One of the most crucial activities in learning how to play an instrument is home practice. Parental involvement in home practice can have a significant effect on student progress on an instrument. I know that some parents have never played an instrument and do not feel comfortable trying to help their child. Hopefully I can provide you with some tips on ways to help your child learn to practice correctly at home.
1. Help the student organize his/her time.
Most students have trouble remembering to practice on their own. Parents can help this by trying to schedule practice time for the student at the same time of the day every day. Many parents have had success instilling self-discipline in their children by seeing that homework, practice time, and chores are done as soon as the child comes home from school. This helps the student prioritize and will benefit the student later in his/her school career
2. Make sure that the student practices an appropriate amount of time.
Our goal is to have the student practice 6 days a week for a half-hour a day for a total of 180 minutes. This amount of time is necessary in order to develop the coordination of all of the muscles (fingers, lungs, tongue, etc.) that help play the instrument. It is also necessary to develop strength in the facial muscles. Many of these muscles are not used for anything else, and need daily work to get stronger, just like an athlete needs daily conditioning to train the muscles appropriate to his/her sport. If a student practices less than 100 minutes a week, chances are high that the student will not be successful.
3. Observe and assist in practicing.
Observing and helping with a couple of the practice sessions a week can help your child to stay on task and motivated to do well. Even if you have never played and do not read music, you can help your child practice. All of the notes, fingerings, and rhythms that the students are working on are explained in the new material boxes at the top of each page. Here are some activities you can use with your child:
a. Help them keep a steady beat and make sure that they tap their foot on the beat.
b. Help them figure out rhythms by counting and clapping – have them teach you how to count and clap.
c. Have them finger the notes while you count and clap the rhythm.
d. Make flash cards with the notes drawn on a staff and quiz them on note names and fingerings.
4. Try to provide extra motivation for practicing.
Try to make practicing fun and rewarding for the student. Some ideas for providing extra motivation could include:
a. Have your child practice with a friend. The friend does not have to play the same instrument.
b. Purchase SmartMusic – a computer program that goes along with the book so that the student has an accompaniment for playing along.
c. Reward good practice like you would reward good grades on a report card.
d. Have the student play a song or two at family gatherings.
e. Find a book at a music store that has fun songs for beginners (Disney, Star Wars themes, etc.)
Hopefully all of the above ideas will help you to participate in your child’s music education. Thanks for all of your support!