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The topic of music practice never gets old! Even after your kid has taken lessons for years, new challenges arise with the fluctuations of childhood and adolescence.
1. Practicing every day for short periods is more effective than practicing for longer, less frequent sessions.Ideally students should practice for at least 5-10 minutes every day. If it helps, you can think of it as replacing one social media session with one music practice session. For some students, a timer helps them to stay focused and achieve a more seamless flow state.
2. Practicing at the same time every day is the best way to create a habit.Stay open-minded about this and allow students to practice with their circadian rhythms, e.g. early in the morning or later at night. If possible, use a digital piano or keyboard with headphones so they don’t disturb anyone.
3. If setting a time limit doesn’t work, set a goal limit.For example, rather than saying “I’m going to practice for ten minutes,” a student can say, “I’m going to practice until I can play this section without one mistake.” Consequently, the length of the session will relate directly to their level of focus and diligence, and they’ll accomplish something tangible after each practice.
4. Music practice quality is more important than quantity.Rather than playing a whole song over and over, students should focus on resolving individual issues they’re having within the piece. Which leads to our next point…
5. Breaking a piece down makes practice more effective.Teachers should help students isolate a song into separate parts. For example they can play a small section several times, practice just where their hands need to change positions on the keys, or play one hand at a time. When they’re ready, they can put the song back together.
6. Going slow makes progress fast.If a student thinks they’re playing too slow, they should play even slower! This will help them focus on different aspects such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc., and hasten their progress overall. A slow tempo will also reduce mistakes. Additionally, practice should always begin slow, like warming-up before exercise.
7. If your student is young, be with them during practice.You can provide the support, encouragement, and inspiration they need to keep at it. You can say to them, “Show me what you’re learning.”
8. If your student is older or more advanced, a firm but hands-off approach is best.In other words, give them space. No hovering!
9. Providing a quiet, designated practice space enables regularity and privacy.Especially if a child is shy, practicing in the middle of family chaos can be intimidating. If there’s no separate area for practice, again, consider buying them a digital piano and headphones for their bedroom. Read more about creating an ideal practice space.
10. Taking students to see live music can motivate them to practice.We can’t recommend this enough. Taking your kids to concerts lets them share in the collective joy of music. You can ask them how long they think it took for the musicians to get that good. (And hint that it took a very, very long time!)
11. Watching movies that feature musicians and songwriters is fun and inspiring.Here are some of our teacher picks. Please use your discretion with what’s age-appropriate for your child.
12. Active listening with your kid develops a love of music.Listen to music together at home and in the car. Talk about the lyrics, the arrangement, the parts you like or don’t like–whatever comes to mind! This will develop your student’s ear and get them thinking critically about what they’re hearing.
13. Praising regular effort more than the finished product teaches your student that it’s the practice that matters.Encourage other family members to notice and praise your student’s progress.
14. Never make negative comments about your student’s playing.Remember that it takes well-developed skills, and plenty of patience, to make mellifluous music!
15. Remember that there are always highs and lows in the learning process.Sooner or later, your student will experience the dip.
16. Think of music lessons as another class at school.Most parents help their kids with schoolwork, and music lessons should be no different. If you want your student to spend time with their instrument, spend time helping your student, even if that means simply being there to listen.
And finally, one last piece of advice that also happens to be the easiest:
17. Leave the piano cover open!
Why not create one less, albeit tiny, thing for your student to do in order to practice?