Parents of beginning music students, whether the music is vocal or instrumental, often find the excitement of the first few days or weeks has gone too soon.
The newness of the piano or instrument lingers well beyond the desire to practice. Singers often find that singing along to the radio is much more fun than the drills required by a voice teacher.
Keeping Track of Practice Time
Most teachers require students to keep a record of their practice time. Just having to write it down and turn it in is an incentive to practice, if the student is honest. As an essaywriter, I know that it’s very embarrassing to have to tell a teacher or private lesson instructor how little practice was done over a week.
Parents can make this more fun with a chart and stickers for every ten minutes practiced. Younger students will appreciate colorful, fun methods like this, but older students might appreciate a gadget such as a digital timer or a unique notebook in which to write the times.
Finding the Right Carrot
Rewards for the amount of time should be given in stepwise quantities. The teen musician should not receive a high reward for practicing five minutes a day, but some small encouragement is appropriate. A consistent twenty to thirty minutes every day for a month would be worth a substantial treat, like a gift card for electronic music purchase or a trip to a favorite local restaurant.
Musicians under ten years of age will do better with an extra half hour on the game system or a movie night with their best friend. If the student is too young for a gift card, toys or games are good incentives.
Money is not a good reward, because it loses its appeal after some time. Variety and tailoring to the student’s favorite things and activities is a better strategy.
Sparing Use of the Stick
Yelling or punishing will be the least effective method of motivation. Associating conflict with the act of practicing makes it even harder to take up the instrument or lesson the next time. Resist the temptation to ground teens or give young children a time out unless there is serious rebellion.
Pay Attention to the Musician
Listen to them play or sing from the safe vantage point of the next room. Teens especially will like the idea that no one is breathing down their necks. This will allow a parent to ask from the doorway if the student needs anything. Hearing frustration or the premature end of practice time prompts the parent to intervene promptly.
When the right combination of reward and judicious use of punishment is achieved, practice time can be less stressful for the whole family. Perfection is not guaranteed by practice. Consistent practice will improve performance at different rates for different students. The one guarantee that can be made is that a lack of practice will never result in a truly high skill level.
Music is something that can be enjoyed for a lifetime with the best memories and experiences. Make practice time a good experience and happy memories will follow.