How to Encourage Good Practice Habits at Home
Every music parent has heard their child’s Instructor recommend practicing at home to see more progress. But practicing is a thankless task, until a “eureka” moment arrives. It can even feel like punishment when it’s a sunny day and there are games to be played! By following a few of the suggestions below, I hope that all of our students learn to love practicing for the sense of accomplishment they gain from it.
1. Decide whether you’re going to mark practice by time or repetitions. Some students like thinking of practicing in blocks of time that fit into their schedule, like a 15-minute session before school each day, or a 30-minute session each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This can work wonderfully if the child sticks to the schedule and likes to fit as much work into that time block as possible (for these two reasons, this tends to work best with children over age 10). For others, setting a number of repetitions is a better option, because it avoids the tendency to sit for 30 minutes at the piano without really doing much other than keeping an eye on the clock. Your Instructor can help determine the appropriate number of repetitions for a particular piece; for example, practicing a piece 5 times a day might take 20 minutes the first day, when it’s still very new, but only 7 minutes on day five because the playing of it has gotten so much smoother.
2. Set up special music-based rewards for practicing at home! One of the rewards your child will get from their Instructor for practicing at home is, of course, praise! But they will benefit from praise coming from other sources as well. Maybe they could FaceTime a relative and play the piece they’ve been working on so diligently. Maybe their school’s music teacher would allow them to perform for the class. Maybe they could invite a friend to see a matinee that includes a lot of interesting music, like “Encanto”. If the reward is music in some form, it will forever be linked in your child’s mind to the work they put into their own music.
3. Set a good example: practice something yourself! Often, I will give a little demonstration of the way I practice for my students in their lessons. I show them how I isolate problem areas and go over those repeatedly, and I also show them how I know it’s a problem area in the first place. Practicing a skill on one’s own is something that needs a little modeling. If there’s a skill you are working on, like learning new software, new yoga poses, or a new language, talk with your child about what you do to improve in that skill. You can even decide on a block of time when you’ll both practice your skills, then show off a bit for each other afterward. Be sure to let your child know what progress feels like to you, so they can learn to describe what progress feels like to them. Set goals together and try to reach them together or, for extra motivation, make it a competition to see who meets their goal first!