One of the
hardest things for a young student to do is to get into the habit
or practicing regularly. It seems that the modern day kid is
involved in several things that take up time and, of course,
there is always homework to be done and chores to do around the
house. But, in order to progress the student must learn the
meaning of the dreaded p word.
Most students who take music lessons ask for the lessons in the first place, so there is an initial interest in learning how to play. So, usually there is the initiative to put the time in. Many students are not aware that it takes time to master any instrument, and contrary to to some rumors, drums are not the easiest instrument to learn. It is true that a lot of untrained drummers can sit behind a set and play a couple of basic beats and sound good. That does not make them drummers, by the same token you can sit behind the piano and figure out Mary Had A Little Lamb, but dont get ready for an Event Center Concert debut.
Parents play a very important role (no pun intended) in helping the student develop good practice habits. Before you make the commitment to lessons you must make the commitment to put the time in. It varies from instrument to instrument and from teacher to teacher. You need to discuss with your teacher what their practice requirements are and see if you can meet them. Parents must encourage their child to practice and it is not unusual for a parent to say to a child get in there and practice. I have had parents come in and tell me that their 8 year child does not have the dedication to practice and if he wants to play he has to do this on his own. Puhleeze......get a reality check. Most kids, no matter how ambitious, will want to go outside and play or play video games or whatever, it is a kid thing. If all it takes is for a parent to remind a child to practice, then by all means, do it...it is completely normal. Even with my love of music, I had parents who had to tell me to put in the practice time.
I recommend that a parent and child sit down and write out on a piece of paper the studentss weekly schedule of events. Start with times that cannot be changed, for example, the hours that they are in School. Also write down other permanent commitments like Church or Scouts or whatever. Once these are all written down, then look at the remaining time and schedule in sufficient time for homework and meals and play time. It is important that children have their goof off time. Also, try not to schedule practice sessions during your childs favorite TV show or something else that is important to your child. (We are not trying to make the practice sessions into sessions where the child feels deprived of something that they want to do. It will make practice time feel more like punishment.)
The best thing is to schedule a practice time that falls at the same time each day. For me it was 7:00 PM, right after dinner and after completing most of my homework. If it is the same time, it will be easier to make practicing a routine. Once in a while things come up and a session will be missed or be rescheduled. Things happen, but that needs to be the exception rather than the rule.
If your child gets involved in sports or other activities that will require time, the student cannot use that as an excuse for not practicing. If you are going to participate in several activities, then you must make a commitment to each of them. Talk to your teachers and most will be happy to work with you and maybe assign less if you are in the middle of Little League season or Soccer season. Just dont use sports as an excuse for not practicing at all. Some time, even if it is only 3 or 4 days a week is better than no practicing at all, providing it is quality practice.
Practice calendars are another good idea. A practice calendar gives the teacher, student and parent a chance to see how much time is being put in. Of course, I encourage my students to get involved in as many musical activities as they can handle, whether it be school band, community band, rock bands, jazz bands, etc. The more the student plays in a performance situation, the better musician they will become. I have been very lenient with students who come in unprepared because they were doing concerts or band competitions. If a student is performing regularly, then things are gonna be OK. Once the performance schedule eases up, the student needs to get back to a practice routine in order to elevate their skills to the next level.
We will deal with how to practice and quality of practice at another time. In the mean time, go practice!
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