One of the most important things when starting a new instrument is learning how to practice. But often kids are left to work this out for themselves. How To Teach A Child To Practice introduces good, effective practice habits right from the start.
This requires a whole new set of skills and any piano beginner will need help with this. They need a clear and organised plan of action so that they know exactly what to do and what is expected of them.
The structure and approach of the lessons will help a lot and it’s important to explain to children that they won’t be able to make good progress without plenty of practice. But it’s the teacher’s responsibility to make it fun, give lots of encouragement and keep the child motivated along the way.
How To teach A Child To Practice
- The first thing to do is to get them used to using a practice diary right from the start. Record briefly what you have been working on in the lesson. Make a notes of any particular things you want them to remember.
- During the lesson, talk about the way that they should approach their practice. Stress the importance of setting aside a regular time, away from background distractions.
- Encourage them to practice as soon as possible after each lesson to make sure they don’t forget the new things they have learnt.
- Explain that it is better to concentrate on just a small section of the music, a couple of bars at a time, and learn to play it correctly rather than attempt the whole piece with lots of mistakes.
- But also reassure the child that if they can’t get something right at home, then that’s not a problem, just make a note to ask for help at the next lesson – that’s what the lessons are for!
Bit By Bit
- A whole new piece can often be a bit daunting, so break it down into short sections and make it clear that there is no pressure to attempt the whole piece straight away.
- Emphasise the importance of perfecting each hand separately before attempting to play both hands together.
- Children nearly always want to play things too fast, try to explain that it is important and correct to play music at the speed that the composer intended.
- Make sure that they understand the dynamics and any other musical signs in the music that they need to know.
- Allow them to break up their practice with some easier exercises or favourite pieces, so that it isn’t all too hard, you don’t want them to lose confidence.
- A good teacher teaches their pupils to teach themselves – well, not exactly, but by teaching them to listen to the sound that they’re making, ask and solve problems, break it down into bite size 2 bar bits, and instilling the discipline of isolation and repetition of the tricky bits, you will go a long way towards helping them develop the skills that they need to cope on their own.
- Using stickers, marbles, charts and games to encourage and motivate are all excellent ideas. Be consistent but also flexible enough to mix things up from time to time to keep them interested.
- Give lots of praise when the child has done good work and achieved the goal, but if they haven’t, don’t scold them, see it as a challenge to find something that does motivate them, perhaps a new piece, new game or goal? There is always some way of harnessing their enthusiasm.