How Parents Can Help Their Young Musician
Learning a musical instrument often represents a child’s first opportunity to discover how a routine of individual practice leads to ever-increasing rewards. For parents, it’s a rare chance to help their child discover a love of music, plus the satisfaction that comes with mastering a difficult new skill. With all the benefits musical training offers in terms of mental, physical, and emotional development, it is no surprise that parents want to “get it right.”
Starting from the Same Page: The Importance of Connecting with the Teacher
Children always struggle when two trusted adults send seemingly contradictory signals. It is critical to connect with your child’s music teacher(s) from day one. Make sure you are delivering consistent messages about goals and practice habits. Discuss any differences of opinion, with the goal of finding common ground so that your child never feels torn.
Lesson Recap: The Key to a Successful Week of Practice
A child’s first practice session after a lesson is the most important practice of the week. Before that session occurs, get your child talking about the lesson. To the greatest extent possible, let the child be the “expert” as you play the role of curious companion. Helpful questions to ask include:
What do you remember best about the lesson?
What was your favorite thing your teacher told or showed you?
What did your teacher say that made you feel especially good?
What did you share with your teacher that was really important to you?
Do you remember something the teacher asked you to work on that seems like it will be difficult?
Did you and your teacher set any goals for the week?
If your child seems to have forgotten an important aspect of the lesson, try to lead the conversation in an open-ended way: “Did your teacher say something about keeping your fingers curved?”
Setting Up a Designated Practice Space
If possible, set up a “music corner” somewhere in your home, so that practicing becomes a special activity that happens in a special place. Children love any area that is to some degree exclusively theirs; having such a space for music shows how proud you are of your child’s undertaking. Seek their input when decorating the music corner—ideas include inspirational posters, a shelf or colorful box for music books, a smartphone or camera stand to make it easy to record videos to share with friends, and a whiteboard for noting important reminders or logging practice time.
Sharing the Path: Practice Time as Parent-Child Togetherness Time
When you sit with your child during practice time, offer frequent encouragement, pointing out specific improvements you have seen over the last week or two. Once again, use guiding questions to help your child articulate successes and struggles:
What do you like most about that piece?
What part of the piece do you feel like you can play best right now?
What is hardest about playing that piece?
What kind of mood do you think the person who wrote that piece was feeling?
Can you imagine a story that would explain what that piece is about?
If your child needs new challenges for practice sessions, visit our Music, Books, and Resources page together and explore the wide array of sheet music, tools, and more to expand their repertoire. If you are currently looking for a teacher or extra instruction outside of school music classes, West Music offers classes and individual lessons to families in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.
Focus on the Joy
There is no greater gift you can give your young musician than reminders that music brings people happiness. The sight of your face lighting up at the sound of every note and phrase will be your child’s greatest source of motivation.
Have questions? Need advice? West Music is here for you! Give our music education experts a call at 800-373-2000.