Practicing Tips

There are numerous factors that can help kids practice at home. Of course, ideally kids would just find their own motivation and structure their time to achieve their goals, yet let’s face it, even adults often lack that skill.

The truth about practicing is that is a process that changes over time. Artistic kids are usually constantly “thinking outside the box” and get “bored” with a regular routine even though it is what they need.

Parent’s need to take a team approach and work with their children and the instructor to help build a toolkit of skills/resources to help kids build effective practicing skills. Frequently re-evaluate what is working versus what is not. Again, this list will change with time.

Constantly aim to distinguish the effectiveness of the parameters that you set around practice goals and schedules to ensure consistent growth over time.

For example, there is no argument that two things always work for practicing:

    • Learn to play a phrase correctly in slow motion first. Work to increase the speed only in intervals that maintain accuracy until the desired tempo is reached.
    • Practice in sections and then put the sections together. Start with as small of a section as you need to maintain accuracy and increase the length when larger sections can be played accurately.
    • (In other words–do not practice your mistakes!)

The tricky part is evaluating how much time it takes to complete this process. So practicing a certain number of minutes per day may be helpful or it could be a source of frustration. Duration of practice time may not be something that is intelligent to control at all times. Daily practice sessions with a list of goals and continuous engagement with the material and the process is something that would be more beneficial to set parameters around.

Remember, music is an art form, thus the better you get at it, the more you may feel that is it not complete. Constantly ask, “What can I do to make this piece sound satisfying, interesting and/or enjoyable for the me and my audience?”

In order to keep students engaged, go for some rules that you will follow together. For example:

1. Practice every day of the week except for one rest day.

2. Every day work on the tasks the teacher has assigned and complete them as requested with this exception–if students discover that some part of the assignment is not working and has a better solution that will help to complete his assignment in a more enjoyable or proficient way, they may try that and discuss it with the teacher to see if it is acceptable.

Help kids build a list of skills to practice–a list of solutions for problems. There are endless creative options. There are also the tried and true methods–use a metronome, play in slow motion, break the work into sections, break it into smaller sections.

Maintain ongoing communication with the instructor regarding practicing. Keep children involved in the process. Complement them on the quality of their process. Instead of saying, “you are so talented!” Say, “I love how you worked on that piece in sections and were patient enough to keep the speed slow! When you do that, you sound wonderful!”

Remember, practicing is work, it can be fun and feel playful, yet it is not play time. Work can be enjoyable and very satisfying. It takes time, attention and creativity to hone one’s work skills at any age.

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