Let’s assume your child has made a commitment to learning to play the piano and has ceased to see you as the ogre in the household because you are constantly hounding him/her to practise. “That’s a fantasy world!” I hear you exclaim. Well, it may never become quite that easy, but there are some things you can do to ensure the practise sessions they do get through are as effective as possible.
Overall I think the most important thing you can do to show your child you are committed to their learning and progress, is to schedule their practise time in to your weekly schedule. It should be included in their regular tasks, just like school homework (and also ensures “too much homework” doesn’t become an excuse for not practising).
Try some of the following tips and see what works best for you:
- Encourage your child to practise most days (with a couple of ‘rest days’ interspersed in between). Consistency is so important and regular, shorter practise sessions are far more effective than one or two long practises. The more they practise, the more they will improve and this will increase their enjoyment of playing the piano.
- This may seem obvious, but encourage your child to really focus when they are practising. Chances are their mind is more engaged in what they are wanting to do next and if they are rushing to finish, they will make more mistakes. This will only result in increased frustration and no improvement in their playing. A short practise brimming with focus is far more effective than a long, unfocussed session.
- Encourage your kids to play the pieces they find difficult. If they are becoming frustrated, have them play with hands separately and become comfortable with that before joining their hands back together.
- Let them write on their music (in pencil, of course). While you don’t want them writing in every single note name, marking up spots where they are having trouble every time may help. It might be the note names of a tricky passage or an unusual timing count that trips them up. Having a little help written in may increase their confidence with the whole piece.
- Encourage slow playing, particularly of new songs. Most of us – not just the kids – have a tendency to want to play quickly, particularly once we know how the piece should sound. What we risk doing is ‘practising-in’ mistakes and learning the piece incorrectly. It is also frustrating for both there person playing and the person listening! Playing slowly also helps increase control. Once they are more familiar with the piece, playing it faster will come naturally.
- Count out loud. Nice and simple. If the timing is tripping them up, counting out loud is far more effective than counting silently in their heads; it makes the count more dominant.
If you are considering music lessons for your child or for yourself, please contact me to discuss the options. Piano lessons are conducted at my studio in Wallsend, NSW or mobile lessons are available in the eastern suburbs of Lake Macquarie.