What It Takes to Be a Successful Musician
Posted by: melanie at 11:06 am on September 24th, 2015
Five is the Magic Number: Planning Practice Time
"I didn't practice much this week. I got busy and forgot." This is something I regularly hear from students, and it's understandable given the busy schedules of most students today! There is so much to get done in a given week, and practice time often falls through the cracks. But daily practice is crucial for any student to make progress on their chosen instrument.
Five Days of Practice is the Magic Number!
At the Marion Music Academy, we've noticed that the students who practice at least five days a week make the best progress on their instrument. They also usually enjoy playing more than students who don't practice as much because they can tell they are getting better. It's fun to be able to play music well! Students who only practice four or fewer days per week don't learn as quickly, and they often get discouraged because they get stuck on the same pieces.
If five days of practice per week is the magic amount for success and fun in music, how can parents help their child get the practice time they need?
Schedule It. No, Really. Make It Official!
Even for professional musicians, practicing isn't something that just happens when they feel like it. Regular practice only happens when you plan it in to the day.
The first part of making a practice schedule is deciding what type of schedule you need: one that's the same every day, or one that's the same every week? If your family tends to have the same schedule most school evenings, practicing at the same time every day is a great way to go. When your child knows that 4:30 in the afternoon (or right after dinner, or 7:15 in the morning before school) is ALWAYS practice time, it's often lot easier for them to simply start practicing when you ask them to, without the "But I don't feel like practicing!" whines.
But what if your family has a different schedule every night of the week? A weekly practice plan is a great option in that case. Sit down with your child and talk through the weekly schedule. Where could you fit practice in each day of the week? If your student has one evening a week that's completely full of sports practice, maybe the student could practice 20 minutes in the morning that day. High school and middle school students can sometimes use study periods during their school day to go to the orchestra room and get some practice time in. Highlight the evenings and weekends when your student has fewer activities and make sure they schedule good practice times during those freer days. There is no rule that you must get the same amount of practice in every day! It's perfectly fine to get 20 minutes one day and 40 minutes the next, if that's what works for your musician.
Once you've scheduled in the practice time, respect that time! Treat daily practice the way you would any other important part of your child's schedule, such as homework time or sports practices. Commitment to daily time with the instrument gives your child a better foundation for a lifetime of musical enjoyment.
You Can Always Try Something New!
So you and your child have made a practice schedule together, you've tried it for a few weeks, and you've discovered it's really not working. Don't panic! It's okay to experiment with different practice times. Some young musicians can practice well before dinner. Others need food or fun time before they can settle down and focus on their instrument. Practicing before school might work really well for one family, and not at all for another. Feel free to try out a practice schedule for several weeks and then change it up if it's not working for your budding musician. Experimenting is good!