At RSM I frequently hear parents lament, ‘My child loves coming to music lessons but finding the time to practice is a huge challenge’. I know that every family faces this challenge at some point. I also know that a music student’s success is intrinsically linked to their practice habits between lessons. So what can we do to help?
I know what it’s like to be a piano student trying to juggle a busy schedule. As a middle school and high school student, I struggled to find time to practice piano on a regular basis. I found myself being pulled in a lot of different directions. But I continued to be drawn in by my love of music, both on the piano and by singing in choir. My love of music was a driving force, and the joy of being able to express myself musically is what kept me coming back to the music again and again.
But the discipline of studying music was a different matter, and this is where my parents came in. Their influence helped me to develop a sense of commitment to the task of learning the piano, so that week after week, month after month, year after year, even when I might have preferred to be somewhere else, I continued to receive a weekly music lesson.
My parents also knew a thing or two about flexibility; they let me schedule my daily practicing at a time of my choosing. This made me feel empowered. We would make an agreement at the beginning of the week, and I was expected to follow through. I’ll admit, there were times when I found myself cramming right before a lesson, but for the most part, it allowed me flexibility coupled with expectations. This worked and for me. It also made my practice time more enjoyable and productive because I was working toward my own goals. Ultimately this routine laid a strong foundation for my future endeavors, including achieving my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, a gift I carry into the rest of my life.
You have to start somewhere! Here are a few suggestions for success as you find the best method for scheduling practice time for you or your student:
1. Treat it as a reward rather than a punishment. When it comes to discussing the expectations of practicing, if the student is part of the decision-making process, they typically take ownership of their progress.
2. Try using the exclusive RSM 10 X 10 Practice Guideline. It makes each daily practice session unique and is designed to help hold a students’ interest.
3. Know your student’s personality. Every musician has a different learning style. Spending a few minutes understanding how you or your child learns will assist you in structuring practice time in a way that best suits both personality and learning style. If you need some assistance with this, feel free to stop by the front desk and ask for some resources.
4. Finally, allow enough flexibility to accommodate unexpected changes to your student’s schedule.
These are only a few ideas to start your creative juices flowing. No matter how long an individual studies music, to be a lifelong lover of music, you will need to hone your practice skills. Remember….the legendary cellist, Pablo Casals, was asked why he continued to practice at age 90. “Because I think I’m making progress,” he replied.