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How to Keep Children Interested to Practice a Musical Instrument

  • On 03/23/2011

We all know that when it comes to playing a musical instrument, the earlier a child starts practicing, the better.For one thing children’s minds are more malleable, and they’re better able to absorb new concepts and techniques than an adult might.  Furthermore, it has been shown by a group of anadian researchers that a children who practice using the Suzuki Method not only developed music related skills, but also had greater literacy, verbal memory, and math skills than children who didn’t practice a musical instrument.

With research like this it’s no wonder that many parents have decided to have their children start practicing a musical instrument at an early age. Sometimes, however, it can be very difficult to get a five-year-old with a short attention to practice for any extended period of time. Was there a better way than just forcing a child to sit down and practice?

We decided to put the question to the music teachers who use our site to promote their classes, and based on their answers we came up with some great insights worth sharing:

1. Work In Short 5-minute Bursts:

Violin teacher Nicole Van Haren recommends that very young children should spend 5 minutes on one task and move on to the next, that way they stay focused and they don’t get bored.

2. Let Children Pick their Own Goals:

Viola Instructor Marcia Thumma, recommends that parents let children choose their own goals instead of forcing them to “just practice” for a certain period of time. When children are given goals that they have chosen for themselves and manage to reach them, this can often lead them to try new and more challenging techniques.

3. Practice Chart Contests:

Ashley Brockett of South Hill String Studio offered some excellent advice that motivated her to practice when she was young: Suggest to your child’s music instructor to have a chart with rows of boxes next to each student’s name. If students put in a certain amount of practice for that day, they get a gold (or silver) star for each box.  Students who practice the most during the day can win prizes.

4. Don’t expect too much:

Ashley also said that if children are very young, it’s unrealistic that they’d be playing at the same level that a 10 year old might. Oftentimes it’s good enough to get them accustomed to just holding an instrument the right way. This can be a good foundation for the children to have before they move on to more advanced techniques.

From what the teachers told us, it seemed that getting very young children to practice a musical instrument can be difficult, but as we have found out, it shouldn’t be as difficult as it seems. The trick is to be realistic about your expectations for your child, and give them more room to practice the way THEY want to, and not the way that you think they should.

What about you?  Do you have any suggestions to get young children to practice music?

This is a guest post by Kenji Crosland, written with the help of the TeachStreet community.  TeachStreet is a website dedicated to providing local and online lessons as well as piano lessons and violin lessons.

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