct their practice and helping them learn better.
Timing. Find a time that your student is most alert and can be most successful. Make it a regular time in your day if possible. Set aside small time increments at first, such as 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes, and gradually increase the time as your student receives more challenging assignments!
Be Creative. The best practicing happens when they are enjoying what they are doing. Find ways to be creative. Let your student practice in different rooms throughout the house to change the scenery and sound. Practicing outside can be terrific on a beautiful day. Can your student practice a difficult passage with his eyes closed after going over it again and again? Can she practice the notes backwards and then forwards again? Encourage your student to think outside of the box when practicing.