Teachers Shake It Up – Practice Makes Better

We’ve all heard the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” but I prefer to tell my students, “Practice makes better.” Perfect is a very high standard to aim for, especially when we are starting out on learning something new, like a new instrument or even a new, harder piece on the piano.  For most students, our goal is improvement and a lifelong love of music, not perfection. Acknowledging to our children that we aren’t seeking perfection can take some of the pressure off of practicing and music lessons.
With that said, how can we help our children to practice? Daily practicing does help them to improve and feel success on their instrument. There are several basic strategies that parents can implement to help their children practice and get see improvement.

Establish a routine.

When you establish a routine, practicing becomes a habit, just like brushing your teeth. Perhaps the routine in your family could be: Come home from school, have a snack, practice guitar, play outside for 30 minutes, do homework, have dinner. Some children do better waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning and practicing before the bus comes.

Have Reasonable Expectations With In Home Music Lessons

Your kindergartener probably won’t be able to sustain 30 minute practice sessions alone. A 15 year old should be able to practice for more than 5 minutes at a time. Figure out what a reasonable amount of time if for your child. 10 to 15 minutes a day might be a good place to start for a kindergartener or first grader. As a child gets older their attention span will too. A high schooler who has other activities and obligations on some days might need to double up and do a longer practice session once or twice a week.

Set a timer.

Once you and your child establish how long their daily practice should be, some children find it helpful to have a timer set at the beginning of their time. The timer will ding or beep or chirp or ring when their time is up. Until it does, they need to keep practicing. This cuts down on the trips to the clock or the “Am I done yet?”s yelled across the house. (Some people find a timer to be really distracting and anxiety-provoking so this doesn’t work for everyone).

Mix it up.

Some days change things up a bit for practice time. Have your child put on a concert for you and their stuffed animals. Or ask them to play some songs that they mastered several months ago. Have them see if they can play a song they memorized while blindfolded. Or while balancing a beanbag on their head. Or while wearing a fancy outfit. Get as goofy as you want. Keep practicing fun.

Set a goal

If those strategies don’t work, it might be time for the student, teacher and parent to sit down and see if there is a concrete goal that the student wants to achieve. Perhaps it’s playing their favorite Top 40 hit or maybe it’s that they want to work their way through their lesson book by a certain date. Once a goal is set, then they have an endpoint in mind that they want to accomplish. Setting milestones along the way will help them find success.
Remember, practice makes better!

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