Music lessons are not enough for your child to learn an instrument. Some people have the misconception that if they get their child music lessons, then magically they will learn how to play a musical instrument. If you get your child a tutor for math, they should come out knowing how to do math better right? Sure, that’s why you get them a tutor, but music lessons don’t really work the same way. In order for your child to succeed, you need to take a hands on approach to the lessons.
Why a Music Teacher is Not Like a Math Tutor
This is an important distinction. An academic tutor comes in to help the student with homework or studying, not necessarily to introduce new concepts. The concepts are typically introduced at school. The point of homework and studying, is to practice using the information that the school teacher gave them.
The music teacher is not a tutor in this way. The music teacher introduces concepts and explains what to practice, exactly like a school teacher. It’s the job of the student to practice throughout the week, and typically students do not have separate tutors for their music practice like they may for academic studies. Private lessons tend to be expensive and paying someone for “tutoring” in addition to lessons can get very expensive very fast.
Music is Not Memorizing Facts
In most academic subjects students just have to memorize facts, or answer questions like math problems. Homework is supposed to help students “practice” the material so they can internalize it more and be ready for tests. Some students honestly don’t need the homework though. If you can think back to your math classes, you probably remember the student that would never do any homework but ace the tests. For some reason they just “got it” when the teacher explained how to do something.
No one can do this with music. Music is not about “understanding” something. It’s about doing something. It doesn’t matter how talented a student is, everyone has to practice to succeed. Students that understand easier may need less practice than students that have a hard time understanding, but it doesn’t change the fact that practice is always required to some degree.
What Can Parents Do?
If you’re a parent, and you have absolutely no experience with music, you may feel like you have no way to help your child throughout the week with their practice. Don’t let your lack of experience be an excuse! There is plenty that you can do to help your child practice. The key is to just be involved.
Encourage Daily Practice
I can’t stress this enough. Your child will absolutely not learn their instrument without daily practice. It’s ok to take a day off occasionally. Taking a break at times won’t hurt, and it can actually be helpful, but if your child practices once or twice a week I guarantee they will progress extremely slowly. It doesn’t matter if their teacher is the best in the world, they really won’t get any better.
The first thing you need to do as a parent then is to make sure your child is practicing every day. You don’t need any experience with music to help with this one.
Make Sure Your Child is Practicing Correctly
The best idea is to actually practice with your child, but regardless of whether you are sitting next to them or not, you should pay attention to what they’re doing during their practice time.
Parents sometimes get the “practice every day” part right, but students still don’t learn anything. This is almost always because the student is practicing wrong. You don’t know anything about music, though, so how are you supposed to know how they’re supposed to practice? There are a few ways.
First, you should ideally be sitting in on lessons. If you’re not doing that, then hopefully the teacher can talk to you about how they should be practicing, or even making a recording of portions of the lesson for you.
Even if you do sit in on lessons. You should educate yourself to what the best way to practice is. You don’t need to be a musician to understand practicing concepts. You just have to have an open mind. Start first with this article it will define the difference between just playing and instrument and actually practicing.
If you hear your child playing the same thing over and over again that they can already play, that’s a bad sign. They could play their instrument all day every day, but if they aren’t actually practicing then the teacher will come back for the next lesson and notice that nothing new was learned.
Listen to Music A Lot!
Students need to feel motivated to practice. One of the best ways to get your child motivated is by listening to music often. Listen to the professionals playing the instrument your child is learning. Enjoy it with them. Become an expert on classical piano music, or flute music, or saxophone music, or whatever instrument your child is learning.
Get Extra Help
Learning how to play an instrument is not the only thing that students should be learning in lessons. Unfortunately, 30 minutes to an hour a week is not a whole lot of time to introduce anything else in much depth. It can be expensive, but one of the best things you can do for your child in lessons is to have them take lessons more than once a week. This way the teacher can focus on music theory, ear training, and even history and literature in their lessons.
Music is a very broad subject. Entire schools and college majors are built off of learning every aspect of music. It’s not necessary to have the same teacher for your instrument as you have for these other subjects. You may choose to find a teacher that is a little less expensive for the other subjects to save a little more on your budget.
You can also find what I call a “practice coach” to help your child practice throughout the week. Practice coaches can be a lot less experienced than your child’s main teacher and that’s ok. The practice coaching sessions will be very similar to a private lesson, but the teacher will help primarily with practicing the music for the student’s next lesson.
Let your teacher know that you’ll be getting a practice coach for another lesson throughout the week. Let the practice coach know that the coaching sessions are just supplements to the main teacher’s lessons. As long as all parties are aware of each other, having another set of eyes every week can be very helpful. You may think of finding an online teacher for practice coaching, as it can cost less and be very convenient throughout the week.
It’s not as easy as just throwing lessons at your kids. You need to be involved. Some of the best musicians practice hours and hours every day since they were young. If that isn’t what you have in mind for your children, that’s fine. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make the best out of 30 minutes a day of practice though.
If you are involved in making sure that your children get the most out of their practice and their lessons, you’ll find that even with just a little practice every day they start to progress very quickly.
If you’re not involved, you’re leaving their ability to succeed completely up to chance, and the odds are against you. Very few young students choose to practice, and practice correctly without outside help. Your child may take lessons for a few years and then quit. Then they’ll be the same as every other adult that can play almost nothing on an instrument and “wished they stuck with it.” Make sure your child doesn’t turn out like that!
Do you have experience giving you children music lessons? Let us know what you did or are doing to help them be better musicians in the comments.