My Child wanted to play the ... but they refuse to practice.
Children 3-7 years old
Piano is a great 'first' instrument. In the beginning
the piano provides for a pleasant sound when the child presses the key. Children like that positive response for their effort.
Unlike the stringed instruments that require dexterity, coordination and strength the positive 'response' (pleasant
sound) can be a long time coming from a stringed instrument. Please do not misunderstand me, I have started children on Violin
as young as 3 with 15 minute lessons and had great success when the parent sits in the lesson and learns about the violin,
too. But that is NOT the norm.
Regardless of how long the child plays the piano they will, in the right studio,
learn how to play 'in time', learn about meter, quarter notes, half notes, whole notes. They will experience them
in actual playing (rather than in music class in school) and with practice will come to realise that the more they do it,
the better they get (which is not only a music lesson, but a life lesson).
When a child asks to play an instrument
we often forget to look at the child's inquisitiveness from a child's point of view. I have to remind myself that
when a child says they want to 'play' guitar (or any other instrument) what they really mean is that they are curious
and the only way they can explore that curiosity is to try it; take lessons; get an instrument; get in there an do it.! Their
statement should not be interpreted as, "I was born to play guitar and will devote my entire life to it if you give me
Now - once the lessons actually start, they see what it's about. The lessons can
be and are intimidating to every age....EVERY AGE (this means adult students, too). A good teacher will be many things.
Compassionate, encouraging, investigative, creative, personable, clean, not smoke ... I know, I'm getting picky here but,
notice I have not yet said be ' a great player'. If you're a great player that's wonderful. But nothing
can substitue for all of the other things. The child does not care how well you play. The child cares about how well 'they'
learn, play and have fun. Children know immediately if the teacher has their best interest in mind and if their focus is
on the student.
When the child leaves the studio they should have an assignment. They should be given guidance
about how to practice, how to select a practice time, practicing 'correctly', making practice time worthwhile, what
to practice, how long to practice and goals should be set; i.e., how many tally marks (I have great results using tally marks,
the student sees their effort immediately) (how many times should they play the piece/s assigned), how fast the piece should
be played that week and what weaknesses to focus on correcting. Parents and teachers may need to discuss what the practice
setup is? Many times the teacher will find there is no 'practice setup'. The child's practice is left to the
child to figure out or it's when the parent is frustrated because the child says they're bored and the parent says
'Why don't you practice piano?'.
And now , ladies and gentle, the answer to the question (providing
all the above has been addressed) - The best results will be obtained if the parent or caregiver is actively involved with
the music program or any program as far as that is concerned. I have parents drop off the child and I only see them if I
go out to the car to talk with them. If you are interested enough to notice the child NOT practicing please be interested
enough to investigate why and not only by asking the child. Does the child have enough time in their scheduled? Most children
I see are OVERSCHEDULED. In an effort to provide children with exposure to everything, children are being stressed out and
over-booked and have to relaxation time. So, when it's time to practice their instrument they rebel and want time to
veg. Understandably so. Also, are they distracted by other instant gratification items in the home -- TV, Computer, VIDEO
GAMES, Computer Games. Try exchanging some practice time for computer time or video game time (whatever happened to power
Once the child leaves the studio the child and parent have the baton (passed on by the teacher).
The parent's responsibility (especially if they are paying for the lessons), is to encourage the child to play. That
means taking time from an overloaded parent's schedule to oversee the student's practice. I know it's really
hard to find 5-15 minutes 3-5 days a week to sit and listen to what your child is doing on their instrument. I'm not
being sarcastic, either. I have witnessed first hand sons of my business partner and even she had difficulty getting them
to practice but I stress the more you can be involved, the earlier you can start them with lessons (4-5 years old), the better
the success rate.
Everyone works better with time scheduled. Set realistic practice goals. 30 minutes everyday
for a beginning student is excessive. The student should be playing the pieces assigned the appropriate amount of time to
perfect them. Beginning students do much better with shorter, more frequent practice sessions than playing an hour a week
just before the lesson. That's bad, bad, bad. We're already teaching them to last minute cram.
all, music should be enjoyable. We're older, smarter, wiser, craftier. If we just put a little focus on the situation
we can solve the problem. And lastly, perhaps they truly do not like the instrument they selected to explore. Make an agreement
when you enroll your child in lessons. They must do it a minimun amount of time such as a school year. (Providing you've
started them at the correct age for the correct instrument). This also assumes the child is between 7-16 years old. Anything
younger and the parent and teacher need to carefully monitor the situation and definately make it a pleasant experience.
Communicate with your child's teacher. Express your interest, concerns, gratitude. 2 heads ARE better
than one. Be patient. Don't give up too quickly.