Getting your kid to practice piano
Your piano teacher has mentioned more than once that your kid needs to practice. You know he should, but it just does not happen too often. And on top of that, you don’t want to be too pushy and eventually make him hate music.
In fact, your children are quite busy: they have swimming on Mondays, dance on Tuesday, soccer on Wednesday, the piano lesson on Thursday, playdates on Fridays, sleepovers on Saturdays and family day on Sunday. And we need to count the time of picking them up from all those places, doing their homework and playing with their toys.
All right! It sounds like a normal week for a normal child. But your kid is learning the piano and he has to do some practice.
Why do piano students need to practice?
Both you and your kid need to understand that without practice, the progress will be limited. It does not matter how gifted the student is; without enough practice, he would not be able to develop his skills.
Let’s think of this example:
George wants to get fit. Even more challenging: he wants to compete in the olympic games. He is quite motivated and loves training. But he is extremely busy and is going to spend just 30 minutes a week with his personal trainer. The most qualified and expensive, by the way.
The trainer pushes him so much and he does make a huge effort every session. After a while, George is familiarized with all the exercises and he knows how to use the materials in the sport centre. It is fun and he enjoys it, but he is very busy and can’t go back to the gym until the following week.
However, when he looks at himself in the mirror, he notices no difference in his body shape. And he starts thinking that something is not working. Even though nothing has changed, he is still enthusiastic and takes part in the competition. And Oh my God! It goes wrong. Really bad. His worst experience ever. So, he blames that useless trainer…
So, what happened?
Obviously, apart from the weekly sessions with a professional, George needed more practice and training on his own. Motivation and passion was not enough; he had to dedicate more time to achieve his goal.
Being realistic, the same principle applies to the piano lessons: a student would not succeed without practice.
How do I make my child practice piano?
That is the golden question! As well as how long should he practice?
Have a look to these suggestions:
What does he have to practice?
The very first point is knowing what to practice. Get a notebook and ask your piano teacher to make notes there. Your kid could tick the work done, just like a “to do list”.
Schedule his practice slots
Music is a time consuming activity that has to get alone with usual daily duties in children’s life. Organization is the secret.
If he knows that swimming is on Mondays 4:30, could you add to his timetable a piano practice session just before or after? What is more, if you could schedule his practice time roughly at the same time every day, you would create the habit on his day’s routine, and he would get used to it and therefore be less lucky to skip it.
Here is a note now:
It has been researched that “one of the most productive practice slots is in the morning; between breakfast and school”.
You may think this is crazy but their concentration is much better, they are not tired or over excited about a bad or good day at school and they will even need less time to get the same results. They will also have more free
time to play with their toys in the evening!
Sit next to the piano and watch him/her
He will feel your support and you two could build up a link between the music and yourselves. Wouldn’t it be nice?
We assume you may be really busy on weekdays, what about the weekends?
Your son/daughter will really appreciate that you are spending your free time with them. And they will try their best to practice properly, get everything done and finally go out with you. However, this will not make any sense if you are in the sofa reading your emails. They should see you there, supporting and helping to concentrate.
Organize family concerts
Performance is definitely one of the best ways to practice. And the only way to learn how to perform is performing.
Planning a weekly lunch time Sunday concert for mum and dad would be a lovely family activity and an amazing way to make him practice during the week. Even if it is the same piece, you will see the improvement.
Come on… You will be so proud!
Encourage him to make music with others
Specially if his siblings, friends, neighbors or yourself also play the piano.
It will be so much fun and again, it will create a very interesting social-musical link between him and his mate. He will commit to practice because he will know that his partner will do. And if he doesn’t, the ensemble will just not work.
Four hands duets are the best option: there are many enjoyable pieces for all levels and ages.
Pay him for his time
As researched by Harvard´s professor Roland Fryer
It might not seem very pedagogical but let me explain. Let’s go back to our friend George:
Sometimes, he loves his job but some other times, he hates it. Specially if he has to wake up early. Yet he keeps working because he gets a reward: money. He can do many things with that money (such as paying his trainer), so he feels that his time is worth something.
Your kid needs a reward for his effort and practice time.
Put a piggy bank on the piano lid and fill it up with a coin every time he practices. After a few weeks, let him count the money to see if he could buy that new game he has been asking for. Could he afford it? If yes, go ahead, he
deserves it! If not… He needs to practice more.
Another possibility could be to reward him with a ticket for a show or any other activity he loves, but remember, he needs to feel that the prize he gets is worth his time.
Fun practice is also practice
Practicing does not have to be always the same. Actually, that would be boring.
Nowadays, children are addicted to technology and screens. Could you let him download some apps to spend a couple of minutes after his “serious” practice? There are dozens of them: sight-reading, ear training, pop music or even scales by the ABRSM company.
He will be aware of what sounds good or not and in consequence, he will be able to “fix” it.
After a while, video him again and show him the first interpretation. Is it any better? If yes, he will be
happy and again feel that his time is worth it. If not… Did he practice enough?