Home Practice Guide for Parents
Individual music practice is one of the most important things in order to be successful when learning to play a musical instrument. It’s important not just to practice, but to practice efficiently. 10-20 minutes of efficient practicing can be much more effective than an hour of unfocused practicing.
The Practice Environment
Quiet Environment: Practicing takes a lot of focus. Minimizing distractions will help your child stay on task and pay closer attention to how they are playing.
Music Stand: Having a music stand will help greatly. It allows your child to feel as if they are in a environment closer to their classroom and leads to greater position and posture. If your child is practicing with music leaning off of a chair or table, they tend to lean forward which damages their technique.
Metronome: A metronome is a device that will keep a steady beat. Today, there are many options available. In addition to traditional metronomes, which can be purchased at a local music store, there are some fantastic apps that can be found on smart phones and tablets.
Mirror: If possible, having a large mirror in the area can be very helpful. This will greatly help your child view their bow and see whether or not it is parallel to the bridge. Playing with a straight bow is imperative to getting a good sound.
How can you help?
Some parents have played a musical instruments before and feel very comfortable helping their child practice. Many parents, however, have not and feel uncomfortable trying to help. Even if you have never picked up an instrument, there are many things you can do.
Setting up a Routine:
Having a specific time of day to practice is a great way to start. For example, when a child knows they are to practice for 20 minutes every day from 5:00-5:20, it quickly becomes part of their daily routine and increases focus during that time.
Helping your child set goals each day or week can be very helpful. It’s common for students to practice only the parts of a piece they are already confident with and skip the hard parts. One thing you can do is ask them to start with an a section they feel confident with, then spend 5-10 minutes on an difficult section, and then end with something easy.
If you notice your child struggling, ask them what is hard about it. They often have a very good idea of what is causing them trouble. Having them break it down and verbalize it can help them work out a strategy to go about fixing it. You may not always understand what they say, but just getting them to work it out mentally will benefit them greatly.
Encouragement is incredibly important. Learning a musical instrument is very hard work and simply saying “that sounds better today” or “don’t worry, I know you’ll get it” can go a long way.
Asking your child to play for friends or family is great way to help them practice for something. It allows them to see what it’s like to play under pressure and shows them how rewarding it can be to put on a performance.
If your hear crunch:
A crunch sound most often comes from too much pressure on the bow. A lot of students think this means they need to apply more rosin, but that’s not the case. Rosin is only used if there is very little or no sound coming from the bow. Ask them to first check and see if their bow hold is correct, ask them if they are on the right string, and then see if their bow is straight. It should be parallel with the bridge.
If it doesn’t sound right:
This might be because your child is struggling with reading the notes. Ask them to tell you what the notes are and if they respond too slowly or not at all, then that might be the issue. The best way to practice note memorization is using the exercises I have set up on the website. You may click here to access them.
If your child gets frustrated:
Setting goals is a great way to help with this, but sometimes, the best thing to do is to slow it down or take a break. Many times, they try to play things too fast. All of their notes and rhythms can and should be played very slowly. This is where having a metronome can really help. They can start slow and then slowly speed it up. If your child has become too upset though, they should take a break. Playing upset with cause them to lose focus and then everything will become more difficult.
If you are ever at a loss, please contact me and I would be more than happy to help you in any way I can. Your child should learn to enjoy practicing their instrument and though it will be hard, it should never feel like work. Practicing should be something they look forward to and the amount of quality time they put in, will directly influence their level of ability.