Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Create A Good Music Practice Environment

I have a student whose dog howls as soon as she starts playing her violin. It's a hoot to watch and a very entertaining trick when company visits. The distraction level, however, is VERY high, and the family has learned to put Spike in the backyard during serious practice time.

Obviously a howling dog is a problem for focused practice, but what about the less obvious distractions in your home? Does an older sibling hike up the volume on the television as soon as her brother begins to play scales on the piano? Does your fussy toddler start to scream for attention whenever you sit down to practice cello with your six year old?

It's worth a moment of your time to evaluate distracting noise and activities in your home that may effect your child's ability to concentrate. You may need to change a routine or find a different place in your home where practice can happen effectively.

My four year old student Emma practices with her mother for 15 minutes each day while her father entertains their two year old in a different room. The family worked out this plan before they even started lessons and it works well for them.

Older students may need a dedicated room or space free from enticing distractions like computers and televisions. Set up designated practice areas with the necessities: music stands, tuners, metronomes, and sheet music to avoid wasting time searching for items.

How many times has practice in your home been interrupted by a phone call? Consider turning the ringers off (cell phones too). We are so used to being constantly available for interaction with family and friends that we often don't question the interruption. Makes you wonder how folks entertained themselves hundreds of years ago before texting, video and internet. Oh yeah... they played music together!

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  1. I found that having the violin ( or other stringed instrument ) CASE OPEN facilitated practise a lot.
    Pianist's can cruise past an open piano in a home and on a whim sit down and play. Violinists grow up with the assumption that playing violin time is a planned and prepared for event due to the inacessability of their instrument. If a toddler is loose in a house, of course the OPEN instrument case needs to be higher than the toddler's reach ;-)

  2. Ah, yes David, so true - out of sight, out of mind!

  3. me, i really love to plaa piano or guitar on quiet places... it makes me more comfortable and at peace... i can feel the music that my instrument sings... i can feel its warmth and passion... that is a good environment...

  4. The potential for distractions are always a dillemma I face when suggesting practice environments for students.

    I find that when a piano is in a private area of the home, distractions are minimized but it's at the expense of not having the instrument readily available. When the piano is in a central location in the home kids are more likely to sit down and "play a bit" as they pass by. This type of practice obviously should not be substituted for structured practice, but anything that encourages a student to sit at the piano should be considered...

    Of course, if the piano is easily accessible, the potential for distractions increase.

    I usually suggesting moving the distractions before moving the piano.

  5. Finding a dedicated practice time and location is essential for success. Making sure that parents and students have distractions turned off like television and cell phones even if they are not the ones practicing. Also sitting down with your child and paying attention to what they are doing and complementing young children when they are practicing is a great way to naturally expand practice time and have the young student excited about practicing.

  6. I think instilling love of music in a child at a young age is important for mental growth as well. Learning music has benefits in confident building as well as mental capacity. I think all parents should put their child in some kind of musical instrument or vocal lessons.

  7. Nice article and I am agreed that learning music has benefits in confident building as well as mental capacity. Thanks very much for sharing.
    noleggio monitor

  8. For my piano students, I have found that the placement of the piano in the house is a huge factor in how distracted the student is. Many families place the instrument in same room that the TV is locaoted. Having the TV on while the student practices is a huge distraction. This can be cured by discussing with the piano student and parents before the lessons begin. Nice blog!

    -Theresa Chen

  9. Theresa, Thank you for making that point! We will be starting up again and posting more articles by the end of the summer. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. I agree! Making music practice fun is something that I find extremely important for success, so having a pleasant environment is, understandably, important to me as well.


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