Practicing (Oh no, the “P” word)
The term Practicing scares more people away from an instrumental music program than any other. It invokes images of screaming, pleading, and heads banging against the wall (and that’s the parents). What is practicing? How do you practice? How much should my child be practicing? What can/should I do? Relax- it’s not as bad as you think.
What is practicing?
Practicing is a necessary part of learning to play an instrument. In order for a child to master any new skill, it must be practiced. Playing an instrument has the unique position of being a physical as well as a mental skill. This makes quality practicing imperative. We hate to be so blunt, but there is no way to learn to play an instrument by simply attending a weekly twenty five minute lesson.
How much time should my child spend practicing?As we will explain to your children at their lessons, the amount of practicing they need to do is directly related to how well they would like to play at their next lesson. There are four levels of “preparedness”. At each lesson you can be, excellent, good, ok, or unprepared. These levels can be determined from the following chart. The numbers are total minutes for the week. In a “best case” scenario, those numbers will be divided by five to indicate daily minutes. We understand how busy the world can be and realize that seven days of practice can be difficult.
Level/Grade Grade 4 (until January) Grade 4 (after January Grade 5 (all year) Excellent 75 min (15 min x 5 Days) 100 min (20 min x 5 Days) 150 min (30 min x 5 Days) Good 60 (4 Days) 80 (4 Days) 120 (4 Days) Ok 45 (3 Days) 60 (3 Days) 90 (3 Days) Unprepared <45 (2 Days or Less) <60 (2 Days or Less) <90 (2 Days or Less)You will notice that the numbers increase as your child progresses through the program. One of the most common questions we get is, “Do you expect my child to be excellent every week?” No, we do not. We are not “excellent” every week. No one is. The world has become a crazy, busy place and sometimes our schedules do not permit us to practice as much as we would like. We all have bad weeks. That is why we structure our practice suggestions as such.
How does one “practice”?
Each week we will assign approximately one page in your child’s book. This is their assignment for the week. It is best that they divide their practice time equally among the assigned songs. It is important that your child does not spend all of his/her time on the “easy” songs, placed in the assignment to give each child a “break”. However, do not let your child spend all of their time struggling with the harder parts of the assignment; we don’t want to completely frustrate them.
What is the difference between “practicing” and “playing”?
Simply put, playing is fun and practicing is work. It is important that your child spend some time each week playing. That is, going through songs (old or new) that they enjoy performing. However, this does not typically count towards practice time.
Creating a practice sheet to record their progress each week is a great idea. Please contact your child’s teacher if you need assistance.