The trope of middle class parents forcing their kids to appreciate music by taking piano lessons is a cliché that is easily over a century old. While we parents have often sat through piano recitals that were probably as cringeworthy for us as for our kids, a good part of the subpar level or performance and retention for many kids is lack of practice and focus while practicing. I think we would all agree that playing an instrument should go beyond the parroting of an instructor’s mechanics and the ultimate goal is for the lessons to serve as an entryway for our children to enjoy and experience creating music on their own.
With this objective in mind, here are four (4) tips on helping kids to focus during practice of piano or any other instrument.
Social media has become ubiquitous, and the kids without a smartphone to text their friends or take photos for Snapchat have quickly become the new underprivileged in today’s schools. However, to focus on playing music, it is the rare student who can divide his or her concentration between other tasks and playing music, at least until a level of proficiency has been achieved. A concentrated 20-30 minutes of practice without constantly checking Instagram is going to yield superior results than an hour with repeated interruptions.
Isolating a piano, which may be in the family living room, from distractions that can be caused by the rest of the family can also be a problem, especially if siblings like to blast the TV or play video games in the same room. Even if other competing activity from family members is put on hold during practice time, anxiety over watching the clock can detract from concentration on music. Parents can try using a foldable isolation screen and an egg timer without a visible clock to remove visual obstacles. According to doTERRA, candles infused with essence of sandalwood oil have been known to promote a state of relaxation, which is essential for playing music.
One of the biggest turnoffs for kids who may genuinely desire to learn how to play an instrument is their rapport with the teacher of choice. Music is a very subjective and personal topic. Not all teachers can play or teach all styles of music. A teacher who may be excellent at teaching Beethoven or Bach but who doesn’t know any songs by Justin Bieber or The Weekend might as well be teaching advanced calculus to some kids. Teachers who successfully retain their students are the ones who can create a custom syllabus for their students that helps them to achieve their progress in satisfying stages, and that often comes with familiarity and love of the music to be undertaken for each lesson to be mastered.
While many parents revel in showcasing their offspring’s’ talents, many kids who might enjoy pursuing music for their personal satisfaction are loathe to perform in public like a trained monkey. If your child practices diligently but doesn’t want to play at recitals, it’s better to let them continue to grow than to force them into the spotlight.
While these tips may not uniformly apply, they have succeeded with many families and yours may be able to use at least a few of them.