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

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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We all understand that practice leads to perfection. The issue at hand is how to encourage our students to practice with enthusiasm instead of viewing the practice sessions as a chore. My first experience with Classical Music was Peter and the Wolf. I was not excited to be attending this performance and was saddened that there would be no speaking, actual animals or cartoons on this particular outing. I remember asking my mother “Do I Have to go with you?”

Much to my surprise I left the performance with the desire to create my own orchestra. Somewhere during the performance the music had captured me and the instruments had come alive. I often Get to listen to classical music and frequently to Peter and the Wolf. It has been thirty years since my first enchantment with an orchestra and not even one detail escapes me. Here are some widely known readily forgotten tips to inspire students:

  1. Suggest more frequent shorter practice sessions
  2. Encourage parents to spend time listening to the child practice
  3. Suggest that parents compliment the child instead of criticize
  4. Reward the child with the option of selecting a particular piece of music if the practicing improves
  5. Ask the student what type of music they prefer and create a common bond between what they listen to and what they play
  6. Suggest that parents take the student to live performances featuring the instrument the child plays if at all possible. Colleges or conservatories often have recitals or inexpensive performances through out the year.
  7. Include the child in goal setting on a regular basis

It can be difficult to motivate the reluctant student. Motivation is different for each student, once you find the motivating factor for the child you can change practicing from a “Have To” to a “Get To” with a little encouragement.

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When you play music, how do you think about the beat?  Musicians often think of the beat note as the beginning of something, probably because of written music.  After all, the beat note begins every measure, and beamed notes usually connect the beat note with those that follow.

But is that how we hear it?  Is that how we play it?  Maybe most revealing, is that how we sing it?  Not really.  But I suspect that whichever way we think about this can make a big difference in how we play, practice, and teach music. 

Think of the sentence, “The cat climbed up to the top of the tree.”  If you wrote the rhythm of this sentence in music, it would look like this:

             cat rhythm [···]

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