It’s important to understand why musical instruments need to be practiced regularly, hopefully daily. It improves the ability to play the instrument and produce a nice sound.
But there’s more: it helps the musician gain confidence as well as developing life skills on how to plan their practice and developing a routine around commitments. A musician does not improve without regular focused practice.
We love that our young musicians take part in lots of out of school activities such as swimming lessons, Brownies, Cubs, Duke of Edinburgh etc – but we realise it does become a juggle in trying to fit everything in. We hope this page will help you encourage and support your child to practice.
What is important is to realise is that you are not on your own, getting a child to practice regularly can be challenging. Many parents seek our advice at busy times concerned that they’re not able to fit in practice so please do not feel under pressure at these times. Once we find that parents feel supported in the knowledge that every parents goes through this – it makes it easier to encourage their child and coordinate practice sessions around out of school activities.
Definitely daily short daily or at least regular practice sessions. Without getting too scientific, our brains need sleep to digest the information. So the more daily sessions, the more time our brain has had time to process the learning.
Just five minutes each day can make a difference; that way our muscles aren’t forgetting how to play the instrument.
Try and plan in advance when is the best time to take 5-10 minutes and discuss it with your child. Write it on your family planner. We find that when a young child knows when they are to practice ie: after snack time from getting home from school – they are [usually!] more open to practice.
We have found it is often better to practice before going to clubs as afterwards the child is either too tired or has an evening routine to start.
For young people who have learnt scales we suggest just a couple of slow, careful scales making the most beautiful sound as you can is beneficial if you can’t find the time to practice anything else in the week.
If your child has not started to learn to play scales yet – no problem. Just practice making a nice sound on one or two notes for two or three minutes each day when time is short.
For GCSE students and beyond we have found that many music students practice before they go to school in the morning to make sure the evening is clear for school study. Alternatively breaking up their practice into 2 or 3 shorter sessions throughout the day to give themselves a break from school work – we know students have found this incredibly relaxing and beneficial.
When time is short, use your time wisely – Don’t practice the easy bits or the entire piece of music. Only practice the tricky bits [see below]. Allow yourself time to practice the whole piece and the easy fun bits through when you have more time.
Understand that this is normal. This is a great learning skill for a child to appreciate that things can sometimes be challenging and to work out how to take steps to work this out.
Speed or tempo is key here. Ask your child to take the tricky bar/bars/phrase slower. If it is still too difficult, take it slower. Again take it slower and slower until there is a speed where this can be played correctly. It is important to realise that practising mistakes is really difficult to correct – so by slowing down the passage to a speed where it can be played correctly and comfortably is crucial. Practice the tricky bit three or four times before moving the speed on a bit faster. A metronome is really fun and useful to help here. You can download a free Metronome App.
1. Identify the tricky bar/s or phrase. Break it down into smaller sections if it is several lines of music. You may want to mark-up the music in soft pencil. Or make a note of it on a notepad.
2. Slow the tempo down until it can be played correctly – remember don’t practice mistakes! Do not be daunted by sometimes having to drastically slow the tempo – this is normal.
3. When you can play the tricky bit correctly and confidently three or four times – gradually increase the speed (tempo) – try this by using a metronome. Important: if you can’t play it at the increased tempo return to a slower speed and practice and repeat a few more times.
4. Watch out for weariness – usually just playing the tricky part several times correctly is really hard work and it is very beneficial to leave this to ‘settle’ overnight and return to this section of music and method the next day. You may want to make a note of the metronome mark that you have achieved that day.
5. When you are happy with the tricky bit and can play it at normal speed – put it back into the rest of the music and enjoy playing it beautifully and comfortably!
When your child has been learning for a while, it is important to reflect back to a time when things were difficult or maybe when they first picked up the instrument and everything seemed awkward. You may want to turn the pages back in the book or music and say: do you remember when this was really challenging and look you find this really straightforward and play this beautifully.
If your child is still frustrated and is having continued difficulties over a number of weeks please contact your teacher via your Study Planner on SpeedAdmin or drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d love to learn and share your tips on our social media. Drop us a line on email@example.com
Great tips here from Music Lesson Resource
Classic FM Practice Tips
Wynton Marsalis on Discipline and Practice
Chief ABRSM Examiner Shares his Practice Tips
Music Lessons, Inspire Your Child with Tips from World Class Musicians, Nathan Holder
House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons, Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason