May 24th, 2016

5 Ways To Get Your Child To Practice Their Musical Instrument At Home
by Eric Bourassa

Most parents want their child to practice at home. They’ve signed them up for
guitar, piano, violin, or drums lessons at our music school in Fort Worth, and they are desperately hoping their kid will love lessons so much that they’ll just want to do it on their own. And the truth is, most kids love their lessons- they just hate practicing at home. They dislike it for a few reasons: 

1. Lack of self-discipline 
2. Unsure how to practice the way their instructor showed them
3. Distractions

Your music instructor should be able to help you with #2 by showing you exactly what your child is working on and how they need to practice it. At
Ridglea School of Music, we invite parents back the last five to seven minutes of class to review that day’s material with the students so that the line of communication stays open and everyone is on the same page. That’s our responsibility. 

Items #1 and #3 are yours. We’ll solve both of them with these 5 strategies:

1. Schedule your child’s practice. Your child will choose TV and iPads over practicing every single time in the beginning. Why? Because screens provide a reward for far less work. In music, you have to work hard for your reward, for that satisfaction of getting that chord or line of music right. On an iPad, with a swipe of a finger and no practicing, you get the satisfaction of getting the device to obey your every command. So we must teach our kids that the reward for making music is harder and takes longer, but it is so much greater than the instant gratification of the technology they possess. When should you schedule your child’s practice? Only you can answer that for sure, but most parents tend to schedule practicing every day right after school (after school homework, of course). Once scheduled, be consistent, and do not compromise. It is now a part of their routine. It may take time for them to stop complaining, but eventually they will enjoy and even expect it. 

2. Supervise their practicing. You may not play an instrument yourself, but

you can guide their practicing with these tactics: 

DO NOT play one song one time and call that “practicing.”
DO practice 5 days/week. 
DO practice at least 20 min.
DO practice your assigned song/exercise at least 10 times/day. 
DO practice 3-6 chords at least 10 times/day each. 
DO practice slowly. 
Great musicians only make the same mistake once

Simply saying these phrases and enforcing them will work wonders for your child. Let us know if you need more specific help on how best to use these ideas by emailing us your specific challenges at info@ridgleaschoolofmusic.com 

3. Support your child. High-five your child every time they complete a song or line of music. Your encouragement means everything to them. Here’s the ultimate tip- tell them you think what they just played is so good you want to record it on video! Oh, boy, that works on my daughter every single I want her to practice something again on the piano. 


4. Show them examples of other great musicians. This one is easier for kids that come from musical families, because they’re around it all the time. But for a lot of our students, they are the first in their family to play a musical instrument. So simply showing them videos of guitar players or drummers you think are cool will often motivate them. Take them to concerts. Get them in environments where they can experience live music. 


5. Stay in lessons. This one sounds a little self-serving, but it’s true. I cannot tell you how many parents have told me they want to “take a break” because their child is feeling burned out or overwhelmed or too busy with other activities, but they’ll “definitely keep practicing at home…” right. It never fails- I follow up with the parents months later. And guess what? No practicing. They haven’t even touched their instrument since they quit taking lessons! So not only has the child not moved forward in their playing, they’ve move backwards. They’re actually worse than when they left. Meanwhile, all the students who stuck with it have made progress and kept moving towards their goals. Quitting lessons is never the answer unless the question is, “How can I stop playing this instrument forever?” So keep it up, especially when the going gets tough- that’s when you need lessons the most!

So, if you’re feeling like your child is lacking inspiration, make them practice, and use these strategies to get them practicing and actually enjoying it. They’ll thank you someday for giving them the gift of discipline and developing a skill that long outlasts sports and other childhood activities. 

Call us at (817)420-6462 to talk about implementing these ideas, or, if your child has an instrument that sits unused or they want to play a musical instrument and are not currently enrolled in lessons,
schedule a FREE lesson to see if working with us is a good fit for you and your family!