Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is Music Practice Supposed to be Fun?

We received a reader comment from a teacher this week, and through it echoed the voices of music teachers the world over:

"Why is it that some parents don't want to make their kids practice when the child isn't having 'fun'? The 'fun' comes when they can play music. It's normal for a child to not want to practice sometimes, even if they love the idea of making music."

Ah yes, practice: where fantasy meets reality, parent meets child, the face-off begins!

Practice doesn't always feel like music making, which is what your kid thought they signed up for when they chose an instrument. When they imagined themselves playing music they probably glossed over the hundreds-of-hours-of-practice part and skipped straight to the beautiful-sounds-and-wildly-enthusiastic-audience part.

As adults it's easy for us to understand that it takes plenty of 'not fun' time to get to a point where you are skillful enough that an activity becomes it's own reward. But kids live in the moment, and the moment needs to be pleasurable for them to want to keep doing something, like say, practice some difficult new material when the Wii is calling.

Most of us have our own musical histories, and some of them aren't all that pleasant. Were you relegated to a distant room for practice, oh, and don't forget to shut the door so the noise won't disturb everyone? Maybe it was an activity that you joylessly fulfilled to avoid punishment? You can help make your child's experience a very different one. If she is struggling with practice, your job as head cheerleader and motivator just took center stage.

After all, when your child was learning to read you chose fun books, praised them, marveled at their accomplishments, and undoubtedly followed up with every homework assignment. You saw them through difficult times until they were ready to read on their own for the sheer pleasure of it. You were totally committed. Put instrument practice in that same category. We've written plenty of articles to give you ideas and help you out. You are not alone!

How do you help make practice a fun activity for your child? Where do you get stuck? We'd love for you to share your experiences and ideas for practice here with other parents.


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9 comments:

  1. Hi, nice to see another site discussing practice - particularly like the emphasis on small children. I'll be adding you to my links and telling my readers about your site. Thanks and good luck with it.

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  2. Thank you for visiting and spreading the word. We look forward to reading your site, and adding you to our links list as we continue to grow.

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  3. Yes I do believe that practice should be fun. In fact, I feel that the more you practice the more enjoyment you will experience. I have been documenting my practice for the last 40 days on my blog:

    www.portamentor.com/blog

    My goal is practice for at least 15 minutes everyday and to inspire others to do the same. I'm on day 40 and the benefits are astounding. Please take a look and leave a comment.

    All the best,

    John E Brigante

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  4. Wow John, Thanks for sharing and inspiring! This is so true:

    "...the more you practice the more enjoyment you will experience"

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  6. Children do have small attention span. One moment they're so into practice, the next moment they wanna do something else. I do suggest that the practice should not be too long, so as not to wear out the child's interest. Perhaps positive reinforcement can help. Reward the child with a little candy or smoothie after practice, and maybe he/she would look forward to every practice session :-)

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  7. All good point, thank you for sharing.

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  8. I would have to agree with the above posts that that making practice part of the daily routine is much more beneficial than setting a specific duration of time for our practice sessions.

    It's very easy to talk myself out of going to the gym for an hour to work out, but taking a ten-minute walk around the block is easy. I know my body will benefit more from the daily walks then it would the once-a-week (or less) trips to the gym.

    Same holds true with practice. And once we get ourselves (or our students) sitting down at the keyboard, we often spend more time there than we had originally planned. Just getting started is sometimes the hard part.

    Luke Bartolomeo
    Listen to Repertoire Review. The weekly audio podcast featuring pieces from the contemporary teaching repertoire.

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  9. Fantastic article!

    I'd like to point out a very useful tool for home practice - the practice journal. There are quite a few of these available, but I haven't found any others that are attractive to young kids. When young children are concerned, you need full COLOR to get their attention. As stated in the above article, music practice isn't always fun, so you need to find a way to get your child motivated. These are especially created with that in mind. They have spaces for reward stickers and even a built in reward system. Please check them out. They're quite wonderful. :)
    http://shop.musicalpracticejournals.com

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