During this back to school season, we have partnered with the National Association of Music Parents (AMP) to publish a series of blog posts especially for parents of music students.
Tips for Parents: Help your child succeed in learning an instrument
Learning how to play an instrument is an exciting time in a child’s life. It is a brand new experience and the possibilities of this endeavor are infinite. There are as many reasons why a student has an interest in starting as there are students! No matter the reason, one aspect is the same for all: They need the support of those around them to help them succeed. Parents surely want to help their sons and daughters be successful in everything they do but the idea of helping their children learn an instrument can be a bit unsettling especially if they did not have music instruction themselves.
Remember this important point: Learning an instrument and learning to read music notation are skills. When practiced consistently, these skills can lead to a lifetime of enjoyment. The topic of talent comes up frequently when talking to parents and students. As in anything, skills learned can lead to amazing accomplishments: Michael Jordan in basketball for example. He had the skills and that extra something. His accomplishments don’t take away from me having fun shooting some “hoops”. Likewise, don’t set expectations too low either. With consistent practice of the proper skills, students will start sounding great in a short period of time.
Everyone has musical aptitude that can be developed with practice. Here are some suggestions for success based on my 30 years of teaching beginners.
• Show an interest in your child’s music study and offer encouragement. Just as you ask your child questions about the shool day, include music class. Try “What did you learn?” “Show me what you learned.” “Teach me how to get the sound on the instrument.” By the way, even if the sounds your hear are not pleasant, be encouraging. How many times have you heard this at a sporting event: “Good try. You will get it next time.” Same goes for music!
• Make a commitment for the entire year and establish an attitude of perseverance. We all have “ups and downs.” It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
• Help your child establish a daily, uninterrupted practice time and a dedicated space for practicing. Understand that correct practice involves a high level of concentration. Check out our upcoming posts titled “How to set up an Effective Practice Space” and “How Much Should a Music Student Practice?”
• Musical instruments are delicate and require care. “Beginner” instruments are real, musical instruments! The teacher will instruct the students how to care poperly for their instruments. Provide a safe place in which to keep the instrument. A good saying is “In your hands or in the case.” Caring for the instrument includes assembling and disassembling. How the instrument is held during these times is critical. Bent keys, rods or slides can happen very quickly. Then you hear this: “I don’t understand. The right sound isn’t coming out. It worked yesterday.”
• Have home concerts every so often. Holidays can be a great time for this. Let all the family members celebrate in this endeavor and make it a family affair! Make a video recording of the budding star.
• Attend the programs your child performs in at school. This also helps you understand what is going on in the entire class.
• Encourage good scholarship and citizenship in all subject areas.
• Communicate with the music teacher. The teacher wants the students to be successful as well. If you feel there is a concern, contact the teacher.
In closing, I applaud you for giving the opportunity of instrument instruction to your child. You are vital to the success of your child and to the music programs at school. You are what I call the “Secret Ingredient!”
Like this article and want to read more like it? Check out the AMP blog. Stay tuned for more posts in our AMP back to school series.