Practicing

Tips for how to practice well, or how to encourage students to practice

Would you say playing (or singing) music is more mental or more physical? Student (and teacher) perceptions of this can color how we practice and play an instrument (including the vocal chords).

Do we mentally make fingers do what they need to do, or physically drill them so they do the work for us? How we balance the ebb and flow between mental and physical tells a lot about how we and our students practice and learn.

[Before we discuss this, I want to invite you to review teacher comments by Sherie, Chris, and an extensive response from Toby, all on Payments & Cancellation Policies; from Betty on How to Get Connected; and a controversy presented by Jeff commenting on Finding Students For You, with explanations by two online companies represented by Brian and Steve.]

Below are some student examples, and maybe a surprise conclusion, which I hope provide food for thought. I don’t have scientific answers about the balance of mental and physical in playing music, but by thinking about this, we certainly can benefit in terms of practical ideas for learning and teaching.

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I read an interesting post today by a teacher who was so frustrated about her student’s that she was in tears. Many of the subsequent posters were sympathetic and offered sympathies equal to “it isn’t the teacher’s fault if the children don’t practice, the parents are always on the cell phone,” blah, blah, blah!

Not wanting to steal John Stossel’s thunder “Give me a break!” this teacher has thirty seven students that are performing in the recital and she is focused on the few that can’t make it or are not doing well.

Students are like clay – they need to be molded and shaped. It is true the parents can be the biggest influence, but to pass the buck solely to the parents, and have a pity party for one teacher is just not reasonable.

My son’s music teacher is far more inspiring than I have ever been and he garners so much respect from the children he teaches that it is actually the children leading the charge to practice. 

As far as parents at lessons talking on cell phones, this probably has little or nothing to do with the student practicing, and at this point, is just an accelerant to the already present frustration.

Teachers should make it their resolve to bring the lessons to life, be inspiring and most of all be inspired. Remember what made music your first love. I doubt that any of us are playing instruments because our parents nagged us so enthusiastically that we just couldn’t wait to play again. My brother and I are still grounded in two sates as a result of refusing to practice. He plays three instruments and composes music and I play both the radio and the piano.

There is a saying in football “Any given Sunday, any team can win!” This is true on every day for every student. On any given day any student can become inspired.

To all of the frustrated teachers who feel that the parents are not pitching in, the students aren’t practicing and they are just plain discouraged, I say “Carpe Diem!”

Make today the day that you handle your student’s challenges with grace and view them as opportunities not obstacles!

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I have been reviewing lots of forum postings lately and came across an interesting posting. There seems to be a debate about how to approach informing a student’s family about their need to upgrade their instrument. I can certainly see the logic in the student needing an instrument to progress. I can also see the logic in using tact and speaking to the parents in a tactful fashion, and not speaking through the child.

At some point in the debate the teacher says a few things that I found alarming: [···]

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