Are you noticing that your child has not picked up his/her instrument in quite a while?
Is the instrument looking lonely?
When you ask her to practice, does she change the subject?
Does he complain that it’s too hard and he doesn’t get it?
Does your child keep forgetting to bring their instrument to school?
This is a reality for many parents. Good money was spent on renting/buying an instrument and supplies and now you are seeing that they are not being used.
You don’t want your child to quit playing an instrument because you know of the tremendous benefit and joy music can bring
to his/her life. You also want to instill the values of putting in a good effort and fulfilling a commitment (not quitting in the middle of the year).
What can I do as a parent to encourage my child to practice?
Here’s some common issues and suggestions…
Your child may be confused about what he/she is learning in class. Some concepts may take time to learn and can be confusing. For example, a brass embouchure (facial setting) can be a tricky concept to understand. Articulation is another topic that many students have difficulty with. After figuring out what your child is specifically having difficulty with, help him/her come up with questions to ask the teacher.
If your child says the instrument is too hard, ask them to be very specific about what exactly is hard for them. Most of the time, the issue really is that they are not practicing a particular concept thoroughly. If your child isn’t practicing, it could be because they really don’t understand how to practice. Check out my previous blog, Setting Up a Practice Plan for tips on how to approach practicing. Also, sit down with them, and set up a regular, consistent practice routine. For beginners, it is best to start with 20 minutes a day, 5 times a week. This is actually not a lot of time. When I teach lessons in school, students are amazed how quickly the half hour goes when they are engaged.
If they want to quit, mention that being a part of Band or Orchestra is like being on a team. Everyone is important. When one person isn’t doing the work or quits, it affects the entire team. Come up with a strategy to take it one day at a time, and get very specific about practicing goals to achieve. When your child starts to experience success, they will want to continue.
They (or you) are concerned about missing too much classwork. No one likes to miss classes, but the reality is that most schools are on a rotating lesson schedule, so your child will miss a 30 minute block once every 4 – 6 weeks. Most music teachers have 100+ students in their program, and teach throughout the day, so lessons have to be scheduled on a rotating basis. Preparing for the rotation in advance can help a little. If your child knows that a math class may be missed next week, encourage your child to talk to the teacher to find out what material will be covered. Have your child ask a friend to take good notes (for the missed class) that they can borrow, and your child will do the same for their friend.
Some bonus tips:
You and your child can research their particular performance problem on the internet and YouTube. After you determine what the problem may be, there’s usually a YouTube video that someone has produced. This is also a great way to spend quality time with your child.
Many times, students have difficulty because their instrument isn’t working properly. This is especially true for beginners, who unfortunately do not get the best quality instruments. (Remember, a new instrument isn’t always a good instrument. Some new instruments that are made very cheap, break easily and repairmen do not have replaceable parts. See my blog on Buying a New Instrument ) Ask your child’s music teacher to look at the instrument to see if there are any problems.
Sometimes, it is really hard to listen to beginners practice. The sounds can be unpleasant. It is important to remember that your child needs encouragement. I have had a number of students tell me that their parents will not let them practice because they can’t stand the noise. The “noise” will remain “noise” and never improve without practice.
Learn to play the instrument with your child. This is the basis for the Suzuki Method for Strings and Piano students. This is a great way to spend quality time with your child, and the way you approach practicing and working out problems can help your child figure out a method to solve their problem.
The biggest complaint, especially from Woodwind musicians, is that it takes a long time to assemble and disassemble the instrument. How about buying an instrument stand so that the instrument is always assembled (except for the reed, which must be taken off after every practice). Just be sure that the instrument on the stand can be placed in a safe area away from pets, younger siblings and extreme temperature conditions. (Hercules makes GREAT instrument stands. See my main picture above. You can purchase these from Woodwind and Brasswind – I have a link on the right sidebar – or most local music stores.)
- Determine what the exact reason is that your child is not practicing.
- Determine the specific techniques/concepts that your child is having difficulty with, and either ask the teacher for extra help, or research the issue on the internet.
- Ask the teacher to inspect your child’s instrument for any performance problems.
- Set up a practice plan and outline specific, achievable goals every week for a month. You will notice results.
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- Do you have any more suggestions? I would love to hear them in the Comments below…
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- If you want to instill the values of discipline, hard work and responsibility, and give your child the gift of enjoying music, sign up for my private music lessons! With over 27 years of teaching & performing experience, I have had countless successful students perform in elite ensembles and get accepted into top colleges like Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. Click here for a free 30 minute lesson!