Bribery or compulsory?

Obviously an important part of learning an instrument is spending time practising.

For most children, this can be an onerous task.  As an ex-child myself, and a professional procrastinator, I do know that having to sit down and practise every day can be less than appealing.

But it is necessary.

And doing it every day is much more effective than doing it only on the day before the lesson, or even two or three times a week.

Many children don’t even practise on the day of the lesson (since they had to practise during the lesson) but this is a mistake.  One of the most useful practise sessions would be immediately after the lesson, while everything is still fresh.  Surely part of the reason for procrastination is not remembering the exact notes of the music, which could be remedied by practising while content is still fresh in the mind.

It is ideal that the instrument is practised on most days, to further maximise the lesson time.  How much better it is to spend the lesson in interpretation and musicality, than picking out (and guessing) notes which have not been learnt.

My dream is that I phase myself out – I dream of producing students who don’t need my help to read notes; but who can independently read music.  This is surely the key to becoming a young musician – being able to read the music oneself, and apply musical interpretation to the score.
So, music practise is necessary, but how to convince a child of this fact?

My most successful students are the ones for whom practice is a non-negotiable.  It is simply something that must be done every day.  I just knew that each day I would complete an hour’s practice before leaving for school.  And that was even on the days when I had an early morning rehearsal before school.

There are, however, other ways to help motivate.  One student recently revealed that her reward for practice is canteen money.  Others only get their pocket money if they complete their practice.  And still others have a star chart, where a certain number of practice sessions will add up to a special reward.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but these are a few ideas.

Feel free to share any other ideas that have worked for you!