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9 Tips for Practicing with Your Child

January 5, 2012

9 Tips for Practicing with Your ChildParents of young children learning music are advised to be involved in their daily practice sessions. These tips are provided by Suzuki string instructor Goran Berg specifically for the Suzuki method but may be applied to musical study in general.

  1. Be responsible for getting practice started. Sometimes children are very willing to take out the instrument and practice, but most kids will need a gentle reminder.
  2. Set a regular practice schedule and make an agreement about it with your child. Stay consistent and practice daily.
  3. With very young children, short practice sessions, even down to 5 minutes each, 2 to 3 times a day, are more effective than one long session. Set one goal for each session.
  4. Rule of the thumb: Stop before tears. Your goal is to end the practice with a smile on your child’s face!
  5. Stay with your child and practice with him/her. Remember that practice is lonely and children like company. Accustom him/her to the fact that you are the home teacher, and that you will be providing help and supervision.
  6. Don’t always start at the beginning. Locate exactly where a difficulty is in the music and try to limit the practice to those few notes or so. Repeat until you have corrected it for five times in a row. Then go back to the beginning of that phrase or piece and do the whole part in context correctly for five times.
  7. Always use the marked fingerings and bowings. Learning is much more efficient if these are consistent with the others in the group and in the program. Later, students might learn variations on those rules.
  8. Become accustomed to repetition and to continued use of the same repertoire over long periods. Remember the old Chinese saying: “If you want to see something new, walk the same path everyday.”
  9. Be positive. Make suggestions that don’t affect your child’s self-esteem. For example, avoid negations, like “don’t” and “no, never, wrong” and such. Express what TO do rather than what NOT to do!

Goran Berg is a respected teacher of the Suzuki method for strings, the owner of Sycamore Strings Academy and is on faculty at the Crowden Music Center.