What amazing parents we have at Silver Music! Our Practicing Workshop on 2/27 was a huge success thanks to the thoughtful questions and advice shared by attending parents and faculty. If you weren’t able to attend the workshop, take a look at our notes! Be sure to also check out our Tips for Making Practicing More Fun which lists ideas by parents and teachers for more enjoyable practicing.
1) How often should I expect my child to practice?
We recommend setting up a routine where your child practices every day—even if the length of practice time is very short. If you make practicing part of your child’s daily routine, it removes the option to not-practice, and establishes structure. Do not feel that your child must be practicing for a set amount of time every day. If they have a focused practice session that lasts 5 minutes, do not push them to do more. Always encourage ending practice on a high note! See our Tips for Making Practicing More Fun.
2) How do I motivate my child?
Every child is different and some motivational strategies will work really well for some kids, but not for others. Here are some options we’ve found to be successful with a wide range of children:
-Make it a game: Adding an element of play can work really well for many children, especially younger ones. Having something set up so that the student can visually assess their progress is also helpful, such as a star chart, practice candle, or adding pennies to a jar for a completed practice session.
-Video-Tape: We recommend video-taping your child, too. This is beneficial for children to become their own teachers– hearing and seeing what they are doing well and what can be improved. Some students also enjoy being video-taped because it adds an element of performance to an ordinary practice session!
-Attend Live Performances: Watching other musicians or older students perform can be incredibly motivating! Take your child to a faculty recital or an orchestra concert so they can see where private study can lead.
-Listen to Advanced Suzuki Pieces: You can play ahead on the Suzuki cds to motivate your child. Your child might be inspired after hearing what’s to come!
3) How do I balance the practicing habits of both my children?
It is an extraordinary amount of work being a parent of two or more Suzuki children. Older, more advanced siblings can inspire a younger sibling to progress. The opposite could occur as well. Sometimes the less experienced sibling feels intimidated. If this is the case, find a way to make the less advanced child’s playing experience unique. The beginner sibling could work with a separate teacher, or have an older student practicing alongside. We recommend choosing a different instrument for siblings.
4) How do I maintain my child’s progress/motivation during the summer months when he is not studying privately?
Here video-taping can again be beneficial. Some students who take the summer off will have their last few lessons video-taped, with additional material presented for future practice. There are youtube videos that are helpful to watch too (see Resources), and lots of listening that can be done! Using your Reading Book, or extra etudes is great practice and will not interfere with learning the standard repertoire. There are also Suzuki Institutes which offer programs during the summer. Silver Music also offers violin, cello, and piano camps during the summer.
Ways to Curb Frustration
+One point at a time: Edmund Sprunger, author of Helping Parents Practice, gives an analogy of offering too many critiques: “Many children have simply been given too much too soon. It’s like shoving an entire apple into their mouths. An apple is a great piece of nutrition but when it’s shoved into a
child’s mouth, the child can’t make use of it.”
+Repeat Things that Went Well: We often focus on mistakes and problems when practicing. But sometimes it can be incredibly beneficial to acknowledge positives points, and enforce them through repetition. The point of practicing is not necessarily “to get better”, it is to make playing easier!
+Ask Leading Questions: Instead of telling the student what was good or bad, ask them, “How did that go?” “What was something you did really well?”
+Transfer Responsibility: See if you can remove pressure from the whole child and instead isolate a body part or a part of the instrument. Instead of asking the child, “Did you remember to curve your pinky?” Say, “Did your pinky remember to stay curved?” “Did you bow remember to stay by the bridge?”
+Just Watch: Sometimes it’s helpful to just watch and not comment. If you are a Suzuki alumni, you know what it was like to practice with your own parents. Think about how you felt as the student.
+Address New Material Immediately: If your kid has something difficult or new he learned in a lesson, make sure he or she practices that material right away. It is more frustrating to try to remember how to do something new after a few days have passed between the lesson.
+Record Issues: We have one parent who has an entire album of videos she has recorded during new or difficult points of learning during a lesson. When her child is practicing, she can refer to them to assist.
Abby McHugh-Grifa—find her cello practice videos on youtube!
The Practice Shoppe-Ideas and free downloads!
Stay tuned for additional workshops in the future!