This is a very tough subject. Many times I have seen parents get down on their kids for not wanting to practice even though they are paying for music lessons. In a perfect world, everyone would take music lessons and know from experience how difficult it can be to practice. It’s a tough task to keep adults engaged in learning music – so you can imagine how difficult it is for children. This article will offer some tips to keep kids engaged in their lessons and excited to learn and motivated to practice.
While playing a musical instrument is fun, it takes a lot of work to learn how to play well. It takes a tremendous amount of mental and tactical skill in order to be successful. With children you will be walking a fine line of keeping them engaged and interested and becoming disenchanted and wanting to quit. How can you avoid having them simply give up?
One of the most important things is making sure that they aren’t playing on inferior instruments. It might sound silly to have your child learn something they might not stick with on a nice instrument, but it can be pointless to have them practice and learn on an inferior product. Many times music teachers will recommend certain instruments and parents will simply go for the cheapest alternative – setting their child up for failure. If you have them performing on an instrument where the sound produced is bad and the keys stick, they probably won’t want to keep playing it. One of the best ways to discourage someone from playing an instrument is handing them a bad instrument.
Another thing that is critical is getting the best possible teacher right from the beginning. It’s a huge mistake to think that going with an inferior teacher is O.K. when starting a musical instrument. If an experienced player learns from someone great and then moves on to someone not so great, they will immediately be able to tell they aren’t geteting what they need from them. This is not possible when you start lessons – there is no frame of reference. Not only will their development be much quicker with a better teacher, chances are they will be more motivated to learn if they are experiencing a tremendous amount of progress. Bad teaching risks not only a potentially worthless experience, but they could potentially develop bad habits causing injury.
Now if you have a child who is working hard and practicing every day, you need to find ways to encourage them. A good idea is having them play in informal and nurturing settings for friends and family. Encourage them to perform but make sure you don’t pressure them too much or put them in an awkward situation. Having them play for people will help to build self-esteem as well as get more encouragement to know that all their hard work is building to something.
Another thing to do is play music for them. Take them to concerts. Show a general interest in what they are doing. If they see your interest and enjoyment for their musical achievements, it will only help to build their confidence and interest in continuing to learn and play. If the children are very young, maybe it’s a better idea to take them to outdoor concerts where they can be in a more informal setting. I’ve seen many times where parents will take very young children to formal concerts only to have them be ridiculed by other members of the audience for not sitting completely still or being quiet. This can be a horrible experience for any young child and can turn them off to music. It’s not a great idea to bring a four year old to a sophisticated classical concert – they can’t comprehend the level of complexity involved in the music and most likely won’t enjoy it as you intend them to.
It’s a lot like getting your kids to do anything that you need them to do – doing homework, brushing their teeth, cleaning their room, etc. Practicing their instrument should be a part of their daily routine. While you don’t want to beat them up over not practicing, you should encourage them to continue playing and to do it every day. A huge problem with children learning instruments is never practicing outside their lesson – this is only going to set them up for failure.
A big thing that many parents and even teachers do is not let kids play what they want. Children should be allowed to play any music they want, whether it’s classical or popular music. Forcing them to only play a certain type of music – specifically one they aren’t interested in may cause them to become disinterested much quicker. Encouraging them to play all sorts of music can enhance the experience of learning an instrument.
Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729