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When the Road gets Rocky- a Student's Perspective

To Parents, From a Teen Pianist

By Shelby Hansen

We’ve all been there. Dreaded practice time. Your kids or even you went kicking and screaming, literally or figuratively, to practice.

I was the prime example of this. I had been in piano lessons for a little over two years and I hit the infamous rut in the learning curve. I knew enough to play, but not enough to sight read or play really well. I firmly believed that piano was a waste of time. As a 10 year old, obviously I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I would sit down at the piano and play songs I knew really well instead of the new material and goof around until my dreaded 15 minute time period was over. The problem was that I wasn’t getting any better at piano, and I hated it because I wasn’t making progress. Here are a few ideas that I have implemented since then to make my practice a success.

Idea 1: Reward rather than Punish

Instead of taking away things, promote positivity by giving rather than taking. I’m not saying buy your kid a car if he plays for a week, but do choose reasonable rewards and fulfill them. For example, if he had a week of dedicated 15 minute a day practice, you could go get an ice-cream cone together. If we reward more, your kid will more likely want to play, plus he will progress in his piece and as a musician.

Idea 2: Set a Reasonable Goal for Practice

Goals are so important. They keep us motivated, and they bring a sense of accomplishment and pride. His teacher will usually help him set weekly goals, but your job as a parent is to help him manage daily goals that will keep him motivated to practice. For example: 15 minutes of practice 4 days a week. Practicing regularly will keep him moving forward and continuing to enjoy his instrument.

Idea 3: Try to Keep a Regular Playing Time

Try to practice at the same time everyday. In my family, we will have a 30 minute break after school and then we practice. Try having your musician grab a snack and watch his favorite show and then practice. He is already exhausted from school and may need a minute to let his patience fill back up. Waiting until later in the day is often harder as activities usually happen later. Be flexible! Find a time that works for you and your child.

Idea 4: Start with New Material

New material is hard and it can be really hard for a student to stay motivated. An idea is to do the warm up then start with new material and learn it. Then, have your child play his favorite song at the end. Who knows? Maybe he'll find a new piece he loves to play.

Idea 5: Be His Biggest Fan

Always encourage your child and point out good things that he did. Learning an instrument is hard. It sometimes will feel like an uphill battle, but in the end, it is worth it. If you hear something you like, then clap. He’ll feel good and want to continue. Sometimes just sit and listen for a minute to show that you care about him and his progress. This can also help with performance anxiety. Don’t be overbearing, though. Give him space to express himself and have fun.

I hope this helps you and your child. Happy practicing!

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