Should parents insist on regular music practice?

Should parents insist on regular music practice? On the one hand, parental pressure can destroy a child’s sense of motivation: if the child takes the initiative, it is best not to interfere. On the other hand, commitment is fundamental to character. Commitment perseveres through low times and high times and helps individuals overcome difficulties. Children only can learn about commitment by being committed. As children grow, they learn about responsibilities, such as the requirement to complete school homework and the expectation to assist with household chores. Just as parents and teachers sometimes must encourage children with these obligations, so it is with music.

The expectation of a commitment underpins the regard attributed to an activity. If there are household expectations in some areas, but not regarding music practice, it could imply to the child that music learning is not that important. Children always will be tempted to neglect their practice responsibility, just as with any other commitment. There were times in my childhood when my mother vehemently threatened courses of action if I refused to get back into a practice routine. The most effective of these was when she threatened to sell the piano. “Very well,” she said. “We’re selling the piano. It’s just taking up space!” I’m not sure what other threat would have worked, but this one caused some serious thinking on my part. You cannot learn to play the piano without one, so did I really want to learn or not? Yes!

An excerpt from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin
“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, UK.
“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, Music Educator, New Haven, USA.

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Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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Posted in Music Education
5 comments on “Should parents insist on regular music practice?
  1. Marianne says:

    Commitment develops over time – perhaps what is truly effective for young musicians is the formation of good habits and enjoying the feeling of success when a step is mastered – also a joy for the encouraging parent. I think we had the same experience with the threat to sell the neglected instrument (in my case my violin!). I didn’t ever call the bluff and didn’t quite get to enjoy playing until much later when I found a wonderful teacher who spent more time noting progress. Another key is to encourage and note developments rather than heavily critique the early stages of learning new material. Children are learning machines – a little bit of the right motivation will nudge them into experiencing that wonderful sense of effort = rewards and finally an independent, intrinsic value for their own work.

  2. Da says:

    I am a great believer in the “deal.” What do I mean? It’s a deal parents make with kids. “If you want to take lessons, fine. I will pay for them and take you every week, but you have to agree to practice ______ amount per week and take the lessons for _______.” The parent has every right to expect this, as it’s their time and money for the lessons. Kids, being kids, likely agree without thinking this through. Tough. Life, I mean, and music lessons can help with that.

    The parent wants a strong child. Most decent parents do. That means someone whose word is good. The kid agreed to it. The parent should enforce the terms of the deal, despite the inevitable complaints. If the kid still wants to quit after the deal is done, then he should be allowed to do this. Perhaps he wants a different instrument or none at all. Fine.

    I know this doesn’t answer the question directly but there is no DIRECT answer. It is far more complex than that.

  3. Sometimes, for me, getting students the music they want entails me transcribing a particular pop song for them, that involves a lot of decisions for me about trying to be true to the original melody so the students can play along with the track (key, rhythm, register, etc) or transpose the piece to an easier key and with a simplified rhythm which will enable them to play it more easily. Sometimes giving them a very difficult transcription which is clearly beyond their current abilities is an excellent motivator, and sometimes it isnt, every student is a unique individual who responds to a wide range of positive or negative reinforcements- some will rise to the challenge and work their butts off to be able to conquer the piece and some will curl up in a little tearful ball and quit. One parent came up with an excellent motivator for her daughter (who was a very commercially minded girl), she paid her $5 for every day that she practiced on her own for 30 minutes or more- but at the end of the week the child had to pay for her lesson herself. Pretty quickly the student realized that if she practiced 7 days a week she would be turning a $10 profit weekly, and promptly doubled her efforts at home. Everyone is different, and part of our job as teachers is learning what makes each pupil tick, and helping them develop good discipline which will reward them with a wealth of achievements, both in music and life. This is the way we do it at my studio, anyway…

  4. donk contest says:

    It’s nearly impossible to find educated people in this particular subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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