The Impact of Practice
by Claire Kelly
“Every expert was once a beginner.”
You can help you child enjoy music more with your direct involvement in your child's home practice...
The magic key is YOU!
One parent told us that she uses the word "play" instead of "practice". When her child heard "play" they were more happy compared to hearing "practice" because "practice" usually means duty and "play" means fun!
By giving your child music lessons, you are giving them a lifelong gift!
For my child to become really good do they need to practise?
Yes they do! However, it is normal for children to sometimes try to avoid practice. Practising can be difficult and requires discipline! When music becomes more challenging, as progression comes, it is natural for children to shy away from it; and even feel like they want to give up. This is one of the reasons why we strongly believe that children need the support and encouragement of parents in their practice, as well as in helping them to learn perseverance, self discipline and commitment.
"Don't practice until you get it right. Practice until you can't get it wrong."
Motivational goals and direction in practice are also very important, such as practising for a deadline, like an exam, a competition or a concert.
The reality is children will also go through stages in their musical journeys… some months they will love playing an instrument (and you won’t even need to prompt them to play!) yet other months they appear uninterested. Persevere, as this is natural with anything that requires effort and determination! Teaching our children to stick at things when they become challenging is a very good life lesson.
When a child complains about having to do practice, parents may think this is a sign that their child should just quit playing and lessons because it is a sign that "they just don’t love it enough." However, this couldn’t be further from the truth - they may be just feeling challenged or tired or lacking motivation and need your support to cope with that feeling and directing towards the purpose and end goal of the practice.
"Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit"
Why does regular practice matter and how does it impact on my child's motivation and progression?
"Parents thinking a child can practise alone is one of the main reasons children stop music lessons"
So how can I help my child to succeed and enjoy their music lessons?
Explain to your child that the more they practise, the better they will become.
Don’t expect your child to just automatically go and practise on their own. Sit next to your child and be directly involved.
Speak warmly to your child and try not to over-correct them.
"Mistakes are proof that you are LEARNING"
Praise for any practice.
Don’t threaten to cancel lessons. This will only make your child want to play less and associate their practice with it being a chore and their enemy. If you make practice time fun, it will be enjoyable and can also be a great bonding time. Give lots of encouragement while they are practising. Your child will then feel more assured, confident and excited about their playing skills and be inspired to practise!
Reward your child with something to look forward to, for example, a favourite treat, outing or screentime.
Use a practice reward chart. (We have several customised hobby and interest related practice charts we can give you that you could fill up with stickers.)
Use the ‘magic practice window’. This is the same day as the lesson or the next day, as the practice homework is fresh in the child’s memory. Your child will be much more satisfied with their practice if it is done within this window. The immediate repetition of the assigned practice material ensures almost 100% retention of what the teacher has said in the lesson. The longer your child waits to practise after the lesson, the harder the practice will be, because they will have forgotten what to do and how to do it!
Create a habit / start a routine. For example, try to find a time of day when your child can practise. This could even be just 5-10 minutes, scheduled into their day, then this routine becomes a habit, just like brushing their teeth. Think about the best time for your child. Is it just before school or after dinner? Or maybe it’s before they go up to bed? Whenever works for you and your family, for example 6-30-7pm every day. Also write it on your calendar.
Have your child play for friends and family who visit your house. When your child feels the thrill of playing for an audience and receives their praises, it can inspire them to practice more. This builds self-confidence and performance skills. We hugely encourage public playing at Southport Piano Academy. Playing to a smaller audience at home is really good preparation before your child performs in our larger concerts.
When a child realises that their talent of playing their instrument sets them apart from many of their peers, it can give them a greater sense of pride, accomplishment and self-worth. Do remind your child that they are building a skill that many other children will not have. Their friends may also be impressed by their talent and have a greater respect for them, especially when they learn to play the latest pop songs or meme themes! They may even become well known on tik tok or Instagram as they get older! We have several students who have played at school in assemblies and school talent shows who have been massively encouraged by doing so!
More Tips for Getting Into A Good Routine of Practice!
We recommend that you keep your instrument on hand at home.
Keep the piano / instrument regularly tuned! (There is nothing more off putting for practising when notes don’t work or sound as they should!)
We recommend that your piano or other instrument is in a family room. This is because practising can be quite a lonely activity for a young child. You can then get alongside them to listen and encourage them. If the instrument is in a room downstairs too this may will unintentionally give them a bit of an audience too if there are visitors! Being encouraged to play for others is really good to start from a young age. If all the practice is done on their own, away from people this may make your child less willing to play for others. Making it the ‘ norm’ from the beginning is the best way to create a confident performer. (There are so many people who play instruments yet won’t play for others!) We want to change that.
Take the music out of the car and out of the bag as soon as your child returns from their music lesson. The old saying “out of sight out of mind” is so true and if music is left in its bag all week the chances are it won’t be even thought about, let alone practised. Your child needs your help with this! Please open their music book at the relevant page they are working on and place it on the piano( with the lid up!) or music stand . Every time your child passes the piano/ music they will see it and it will be a visual reminder to practise. It’s actually amazing how this simple tip will encourage more practice!
If your child does not understand their piano homework given to them, please let us know straight away and always feel free to ask questions via text or phonecall.
The saying “you get out what you put in“ is very true of learning to play an instrument. We find that children who do not practise regularly at home do not enjoy their lessons as much as those who do. Their interest will definitely wain, as will their progress.
Students that practise are keen to show their teacher what they have achieved at home! These children will look forward to their lesson more all because they have practised. The link is much more integral to the whole music learning journey that you could imagine.
Practice and Progression
Your child's rate of progress will come from a combination of factors. The teacher’s skill and ability to relate to your child, how much practice is done in-between lessons, their natural ability, parents' commitment and encouragement to playing, the material given and whether that material (music) is the right level for them (not too easy or too hard , so your child is pushed a little further on, yet not too challenging so that your child doesn't feel overwhelmed and want to give up!)
We tailor- make all our lessons at Southport Piano Academy to suit individuals' needs, using a variety of teaching methods and materials. We have many teaching aids for children and for additional needs students, as well as adults.
Doing exams is good for progress as it motivates practice and is also a good gauge of where your child is up to. It is harder to monitor for those not doing exams, but the level of playing should give you an indication.
As with everything, what one person finds easy, another may find difficult. One child may sail through learning something that may actually be a great accomplishment for another. There are many different learning styles. Music is not confined to the notes on the page- some may be naturally good at aural work (rhythm) while others may flourish at visual learning, and be excellent at sight reading, for example.
"It shouldn't matter how slowly a child learns as long as we are encouraging them not to stop"
Please do discuss with your child’s teacher any aims, questions or concerns with your child’s progress that you may have. We want to achieve together the goals we set with you and will endeavour to do that to the best of our ability.
These are childrens' colouring challenges for time spent practising - if all is coloured a reward is given!