We know learning a musical instrument can be hard, we’ve been there! If you ask any of our instructors they would tell you that they have their parents to thank for their constant encouragement and never letting them give up, even during the tough times. Here are five ways parents can help their child have a successful experience learning a musical instrument.
1. Character Over Competency
First and foremost, parents should approach music lessons with the goal of their child building character first and then competency. What we mean, is that regardless of how good the child becomes at playing their instrument, the goal with lessons should be to provide the child the opportunity to gain the many experiences beyond the music that learning an instrument has to offer. Participating in music provides undeniable social, emotional and even physical benefits such as helping children relieve anxieties, overcome shyness, learn to accept and implement constructive criticism, develop a work ethic, enhance learning abilities,and instill a sense of self-confidence and much more. While proficiency and constant progress is very important, we encourage our parents look beyond and identify what other crucial life lessons are being learned through participating in music lessons.
2. Practice Makes Progress
Practice makes progress and progress precedes proficiency. Music requires passion and pride in your art but crucial to practicing is establishing a routine. Parents can help their children by teaching them to follow through. Students should be responsible but parents can support and encourage. Some practicing tactics we suggest are:
Easy-Hard-Easy: We encourage our students to always begin their practicing with something they know how to do. Often this is a scale, drill, or short warmup that our teachers go over in detail during lesson. By starting with something they can easily accomplish, they build confidence enough in themselves to tackle something a bit more challenging like their lesson books. After working through the method books we encourage the students to end their practicing with something they love to play. Parents can help encourage their child to use this pattern of easy-hard-easy in their practicing to help them walk away feeling a sense of accomplishment and confidence.
Sit & Stay: We encourage our students to use a timer, and once that timer is set, you need to stay put until the time expires. Often students get distracted and want to play one song and get a snack or use their technology, but we find the most effective practicing comes in longer concentrated sessions. Practicing is what most students dislike the most about learning an instrument but parents can help students establish good habits of consistent daily practice… because after all practice is what brings progress.
3. Be Involved – Your Way
Parent involvement is crucial to a child’s success in school, in life, and especially with music. Many parents ask us how to be involved if they themselves aren’t musical and our response to them is to be involved your way. Be their #1 fan! Make your home a safe place to make mistakes. Celebrate even the smallest of achievements and remember that private victories always precede public victories.
The Piano Place owner Sarah Davies gives full credit to her parents for her achievements in music by saying, “my parents, though very different in the ways they supported me, are the number one reason I can call myself a musician today. My mom, being very musical, would sit with me at the piano and help me practice every single day.” Her dad, however, is not musical yet still had a profound impact on her in becoming a musician. “I will never forget my dad coming into our music room on a Saturday morning, lying on the floor, and asking me to play for him. Once I played one song, he would name another and another. If I didn’t know the song he named, he would challenge me to learn it then follow up the next week. Wherever we went he’d invite me to play and loved to show me off. He referred to me as a pianist and before long I started to believe him.”
Such encouragement and involvement like this, planted a seed in Sarah that eventually gave her the courage to audition to play at the Roof Restaurant in downtown Salt Lake City, to teach students of her own, and eventually open The Piano Place studio.
4. Communication is Key
When we hear of a student quitting lessons, the main thing we notice is a lack of communication. The communication between teachers and students is critical and parents play a crucial role in opening up these communication channels. If a student is struggling, it is important to make the teacher aware. Teachers will jump to experiment with new angles and tactics to help re-engage the child. The great thing about The Piano Place is that we truly have a teacher for everyone. If ever there is a frustration, don’t be afraid to communicate that to the teacher. Clear and open communication will help ensure the greatest chance at success.
5. View Music as a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Stick to the task till the task sticks to you. Beginners are many and enders are few.
We’ve heard these sayings a million times and it couldn’t be more true of learning an instrument. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish I would have stuck with lessons,” or “I’m so sad I quit!”? In this fast paced world of instant gratification, it isn’t always easy to teach our children that the best things in life come to those that wait and work hard. It is important as a parent to view the learning of a musical instrument as a marathon and not a sprint. Investing in music lessons means slow and steady progress. Performing highs and practicing lows. There will be times they want to quit… every student experiences it. You may even get sick and tired of the fight to make them practice but DON’T GIVE UP.
Remember that investing in music lessons is giving your child a gift that will never expire. You are never too old or too feeble to continuing perfecting and participating in the great art of music. It is one of the only activities that truly lasts a lifetime. As a parent, we encourage you to set a family standard and stick to it. Maybe it is that all children will take lessons until they are 16 or until they are proficient in at least one instrument. Whatever it might be, set the family standard and stick with it, we promise they will thank you later.