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Getting children to practise

MBSLynne 08 Mar 05 - 05:29 AM
GUEST, Hamish 08 Mar 05 - 05:40 AM
GUEST,The Shambles 08 Mar 05 - 05:46 AM
AllisonA(Animaterra) 08 Mar 05 - 05:48 AM
greg stephens 08 Mar 05 - 06:02 AM
sapper82 08 Mar 05 - 06:07 AM
MBSLynne 08 Mar 05 - 07:35 AM
Mary in Kentucky 08 Mar 05 - 07:48 AM
breezy 08 Mar 05 - 07:50 AM
MBSLynne 08 Mar 05 - 08:24 AM
mack/misophist 08 Mar 05 - 12:27 PM
Justa Picker 08 Mar 05 - 01:43 PM
Chris Green 08 Mar 05 - 03:09 PM
GUEST,MCP 08 Mar 05 - 03:40 PM
Chris Green 08 Mar 05 - 03:43 PM
Mary in Kentucky 08 Mar 05 - 06:42 PM
SharonA 08 Mar 05 - 08:09 PM
Gypsy 08 Mar 05 - 10:07 PM
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Subject: Getting children to practise
From: MBSLynne
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 05:29 AM

This is a perennial problem for me, and I imagine I'm not alone. My son (aged 14) plays oboe and my daughter (aged 9) plays flute. Richard is heading for his Grade 5, Sarah hasn't done any grades yet. They both love music and enjoy their lessons. Richard plays with the school orchestra and jazz band which he enjoys, but I can't get either of them to practise on a regular basis. Have I got to come down all disciplinarian and withhold privileges such as TV and Playstation until they've practised? I don't want music to become a chore for them. What do other people do with their kids?

Love Lynne


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: GUEST, Hamish
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 05:40 AM

Well we have two who are both keen on playing and doing grade and play in public pretty often. The elder is very self-disciplined, gets up early, and does her twenty minutes before breakfast. The younger doesn't like to practice at all, and needs careful steering towards the music stand. Having a target such as an impending gig or exam helps, but it's tough.

So, I guess I'm saying that it seems to be either in their nature to practise or to not practise. Then again I suppose seeing that their dad (me!) practices lots must help by example. Except I don't call it practicing.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: GUEST,The Shambles
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 05:46 AM

I think you have to establish if the ambition and need is in the children. If it is not - there is nothing you can do that will put it there........

If it is there - you could argue that you would need to ever ensure that they practise - and for some this is true. But not everyone is going to be a top soloist and not being one does not mean that making the music is not enjoyable and will provide enjoyment to others.

But enjoyment must be the key. Anything you can do that will make the whole aspect of their music making enjoyable will help them be prepared to put in the hard work required. Making it just another chore or withholding other privileges - will only make it less enjoyable.   

There are countless numbers of people - who early piano practice as children has put them off of music for life......


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: AllisonA(Animaterra)
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 05:48 AM

When my daughter was younger the best way to get her to practice was for me to get a book or my knitting and just be present- no comments allowed, just be in the room with her. That got her started, and yes, she learned that it was ok to ask for help when she was struggling to understand the instrument, which at the time was the guitar. In a year she surpassed my playing abilities, and before long I would here her strunning and picking and singing away in her room!

Fast forward to the accordion, which she's been trying to learn since the fall- even at 16, I find I'm sitting nearby, mouth shut, ready to praise when the thing goes back in the box. I'm not as knowledgable about the instrument, so she's on her own during practice time, but I think we both enjoy the company!


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 06:02 AM

Two hours in the morning when they get up, and then breakfast, but only if progress has been satisfactory. Sit by them with a ruler in your hand, and whack them on the fingers if they play a wrong note.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: sapper82
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 06:07 AM

TV and Playstation??? My 15yo and 13yo never had them so practicing was easier as it stopped them feeling bored!


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: MBSLynne
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 07:35 AM

Thanks guys..some very useful comments there. My son is quite good on the oboe even without the practice, which makes it even harder for me to say "You'd be better if you practised more". I understand the reluctance to practise actually, as it's only in the last year or so that I've been doing any regular practice and I'm amazed at how much better I've become since I started doing it. But scales and arpeggios and playing the pieces you've had set isn't particularly fun. What I keep trying to get them to understand is that you can pick up your instrument to play, for enjoyment, at any time of the day and it is still practising. I'm hoping that Richard will join in some sessions this year and that that will encourage him to practise the sort of tunes that are are played (which is why I'm now practising). He played in a session at Bedworth and thoroughly enjoyed it..he was also pleased with himself because he managed to pick up a couple of the tunes he didn't know....and THAT's something that comes with practice too!

