Does this scenario sound familiar to you?
You are on your way to your weekly music lesson and you cringe from the guilt of knowing you barely…kind of…sort of…did not practice your music this week.
Or if you have children:
“Johnny, did you practice your music this week?” He replies, “kinda…” You know this means a solid “no.”
This seems to happen all too often, right? Each weekly lesson we make another broken promise to our music teacher that we will practice every day the following week. But somehow, it never happens. Whether it’s your own or your child’s music lessons, it’s not that you don’t care about music, and it’s not because you enjoy throwing your money away each month at music lessons that are never practiced. It’s simply because there is no music practice routine ingrained in your daily schedule.
To solve this problem, here are 7 steps to guide you or your child to a progressive and beneficial musical experience
STEP 1: Determine a REALISTIC amount of time to practice.
Allow ONE day off, so you or your child can get a breather. To get an idea of realistic times (this varies according to interest and level): Ages 7 years and under: 15 minutes. Ages 8-10: 20 minutes. Ages 11+: 30 minutes and up.
STEP 2: Dedicate this amount of time to a SPECIFIC time during the day.
Have little Johnny practice right after his math homework, or when half of his homework is done. Add it to his chore list for the week. Avoid late evening practice times because you or your child may be burned out for the day. Do you really have to watch that loud, mind-numbing box called a TV? Fill your house with music and practice for 30 minutes–that’s like ONE episode of a TV show! Choose a specific time for your music practice like at 3:30, or 5:30, or whatever works for you. Connect it to another daily routine such as: after you make the bed, do dishes, cook dinner, do homework, etc.
STEP 3: Make music practice time a POSITIVE and EXCITING experience.
Praise your child and constantly express how proud you are of him or her for practicing music. Show them that you make it a priority that you have them practice, rather than their daily practice being an inconvenience or simply an afterthought. Your child will value it according to how you value it. Feel free to intervene during their practice time and express excitement in their music playing. To make your daily music practice a positive experience, incorporate it during your day when you need to de-stress.
STEP 4: Give INCENTIVE to your daily music practice.
By putting music practice on your child’s chore list, they will desperately want to practice to insure their reward at the end of the week. Or, just by promising a night out for ice cream at the end of the week, your child will do anything for that sugary treat. Gradually make the rewards a semi-weekly, weekly, to a monthly occasion to build your child’s self-discipline in practicing. As for yourself, after a solid week’s worth of practicing, go buy that blouse you’ve been eyeing, or go to a cafe and get a mouth-watering slice of cheesecake!
STEP 5: Avoid PASSIVE practice at all costs!
Practice what your teacher actually WANTS you to practice–AKA the parts you don’t know!!
A general fact of the human race is that we like what we know, and we don’t like what we don’t know. This is why when we actually DO practice, we don’t get much better. This is because we just play what we already know over and over again, brushing over the same wrong notes, hoping they will just magically fix themselves. Your teacher did not tell you or your child to practice your music with a metronome, or to learn one measure at a time, or to give you a challenging song just because he or she wants to torture you or your child. Your music teacher has your very best interest and knows what is best in order for you or your child to progress and grow efficiently. If your teacher does not already do this, bring a blank notebook and have them write down everything you need to work on for the week.
STEP 6: Record in your daily PRACTICE CHART.
You become more consistent in your practicing if you record your daily minutes/hours. This is so at the end of the week instead of wondering IF you practiced, you have a complete log of how much you DID practice! With a simple practice sheet, you have the luxury of having a convenient layout for your practice routine. You have a clear idea of the pace of your progression and you will definitely impress your teacher! Print out a bunch of practice logs off the internet and put them in a three-ring binder, or simply staple them together to create a practice journal. Have your child decorate it with stickers, markers, etc to make it a special keepsake and motivation to practice. There is no age limit! This will save your music practicing life!
STEP 7: Don’t give up!
Remind yourself why you wanted to learn your instrument.
Sometimes we become so overwhelmed with something and the easiest thing to do is to give up. But in the end, we just feel worse, and we gradually lose our technique and ability to play the instrument. How many times have you heard a relative say, “if only I kept up piano lessons…” or “I’ve always wanted to learn violin but never got to it”? Although it’s never too late to start lessons, it’s always best to keep going when you already have the chance. Build your character by persevering, growing, and exploring the world of music!
Let us know what you think!
Are there any other steps that you find helpful? Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below! Let us know how your daily music practice is going!