When my children were starting music lessons, I found the music practice very tedious. It was just the same elementary things over and over. There were times when I wanted to scream with boredom. My frustration often showed at practice time and resulted in tears and tantrums on all sides. It took me a long time to learn how to relax, slow down and turn music practice into a family friendly activity. My heart goes out to all fellow sufferers.
If you are frustrated that your child isn’t progressing as quickly as you think he should, it’s time to consider what’s really going on. It takes ages to create firm foundations for basic instrumental technique. We all know what happens to a skyscraper when the foundations are neglected. The whole building eventually collapses. The same is true funnily enough, of learning a musical instrument. Unfortunately, you can’t get round the fact that there are many basic things we have to get right, before we can have fun making beautiful music.
If you feel that things are moving too slowly, trust your teacher. Please relax and allow your child to internalize the basics. Children have an endless healthy fascination for repeating an activity, especially as they get better at doing it. In my experience, it is usually the parent who gets bored first so let’s do something positive about it.
1. First of all, please watch what you say in front of your child and never mention being bored or frustrated. It is very contagious.
2. Take notes at the lesson. Believe me. Your teacher would much rather make sure that you understand what needs to be practiced, than waste time undoing all the mistakes, that your child has carefully practiced.
- 1. Write down each practice task. Make sure that you understand exactly what has to be done to play it correctly.
- 2. Write down the reason for doing each task, what it is supposed to accomplish.
- 3. Write down the number of correct repetitions expected at each practice.
3. When you involve your child deciding how to practice a Task, you will engage his brain rather than just eliciting a passive response. Ask your child about what the teacher has asked you to do. Don’t tell tell him. In the beginning you may need to indulge in a bit of creative hinting, but this will soon wear off. Some teachers are very helpful in involving the child, when they sum up what has been done at the end of the lesson. Incorporating a positive summing up into the end of a practice session can be a nice way of celebrating good work, as well as engaging your child.
4. Finally, while your child is practicing, pay attention to what is going on. All you need to do is to describe what is going well. You don’t need to qualify it with superlatives, like good, well, nicely. So don’t indulge in a stream of “Good, wonderful!” “High five!” “You’re so clever!” etc. You would be amazed how dependent you can become on such blandishments. All your child needs to feel wonderful and secure, is that you are paying attention to what he is achieving.
If you scamper ahead through the repertoire, at best, your child will have to unlearn mistakes in the tricky spots, your teacher would have previewed with you in the lesson, at the appropriate stage. In a worst case scenario, your child will miss out on so many of the basic steps, that moving ahead will soon become impossible.
Slow down. Enjoy the journey. Be proud of your child’s increasing ability to achieve great things through focus and hard work.