Love Lynne


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 07:48 AM

I think it was Marvin Hamlisch that said, "Cookies helped."

When I was teaching piano lessons, I told my students the hardest thing to do was to go to the room where the piano was. (I found that once they made the effort to overcome mental obstacles against practicing and actually sat down at the piano, practicing was easy.)

I like Animaterra's idea about staying in the room with them. I never thought about it with practicing, but I do know that a "playroom" in the basement never worked because the kids always wanted to be upstairs with the grownups.

I also found that I could not teach my own children. Later when they were older (and conditioned to schoolwork) I taught my daughter in algebra class. I refused to teach a class my boys were in.

Now I'm trying to decide how to expose my granddaughter to music. She's very strong-willed, so I doubt that I'll ever be able to do anything but play with her. So far I've provided lots of exposure, and she's started asking to hear certain songs.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: breezy
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 07:50 AM

I hated 8 years of piano.7 years too many.

Got a reasonable grade, retired aged 16

wanted to play guitar.

Got no help or encouragement

So
'I did it my way'

I only wished Ild had a decent guitar to play on for the next 6 years.

Only my 22 year old son shows an interest in music but this will develope with time.

Why do we want our kids to do everything in their early years?

Swim . soccer. scouts. drama. dance. music etc

No wonder they kick out later.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: MBSLynne
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 08:24 AM

Both my kids sing at folk clubs and festivals and have done3 since they were little. They have loads of exposure to live music and love it. You're right Mary...I've found myself that actually picking up the instrument is the hard bit, but they have to learn that for themselves.

Love Lynne


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: mack/misophist
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 12:27 PM

I have heard several interviews with classical pianists. They all said they were forced to practice as children. The key question posed by people like Breezy and myself is, "Does the child have any real talent or desire to learn the instrument?" If not, then the lessons may be wasted. On the other hand, it's been well established that experience with music theory and instruments increases ones adult understanding and appreciation. You decide.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Justa Picker
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 01:43 PM

If they don't take the initiative and practise frequently (without you having to coax them) then you and the school are being patronized and they're just going thru the motions.

If one truly loves playing an instrument and making music, they should NEVER have to be TOLD to practise, because in that mindset it's not "work" or a "chore" and it's more a case of prying them away from the instrument in order to deal with other chores/responsibilites.

My $0.02


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Chris Green
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 03:09 PM

Lynne, just a couple of tips, as everything that I'd have said seems to have been said already! I always tell my kids that a little a lot is better than a lot a little. Even ten minutes every night is better that one marathon practice session a week. As regards the scales thing, most trad jigs and reels are major scale-based and require precisely the same discipline to master that scales do. The only difference is that you can stand up play a tune in public (and hopefully get applause!)


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: GUEST,MCP
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 03:40 PM

Interestingly I've just been reading about practice and the following info comes from a chapter by Jane Davidson Developing The Ability To Perform in Musical Performance A Guide to Understanding ed John Rink. I've condensed and paraphrased (sometimes with direct quotes) the relevant section in quotes below:

"The theory of motivation which effectively explains why some young people find it more rewarding than others to engage in musical activities is "expectancy-value theory", which argues that people learn tasks if they value the activity or anticipate being successful. Value depends on 3 external motiviation sources: extrinsic (carried out because of some reward potential eg passing exam), social (a wish to please or fit in with others) and achievement (for enhancement of ego, to do better than others) and 1 internal motivation intrisnsic (interest and personal enjoyment in the subject itself).

The last of these (intrinsic) generally follows and develops from the others, but is more important for long-term commitment to music. This can be developed by the following strategies: 1) exposure to many different types of music to open possibilities of emotional response to music, 2) involvement in decision making about style and difficulty of music to learn and whether to play in public or not, 3) surprise, perplexity, contradiction and debate about music. This last all summarised as making the musical task meaningful at a level of complexity which is challenging and manageable.

Of the external motivators social seems to be the most important, with the influence of friends, family and teachers being important. The can use material reinforcement (rewards of various types) to encourage, but their presence and involvement with the learner is most critical for progress in learning. (Study quoted showing children giving up were least likely to have parental support. Highest-achieving group had parents attending lessons, making notes there and sitting with them during practice or listening to the practice itself). Siblings and role-models can also be important."


