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Congratulations! This is an exciting part of a youngster’s life when they start to learn how to play an instrument.  They will be eagerly waiting for the moment when they can play some of their favorite songs they hear on the radio (or iPod or Spotify or YouTube…you get the point!) for their family and friends.

A couple of things to consider:

  1. In today’s society of instant gratification, your child may have difficulty being patient when the sounds coming out are not what they want to hear. Playing a musical instrument is like playing in a sport; it needs to be practiced consistently in order to make steady progress.
  2. You also need to be patient with how your child is sounding. I have had many students tell me how their parents stop them from practicing because it doesn’t sound good. Think of the message you’re sending when you do that. The best performers in the world started with the same “bad” sounds and look where they are now!  (Here’s another analogy – the best basketball players didn’t sink free throws consistently when they first picked up a basketball.)
  3. Most of the learning, believe it or not, is at home when practicing.  Yes, it’s true.  Here’s why:
    1. The music teacher demonstrates a concept. The concept requires the use of muscles we normally don’t use. Your child has to work on it at home using repetition to be able to perform it the following week.
    2. Many times, school lessons are cut short or cancelled due to the new Common Core testing requirements. Your child could go a few weeks without lessons. It’s best to set the standard that your child will practice consistently to not be affected by all the changes in schedule that may happen.
    3. Everyone’s body, mouth, teeth, arms, etc are different.  (This is especially important for Brass players.) The teacher will demonstrate concepts, give suggestions, trouble shoot and problem solve, but your child needs to develop that body awareness in order to make the concept work for him/her

4.  If your child is involved in too many extra-curricular activities, playing an instrument may be too much for them to handle.  As I wrote in my first blog, Six Thoughts To Consider When Choosing a Musical Instrument, really think about whether or not your child will have consistent times to practice AND will he/she have the mental energy to focus and concentrate when practicing, or will he/she be overwhelmed?

Benefits:

    1. Playing an instrument is a great way to build self-awareness and to teach problem solving.
    2. Playing an instrument in an ensemble builds teamwork skills and teaches your child how to work with others, which is really important in our changing work society.
    3. Playing an instrument builds large and fine motor coordination skills.
    4. A musical performance is the one place where everyone has to strive to do their best. If each person in a Concert Band was allowed to make one mistake, the performance would truly suffer.

Here is a YouTube video of a band teacher illustrating this point.

Action Steps:

  1. Set up a weekly practice schedule where your child is practicing at least 15 minutes/5 days a week. That is the minimal amount of time that’s needed to maintain progress.  More is obviously better.  (The better you sound, the more you want to perform!)
  2. Support your child’s progress by giving signs of encouragement: tell them you hear that they are making progress and encourage them to play for the family often.
  3. A really fun idea would be to have your child start to teach you what they learned in their lesson. This would ensure that they understand the material, and it would give you a greater appreciation of how difficult it may be to play a trumpet.  Wouldn’t it be fun to perform with your child?
  4. Set up weekly goals for your child to achieve. You don’t have to be a musician to do this. Look at the weekly assignment and have your child be able to play the passage as best as possible three times in a row. (Notice how I didn’t say perfect; no one is perfect!) You could also contact your child’s music teacher for assistance in setting weekly obtainable goals.
  5. Let me know what you think in the Comments below!
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