POSITIVE PRACTICE

Take an extra minute to look over these suggestions. Practice helps students to improve. When practice sessions are "successful," students are more likely to approach practicing with a better overall attitude. This in turn makes practice sessions more "successful." 

  • Encourage a love of all types of music by playing music in the car, at home, in the playroom, etc. Take your child to events showcasing different music styles. For example, during the summer months, Chicago has street festivals celebrating the ethnicity and diversity of different neighborhoods throughout the city. 

  • Different strategies work for different students.

  • You can adapt or modify a strategy specifically for your student.  (Modifications are suggested in Practice Games.)

  • Younger students need a great deal of repetition to succeed.

  • Present and refer to learning to play an instrument in a positive way. 

  • Practice is ongoing. Musicians never stop practicing, especially when they are accomplished and perform regularly.

  • Help the student notice and understand the correlation between practice and playing the instrument well. It may seem obvious to you, but some young students may not realize “practice” and music lessons are related.

  • Encourage the student to take responsibility for practice. One key to good practice is recognition of progress. What part of learning the piece improved? Did s/he play the right notes, keep better time, play a difficult section better, stay focused? Is the piece easier to play after practice?

  • In the beginning, a parent must be involved in practice sessions to help the student learn how to practice effectively.

  • Students, especially younger ones, do not know how to practice. Most often they play through pieces and continue to make the same mistakes. Adult guidance in the beginning helps the student become independent and take responsibility for his/her progress and pride in achievements.

  • Good practice is intentional practice.

  • Success, confidence and progress are always practice goals. Use what works best for your student.

  • Practice should begin at a specific time. It should be part of a routine.

 

  • It is essential to have reasonable practice goals. Goals are set at the beginning of practice. Practice is over when goals are achieved.

  • Begin a practice session with an easily achieved goal. 

  • Make the goals reasonable and attainable with some effort, even if you think they are too “easy.”  It is important that the student experience success when s/he is trying.  

  • Make sure the criterion for success is crystal clear to everyone.

  • Mastery of the practice goal is based on the stated criterion.

  • Determine criterion based on the level of difficulty of the practice material, age of student and how well s/he knows the piece.

  • Other factors include the purpose of practicing the piece. Is it a performance? Is the piece close to being learned or is s/he just learning it?

  • Practice parts of a piece. Break down especially difficult parts.

  • If practice sessions aren’t going well, consider changing the time of day for practice. Ten minutes of a good practice does much more than 20 minutes of an argumentative practice when the student is tired.

  • Make practice sessions positive and engaging by incorporating games or special activities. (See Practice Games.)

  • Students tend to practice more before a performance. Then, a successful performance is extremely motivating. Take advantage of the student’s enthusiasm.

  • Practice priority is the music teacher’s assignments.

  • Practice can consist of "have to's" and "want to's." Practice what you have to practice first and then set your own goals for what you want to practice.

  • Empower the student by giving him/her control based on his/her age and capabilities. Appropriate choices are setting a goal or goals, choosing a part and how to practice it, selecting a game and/or determining the order of practice within limits. Younger students will need more help. The more responsibility the student takes, the closer s/he is to independent practice.

  • Use positive strategies to manage practice behavior.

  • A successful practice is more difficult to achieve if you are addressing inappropriate behavior. It is best to be proactive and anticipate the most stressful parts of practice and take measures to encourage and employ strategies as needed.

  • Try to reduce your control over practice. One way is to eliminate "If you don't/do X, then I am going to...

  • Give the student as much control as possible by speaking in terms of consequences. 

  • Consequences are not always negative. A consequence is merely the result of what happened before it. For example, if you save your money you can buy X. If you don’t read the book, you will not be able to answer the questions. These are natural consequences and you have no control over them. 

  • Let the student know that s/he controls the consequences based on the choices s/he makes. The consequences could be an already established family rule. For example, if the rule is the you must complete X, Y and Z before you watch TV, that’s the rule. If practice is X, Y or Z, and it isn't done, the consequence is no TV. This is a fact based on the rule. Conflict is eliminated when you aren’t telling him/her “what to do.” Remove yourself from the consequence. 

 

  • Follow through on whatever you say.

  • Do whatever you said you were going to do. 

  • Keep promises. 

  • Make sure you can follow through on whatever you say.

  • Do not lie. Don’t tell the student something you know will not happen.

  • Do not delay the reward. If you said we can go to the park, go to the park. If the student knows s/he will get the reward every time, this strategy will be more effective.

  • Make the size of the reward match the task. If you buy him/her a bike for one good practice session, what will you do when s/he completes a more difficult task?

  • Do not give in to crying, begging, whining, etc. If you do, s/he is motivated to cry/whine longer because it works sometimes.

 

Good Practice Using a Timer

  • Give your child a 5-minute “practice time” warning.

  • Take advantage of the young students’ love of winning by setting a timer and then competing with him/her to see who arrives at the practice spot first.

  • Set the timer for a few seconds, up to a minute, depending on the age of the student.  Can s/he focus on a teaching point, like keeping good playing feet, proper position, straight bow, etc. until it goes off? 

  • See how many correct repetitions of the practice task can be completed in a designated time, usually a minute or two.

  •  When using a timer, make sure to stick with the promise of what happens when it rings. The timer will not maintain its effectiveness if the agreed upon consequence doesn’t occur.

 

Rewards

Earning rewards empowers students and makes practicing more fun.

  • Use charts, graphs, marbles or pennies in a (small) jar to monitor progress. Young students and some older students might need to be rewarded immediately.

  • Use rewards the student finds highly desirable. The reward can reflect the difficulty of the goal.

  • Rewards can include

    • A special activity with you or another family member, for example, grandparents.

    • Food.

    • Stickers, smiley faces, stars, etc. to keep or put on a chart are rewarding for some-usually younger students. Don’t tie the stars to another reward, if possible.

  • Use inexpensive tangible rewards.

  • Competitive students can use a chart or graph to set and then beat their own goals.

 

Rewarding with Money

  • Use money as a reward when the student is old enough to understand the concept of money and can delay gratification. Designate a specific amount s/he must earn to access the money.

  • Earn money to save towards an expensive item s/he wants, for example a computer, a bike, etc.

  • S/he earns different amounts based on the difficulty of the task.

  • Provide meaningful choices by making a menu of tasks and amounts. However, the system should not allow the student to select only easy tasks.

  • Earn money to buy a gift for someone or give to a charity. Allow him/her to keep a percentage of his/her earnings.

Web Design
Brian Cannon
Felicia Cannon,

Austin Music Center 2016
Revised 2017

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Many thanks to the schools, school districts, houses of worship, teachers and extra curricular fine arts programs for your excellence, effort and dedication to introducing and cultivating  a love of and an appreciation for the fine arts. 

We are proud to be part of this community.