On the amount of practice itself, another chapter of the book quotes a study of music students (presumably aged 18-20) and the amount of practice they had done and comparing that with tutors' evaluation of likely outcome as musicians: "best violinists" had done 7000+ hours, "good" had done 5000+ hours and "music teachers" had done 3000+ hours. So if you want to get good that's the way to go (But remember that 3000+ hours means roughly 1 hour every day for 10 years, so if you want to get good quick, do more hours a day. The top 2 classes were doing about 24 hours a week, the third group about 9 hours a week, I think).



So Lynne, continual encouragement by you (as mentioned by others above - and not punishments for non-compliance) does seem the best way to go. Also, a personal opinion here, if you can get them playing with others regularly (and I don't think it matters what type of music) I think that provides a good incentive to practice. You need to encourage them until they the stage where that intrinsic motivation kicks in, after that self-enjoyment will carry them along. (And don't forget to mention the prospect of groupies ;-))

Mick


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Chris Green
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 03:43 PM

Good point MCP. Music is after all a social thing, and it very quickly gets boring playing on your own at home. I would also add that the most urgent incentive to practise is when you know you've got to perform, particularly if it's with other musicians!


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Mary in Kentucky
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 06:42 PM

One of my students always had special songs to prepare for his grandmother's birthday or something. Both the grandmother and mother were very involved, and routinely dropped hints about their favorite songs.

Very young children (ages 3-8 or so) respond to stickers or checkmarks for each day. I never understood it, but it really works.

I think I read somewhere that truly gifted protegies cannot be kept away from the instrument...but there are few Beethovens around.

In looking back at the original post, motivation doesn't seem to be the problem, but rather, the problem is practicing regularly. This may be more of an organizational problem than a motivational one. Some people are naturally organized (my daughter), and some aren't (me). There are aids for folks like me, that once they are in place, life is easier. schedules, lists, calendars, tangible rewards...structure.

Teachers in dyslexic schools know a lot more about these tricks. Organization and routine are the key ideas.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: SharonA
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 08:09 PM

This is probably not an issue for MBSLynne, but I think it's well worth mentioning anyway: Make sure that your child/student is using an instrument that is of good quality and in good condition!! Nothing is more discouraging than trying your best to play but feeling as if you don't "sound good", when the fault is actually with an instrument that is out of tune, or has keys that stick, or needs new strings, or is simply so cheaply made that the tone is lousy.

When I was a child taking piano lessons, we had to give recitals at the local community center, on an old piano that was not only out of tune but had some keys that would not play at all! I will never forget the panic and the shame I felt when I struck a key and no sound came out. I suppose that some of the other students learned the lesson that "the show must go on", but I only learned stage fright.

Another thing I found unmotivating about childhood piano and clarinet lessons was the requirement to play tunes I didn't know, in order to proceed from one section of a lesson book to the next and from one book to the next. Now, I'm not familiar with the "grade" system mentioned in this thread, but it sounds as if it might be similarly structured. When I took up the guitar in college, I was motivated to teach myself because I wanted to play my favorite songs, and I've stuck with it whereas I've long since stopped playing the piano and the clarinet. So I wonder if, in MBSLynne's case, the kids might be more motivated to practice if they were learning music that was more interesting -- more relevant -- to them.

As has been suggested by others, perhaps a request by a relative to learn and perform a song for him or her at an upcoming family gathering would help... not necessarily a song the relative likes, but maybe a song that you know the child likes. (For example, if the kid watches TV, what is his favorite show's theme song?) And, of course, make sure the kid gets plenty of praise and encouragement at the performance.

Performing at the parent's local folk club may be more intimidating, since most of the audience will consist of strangers to the child. However, some members of my local club have brought their kids in on occasion to perform a song, and the applause does seem to be appreciated, even when the children duck their heads and smile shyly. Positive reinforcement is always good, so if someone else's kid sings at your folk club, be sure to give him or her a compliment afterward; even if the performance wasn't "all that", he or she deserves praise for the intestinal fortitude to have given the performance.


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Subject: RE: Getting children to practise
From: Gypsy
Date: 08 Mar 05 - 10:07 PM

I think if i were in yer shoes..........couldn't the practice be a family affair? And couldn't it just be "playing music" rather than practice? With "warmups" rather than calling them excercises and scales? If the parents are enthused about playing, and play with thier offspring, it would seem to follow that more playing would be done. We get alot more done in our house playing together, with a little independant study, than playing totally apart.


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