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Fun Practice Strategies for Recital Season

Our Spring Music Recital is fast approaching, and music students will be spending more than the usual amount of time at home preparing their pieces. But what is the best way to practice? And how can parents help? I’ve compiled some tips to help ensure a successful recital for your young musician.

Observe the Music Together

As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to approach practice without pressuring or expecting perfection. Instead, try an observational approach. With observation, you can listen to your child perform their piece and discuss it together--what was something really good about the way they played or sang? What was something they could improve on? Your child can answer these questions himself, or you can take turns answering, or come up with your own system. The path to perfection or near-perfection is shared, discussed, and celebrated along the way.

Make a Visual Timeline

Having some sort of visual reminder of the recital’s approach serves several purposes: it’s much more concrete than a date on a calendar; it serves as a “checking off” of daily practice; and it makes the whole family aware of the task your child is undertaking. An example is to set up 2 clear jars or containers in the room where your child practices, and count out a number of jelly beans (or coins, Skittles, stickers, etc.) that equals the days left until the recital, placing them all in one jar and leaving the other jar empty. Each day, after practicing their piece, your child moves one jelly bean from the full jar (days remaining) to the empty jar (days practiced). If time is short, simply have them play or sing their piece once that day; on days with more time, they can play it several times. And you get to decide what happens to all the jelly beans when recital day arrives!

Create an Audience of Stuffies

This is one of my favorite ideas that people usually laugh about until they try it and realize that it works! Have your child set up their favorite stuffed animals, action figures, dolls, or other sets of “eyes” around their practice space as if they’re an audience. Then, your child performs her piece for the stuffies! This is a sneakily effective way to remind your young musician that she will soon be performing in front of actual people and that lots of eyes will be on her, so she’d better practice!

There’s no denying that practice can sometimes get a little monotonous, and even--I hate to say it--boring. But there’s no reason why practicing can’t become more of a surprise or an adventure. To mix things up, gather some small squares of paper and write instructions on them like “play your piece while balancing an eraser on your head,” “clap the rhythm of your piece backwards,” “play the beginning of your piece with your eyes closed,” or “play your piece as fast (slow/loudly/softly) as humanly possible.” Add any fun instructions you like! Fold up the pieces of paper, drop them in a hat, and have your child draw a few of them a day to determine what their daily practice will be. If you’re short on ideas, you can simply write a small range of numbers on the papers, such as 3-5, or 2-6, and tell your child that if they draw this paper, they are to practice measures 3 to 5 or 2 to 6 until they can play that segment without mistakes. Skills will increase rapidly with this method!

Good luck and happy practicing!

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