Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It is practicing piano time!

"My kid doesn't want to practice playing piano."

"She didn't touch the piano for the whole week."

"Every time she plays, she throws tantrum!"

"Should I just stop her from playing totally?" The answer is "NO!"

First, we have to understand that even for children with musical talent, it is a great challenge to get them to practice everyday because nobody likes practicing. So, our children are not alien in anyway.

Secondly, our parents once upon a time had forced us to learn piano. Ask ourselves this question: "Do you blame your parents for forcing you to pick up this skill?" The answer is "NO". In actual fact, nobody will blame their parents for making them a pianist, guitarist, drummer or whatever..... They would be thankful to mum for her persistence and patience instead.

Thirdly, we have to accept the reality that "forcing" children to practice any musical instrument is basically a constant variable if they ever take up music lessons. The question now is how to make it more pleasant for both.

I have read articles from books and tried many ways. I would like to share with you the effective ways which I have used and it has been working quite well.

1. Schedule it into daily routine

Discuss with your kid how to schedule their daily routine. Do schedule in their play time, TV time, computer time as well. Fix the time and sequence of each chore everyday ie. practicing piano always come after TV time for example. Make sure we guide them everyday until it becomes a routine.

2. Short practicing time

Young beginners especially do not need very long practicing time. For a child of 5 to 7 years old, the frequency of practice required daily is only 10 minutes. Children usually have short attention span. In fact, they will achieve more at shorter intervals.

Daily Frequency Practice Guide
5 to 7 years old 10 minutes
8 to 9 years old 15 minutes
10 to 12 years old 20 minutes

Sometimes, I play "trick". Let say the time is up, but she is still in the middle of "enjoying" the practicing. I will tell her :"OK, time is up. Enough playing for today. We continue tomorrow." The moment you said this, she will want to do more.

After a while, we don't really look at the time anymore. They tend to spend longer time practicing. Now, my girl spent at least 20 minutes every day sitting in front of the piano.

3. Set a small target each day

Before she starts the practicing, I will say:"OK, today we just play 5 songs." They will do the counting and will complete the target with not much of argument. Don't overwhelmed our kid with too high target. It should be something that can be handled by them easily.

4. Respect each practice day

During the practicing time, there should be no disturbance and distraction like TV or phone calls or talking ..... Sit down and listen, enjoy the playing. Though for young beginners, it takes quite a lot of patience for parents to really "enjoy" their music. But, bear in mind that we want our children to respect the practicing time, we as parents must also respect their practice. So, please stop whatever we are doing, just sit down and listen.

5. Allow children to explore

Sometimes our children like to "smash" the keyboard making terrible chaos. At times, they tend to enjoy what they are playing. Try to avoid saying:"Stop doing that, the piano is very expensive. You will spoil it!" Perhaps it would sound more appropriate to say: "It is nice music there, but perhaps a little lighter would be nicer!" That was how famous composers found their inspiration anyway!

Lv starts to understand the important of bass. She sometimes mix in her own style from the song she learned too. She even tried to write them down on manuscripts book. At home, we have digital piano, sometimes she would switch on the classical music from the digital piano, and she pretend to play the song. All these exercises are good training to their ears.

8. Reward

This conclusion point is the last and the most important of all. I reward my child for each and every practicing. We don't want to spoil our children, so in drawing up the reward system, we need to be careful, not too "generous" so to speak. As I said, children have simple mind. They will be happy with even a "Darbie" doll for as long as it is cute.

I reward her with stickers. Every 10 minutes of playing, she will get 4 stickers. If she shows extra effort in practicing or she plays well, I will reward her more for that day. Once she collects 100 stickers, she can claim a nice gift. If you want, you can set an absolute amount per 100 stickers. Means if the gift your children want are too expensive, then he / she should use an equivalent stickers to exchange for it.

  • Don't threaten to retract the reward already granted just because they throw tantrum during one of the practices. We can penalise them by not giving any reward for that particular day.
  • Don't renegotiate / reduce the reward as our children progress. This is very demoralising to them. We have to honour what we have promised. They will conclude very quickly that it is basically no point being hardworking after all.

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