Having taught violin for over 10 years, the issue of practice has always been a “hot topic” amongst both children and parents alike. It’s a subject that when raised usually receives a huge gasp or even facial expressions of contempt from children. “Have you managed to practice this week?” I would ask a child and the answer would be “yes”, “a little bit” or “no”, followed by a list of reasons why. The best of which was “I couldn’t practice as my dog was sat on it!”.
One of the main reasons I set up The Strings Club in 2012 was to offer musical programmes for children that ignited their love of music from the offset. That inspired them to get their instrument out at home, to practice and to feel confident in performing in front of family and friends at home. At The Strings Club Head Office, we are sometimes contacted by parents asking us how they can encourage their child to practice at home without them pushing them to do so. Understandably, parents feel pressured into not only ensuring that their child progresses on a weekly basis, but also ensuring that they are getting “their money’s worth” too.
From experience, I have listed the main reasons why children do not want to practice below and underneath each point, I have listed how our award-winning Term Time Courses and fantastic teaching team ensure that children practice on a regular basis.
They are not encouraged to practice
At the beginning of each Term, children also receive a “practice makes perfect” guide to monitor their practice too! Each week, children receive a “practice makes perfect” diary that has all the information they will need including keywords, recommended listening to the main songs they should be focusing on that week.
They have nothing to work towards so get bored easily
As partners with Music Medals, The Royal Schools of Music, all children are encouraged to work towards a Music Medal on a regular basis – giving them something really worthwhile to work towards. We have also designed Minis Awards for our Minis classes too!
They don’t know how to practice
This is so important and is something that I believe is an integral part of learning an instrument. More often than not though, children and their parents are not advised on how to practice at home and this is something that is so important to know. Here are a few myths below regarding practice:
- Myth #1
You need to practice for an hour a day to make any progress
Nonsense! If your child wants to play for an hour a day then great! But if not, encouraging them to practice for 5-10 mins a day to start off with is a fantastic start!
- Myth #2
You need to practice at the same time every day
Nonsense! Yes, getting into a good routine (see below) is good, however, we understand how busy children are, so as long as they take the time to practice on a regular basis, then this is great!
- Myth #3
If you don’t practice for a day or two, your standards will go down
Nonsense! One of my old violin teachers who was also an infamous solo violinist practices for 8-10 hours every day, however, this was her job. If your child misses a few days because of going on holiday, illness, whatever reason, this does not mean their playing standards will have drastically decreased.
For those 200 children who attend our Term Time Courses, we would however recommend that they attend our summer Holiday Camps this summer. Our morning ‘Learn Together, Play Together’ sessions are a great way to ensure that your child’s playing standards remain at a high standard and avoid what we call at the Head Office, “the summer slump”. The sessions are specifically geared to those children who already play and are invaluable in developing those ensemble playing together skills whilst also having fun playing music with others. Your child is also encouraged to bring in their pieces that they have been assigned for the holidays. This way, they will be mini maestros by their first Term Time lesson in September!
My top five tips in encouraging your child to practice!
I share my top 5 tips in encouraging your child to practice. Many of these I have learnt through my own teaching, but also some have come from parents at The Strings Club as well as children who attend either a Term Time Course or Holiday Camp. If you have a top tip to share, I would love to hear it and share with other parents.
- Practice for 5-10 mins a day to start off with – best to practice for small amounts and regularly than for long durations and unoften
- Encourage your child to really look after their instrument and take responsibility
- Be positive to your child (if it doesn’t sound quite right, encourage them to try again!)
- Encourage them to perform regularly in front of you
- Have the instrument in a convenient place where they can access it quickly