Your child was excited to get started learning music. You bought an instrument, hired a great teacher, and you bought some great method books. They’ll be a great musician in no time, right? If only it was that easy. Music lessons will not make your child a great musician. That’s important to understand. Some people think that if their child just takes music lessons for a few years, they’ll learn music. It just doesn’t work that way. Your child will only learn their instrument if they practice. If your child isn’t going to practice, why take lessons at all?
You probably have heard all the horror stories of parents forcing their children to practice, maybe you lived it as a child. You don’t have to be a tyrant to get your child to practice. You don’t even have to be a musician.
There are a few kinds of parents when it comes to music lessons. Some parents aren’t involved at all. They drop their child off for lessons and pick them up. That’s where their involvement begins and ends.
Another type of parent may encourage the child to practice, but they don’t take a hands on approach. As long as the parents hears the instrument being played every day, they’ve done their job.
Yet another type of parent is the parent that sits in on the lessons and also sits in on the practice time. Which child does the best in music lessons? The one where the parent plays an active role.
Be Careful Not to be Overbearing
If you want to be the type of parent that is involved in lessons, good for you. There are bounderies that you need to be careful not to cross though. Some teachers prefer if the parent doesn’t sit in on lessons at all. If you have a great teacher, you need to follow this request. What you can request, though, is that at least part of the lessons are recorded. Make sure you let the teacher know it isn’t because you want to make sure they’re doing a good job, but it’s because you want to help the child practice. Most of the time teachers who don’t want parents to sit in, don’t like it because it distracts the student or maybe even the teacher. If the lesson is recorded, however, it usually isn’t as much of an issue.
Don’t be too hard on your child. Music lessons need to always be a good experience. If your child isn’t enjoying the lessons, you may need to think about ways to make them more fun. Don’t yell at your child or get upset. Don’t make your child feel guilty for not practicing. Musicians understand the guilt that comes from not practicing. It’s ok to skip a day or two.
Listen to Music with Your Child
Ideally your child would want to just practice on their own. In order to get to that point, though, they have to be passionate about music. What’s the best way to get them passionate about music? Have them listen to it of course! If your child will eventually learn classical music, have them listen to classical music daily. Do it with them though! It will be a great bonding opportunity, and you’ll perhaps be introduced to new music that you’ll love to listen to.
If you do nothing else, listening to good classical music with your child should be a priority..
Now that YouTube is available you don’t have to just listen to music, you can watch it. If you don’t know a lot about classical music, ask your teacher for some recommendations.
Help Your Child Practice
Everyone has a hard time practicing effectively. Children, adults, beginners and pros all have trouble practicing effectively. What if your child is very young? Can we really expect a 7 year old to practice in an effective way by just telling them to do it? There are some prodigious kids that just get it, but most don’t end up practicing at all. They just play their music over and over again.
If you aren’t sitting in on the lessons, make sure to ask the teacher exactly how your child should be practicing. If you know you’re child isn’t practicing the way the teacher told you they should be, correct them in a kind way. Don’t yell at them because they were practicing wrong. Just remind them.
If you’re sitting with them, you can help them through practice. If you’re in the other room and can tell that they aren’t practicing right, let them know. Don’t be a nag about it though. It’s ok if your child just plays for fun without practicing on occasion. If they only practice all day long and never get to have fun, they’ll burn out real quick.
Once in a while you can say something to put them back on track to practice.
Beginning Lessons are the Most Important
For children just starting to play, the first year or so of lessons are the most important. If they practice correctly, the student should learn how to read music and have a good idea how they should be practicing on a regular basis. If your child hasn’t had lessons before, the great part is that with these beginning lessons you can chime in. The concepts aren’t really that difficult for an adult to understand. You don’t have to play the instrument to be able to give advice based on what you heard about in lessons. Reminders during practice are often all the student needs.
Take Lessons Yourself
One of the best things you could do to help your child stay interested in music lessons is to take lessons yourself. This accomplishes two different things at once. First, you begin to understand better how to help your child practice. Second, it shows your child that you value music, which will in turn give them more encouragement to practice.
Be careful though. This can backfire. If you take lessons and never practice, what does that tell your child? It tells them that you don’t value practice! You’re setting a bad example, and your child will likely follow your lead.
If you don’t think you can commit to practice regularly, it may be better to not take lessons at all.
Becoming a great musician often has a lot to do with the parents. You need to help your child learn an instrument even if you don’t know how to play. And you can. You’ll find that as you take a more active role in your child’s music education, that they’ll take it more seriously as well.
What has your experience been? Were you forced as a child? Are you currently helping your child practice? Do you take a stand off approach? Let us know in the comments!