My kids (14 and 11 years old) have been playing the piano for approximately five years. They have weekly lessons and then we spend the rest of the week arguing over when, how and for how long they are going to practice.
It is a harrowing process and my normally easy going children turn into master negoatiators, quibbling over when they are going to practice and the exact amount of time that they will devote to the exercise. Their favorite technique is to punch in the dreaded number of minutes into the timer on the microwave and then w-a-l-k… v-e-r-y…s-l-o-w-l-y to the piano and do a pre-playing stretch to eat up more timed minutes.
Now is the fun over when they start the actual practice. One time I was out of the room and heard rather odd music, and believe me, I'm using the term loosely. I walked over to see what was going on and was rather stunned to see my then 9-year-old son playing the piano with his foot. Yes, foot. That thing that is at the end of his leg.
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But last month I read an article about how to get your kids to practice music without tears or tantrums. Because I like to avoid tears and tantrums, as well as my own imminent nervous breakdown, I decided to use the tips that were offered.
Click through for a recap of the tips for getting your kid to practice and what happened when I used it with my kids.
1. Have a Goal for Each Session
I love the idea of kids setting a goal for each practice session -- whether it be to master a piece that has been giving them trouble, or to take on a new challenge. However on some days, "survive until practice time is over" seems to be my kids' goal.
2. Good Practice is Intentional Practice
The article quotes a musician: "Ten thousand hours of intentional, focused and detailed practice makes someone a better musician, not 10,000 hours of goofing off." My kids heard 10,000 hours and nearly lost consciousness.
3. Get Some Dried Beans
A mom of a violinist shared this suggestion: "We bought dried beans and some sparkly paint and had a lot of fun making the beans as colorful and pretty as possible.Then we paid the kids in beans for practicing. It was great - we never ran out of 'cash.' " I want to know what age this works for. Because let me tell you, it's not 11 and 14. No matter how sparkly and glittery the beans are.
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4. Three Penny Practice
"You put three pennies on the left side of your music stand. On a troublesome measure, you play it once, and if you get it right, you move the penny to the right side of the stand." And so on. The idea is that you have to get the piece right three times in a row in order to keep the three pennies. I was very skeptical about this one. It's entirely possible that my kids are spoiled, but I can't imagine them doing anything if the reward is three pennies. But I was surprised by how fun the challenge of getting something right for three consecutive times was for my kids. Even though one of them suggested using "million dollar bills" instead of pennies.
5. Switch the Time of Day for Practice
Many kids, including mine, practice piano after homework and dinner, which is when most people like to relax with something mindless. So switching up the time of day makes sense. Unfortunately, because we live in an apartment building I didn't feel comfortable inflicting pre-school piano playing on our neighbors, but during the weekends, we did find that practicing earlier in the day was a lot easier.
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6. Leave the Instrument Out
Yes, I stopped putting the piano away after every practice and it's made a world of difference! Obviously this tip is more for the violin (and other portable instruments) players in the group and if my children played those instruments, I'd definitely give it a shot. And not just because I'd be too lazy to put the instrument away.
7. Give Birth to Beethoven
This is my tip. I know it seems like a lot of work and kind of extreme, but that's the only full-proof way I have of making sure your kid practices the piano. And I bet his mother never had to say, "Ludwig, stop playing with your feet!"
- By Marinka
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