®The finest instrument is the mind.

How To Get My Kid To Practice? (Part One of Four)

Guest contributor Gabrielle Bauer is an experienced writer with a degree in music. Her children have been through The Royal Conservatory piano program up to grade 9, and she taught private and group lessons at Yamaha Canada Music for a number of years (many of the private lessons followed the Royal Conservatory program). She is currently working on a coaching manual for children, also with a mandate to spruce up the language.

The first in a four-part series, Ms. Bauer writes about strategies to motivate children to practice their instruments.

Just about all kids resist practicing their instrument at some point, typically when they hit the preteen years. If you’re like many parents, this resistance pushes your nag button. Predictably, your child digs in her heels and family harmony (let alone musical harmony) goes out the window. As the mother of two Royal Conservatory-bred teenagers and a veteran of the practicing minefield, I’ve approached the challenge from four different angles: People, Patterns, Performance, and Perspective. In this installment I’ll deal with the people.

It’s hard to keep the ultimate goal of music – sharing beauty – in mind when you’re sitting alone with your instrument day after day, drill after drill. Playing with other people can put the spark back into the endeavour. The possibilities are endless: duets, group keyboard lessons, a ukelele ensemble... One summer, my daughter, son and stepson formed an impromptu voice, saxophone and guitar trio and put together a modest repertoire of down-home songs. Come fall, the excitement of playing together carried them through the next Royal Conservatory examinations preparation cycle.

Know a musically proficient teenager in your neighbourhood? Consider hiring her once or twice a week as a practice buddy. Not to cast aspersions on your credentials as a role model, but a musically inclined teenager (a.k.a. Cool Person Whose Opinion Matters) has you beat hands down.

Taking the role-modeling idea a step further, find out if any professional musicians offer master classes in your area. Whether your child attends as a participant or spectator, he’ll soak up an atmosphere of excellence. Along similar lines, stay tuned for a free Conservatory software program enabling students to post their music and have it critiqued by specific teachers.

Inject some human energy into the mix and your child may surprise you by getting through and entire set of arpeggios without sighing.

See also:

Part two: Developing effective practice routines
Part three: Encouraging the performance aspects of practice
Part four: Changing your child’s perspective

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