April 05, 2019 by Don Russo
Recently we had a parent let us know that they wanted to cease lessons for their child’s music lessons. When asked why, they said, “He does not practice enough. I tell him to practice all the time, and he just won’t do it. I feel like I am wasting money and time, and I think it is best just to stop.” If you are in the music lesson business, you have heard this time and time again. Perhaps you are a parent and you have said, or at least thought, this very sentiement.
I could ask most all of the musicians I know and they would tell me they didn’t start playing music because they were forced to, or because they had to. As pointed out so eloquently by my colleague David Pacific in his blog “Stop Asking Your Child to Practice”, telling a student to practice will not make them more inspired to do so. If anything, it could turn them off from wanting to play the instrument altogether. So, what can one do?
The solution is to change the view of practice to play. The reason we all started playing music was that we were inspired, exposed to music, and enjoyed playing. No one forced us to play, we did it joyfully and willfully. Don’t force your kids to practice, rather, encourage your kids to play. In fact, do away with the word practice, and replace it with play. Music has to be fun before anyone will grow the curiosity to want to dig deeper into the more serious content. Here are some ways to do that:
- Introduce Your Kids to New Music: Every kid needs a hero or someone to look up to. Find music that involves the instrument they are learning that has inspiring performances. This may take a few tries at various styles, but I guarantee you that eventually, you will land on something that inspires them.
- Take Your Kids to See Live Music: I remember my first concert. It was the Rolling Stones. I was totally blown away and left feeling more inspired than I ever had before. Whether it’s a concert, clinic, festival, local show at a coffee house, whatever, take your kids to see someone playing their instrument live. It will be energizing and inspiring.
- Permance Opportunities: At Freeway, we create a LOT of performance opportunities on purpose. This gets the students involved in a community of other students who enjoy playing. Playing music in front of a crowd is energizing. It is like going down a giant slide. The first time is scary, but once you do it, you want to do it again and again. This can be a showcase, at your church, open mic, and any other variety of opportunities available.
- Solid Teacher: A solid instructor makes a world of difference. They also should encourage your kids to play. Make sure your teacher is introducing the student to music, musicians that play their instrument and inspiring them in lessons. As music instructors, our job is to fan the flames that make a student stoked about playing. However, we are only with them once per week for 30-60 minutes. So, getting help from parents is crucial.
- Encourage Your Kids to Play: Start using the word “play”. Get rid of the word “practice”. It has a negative connotation. Instead of telling them to practice, encourage them to play, spend time with their instrument, and have fun with it. Maybe even sit down with them and do it together. The most important thing is to not add a negative attachment to playing their instrument.
- Remove Other Distractions: It is well documented that music is fantastic for the development of a child. Perhaps if they had fewer video game hours, less screen time, etc., they would make more time for these things that would enrich them like music. The most well-rounded children I have had the honor to teach were involved in Academics, Athletics, and Arts (Music).
In summation, kids want to play. The desire to practice is a result of falling in love with your instrument. So, help them get inspired, provide opportunities for them, and encourage