Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Practice Habits for Parents

In the first two weeks of music class, your child is a superstar music student, and THEN, you are tempted to let your child slip into lazy practice habits. It goes something like this: 

"My son is doing fine. He can do everything the teacher wants him to play, so I think it's fine that he actually only practices once each week. We just get all of the practicing done in one sitting, because it's so easy for him."

"My daughter doesn't spend time at the piano every day, but I saw her in class on lesson 5 and I think she's the best one in class. For her, practicing as-needed is good enough. She feels confident."

The Goal of Daily Practice is "Daily Practice"

One of our biggest goals in music class is to establish daily practice habits. As we get into more complicated lessons, the students who started out with once-weekly practice really struggle!

My son used to be doing fine in class, but now he's frustrated. He's upset if he can't play everything perfectly on the first day. 
  • Get in the habit of practicing daily, so he learns to reach goals over time, not all at once. Once weekly habits set unreal expectations for instant perfection. Establish the daily habit BEFORE the challenging material comes.
My daughter is suddenly frustrated with playing songs that use chords. She used to be confident in class. 
  • Students who get used to 'cramming' for lessons will be frustrated in a few weeks. Playing the piano requires building up muscle memory, which requires repeating specific motions. Ear training also takes repeated exposure. You can't CRAM if you want to become a musician!

Getting Started

Piano practice will fit easier into real life if we start small: I'm going to help my child get to the piano every day this week. I know we only need 5 minutes... I can find 5 minutes to spend with him. Now, that's doable.

My child doesn't practice because... (fill in the blank). 
  • Help him make a plan to get to the piano bench every day by setting a mini-habit expectation. We're going to sit at the piano bench for a minimum of 
    (*15 minutes) a day. Once he's on the bench, chances are he will enjoy playing through his pieces. (*Keep practice time to age-appropriate expectations.) 
My child is so far behind, he doesn't want to practice. 
  • Break the practice into pieces. Suggest practicing just part of the list, or just one tricky song or one tricky bit of one song, instead of the whole list. Keep practice to the recommended short time- don't let it become unbearably long. Give lots of positive praise: You said you would practice with a smile for 10 minutes and you did! You stayed really focused the whole time and now you're a little better than you were at the beginning! Great job today. 


Marking your practice log doesn't require change, but it often leads to change. Measuring progress brings personal satisfaction, and that leads to motivation to keep practicing. 

In order for this strategy to help, refrain from waiting until the class day to mark the practice log. We tend to give ourselves more credit for good behavior than we deserve. I'm pretty sure you practiced this five times, I'll just sign your book.   

Creating a fun practice log incentive can be especially fun. It's can serve as a motivator for your student and YOU! I've been a cheerful piano supporter for 22 days straight. We can't break my streak now! 


Scheduling is a tried-and-true strategy. Scheduling works well for your child, too, so they have predictability and routine in these early weeks when practicing is a new skill.

If you haven't already, have a conversation with your child to create a PLAY PLAN to decide when practicing will happen. Don't forget to plan a backup time, because we all know that conflicts happen. Practicing might also fit into your family's definition of order. We don't eat dessert until after we have dinner, and we don't do playdates until after homework and practice are done. It might look like this:


You are your student's cheerleader and supporter when it comes to practicing. However, we are more likely to follow through when we know someone else is aware of our efforts, cheering us on, and keeping tabs on us.

Love it or hate it, your Music teacher is aware of how much practicing your child is getting done. If you've been wanting to develop a good practice habit, joining a class is a wonderful gift. You've got a loving, knowledgeable coach on your team. She's checking in on you weekly and willing to help. 

If accountability helps you achieve your goals, tell yourself, I'm going to make a goal to support my son in practicing every day because I know Ms. Teacher is going to be checking up on me!

Over the course of the year, your child can take more responsibility for completing and tracking his own practice, but it happens gradually and he'll need you there supporting, reminding, and cheerleading whenever he struggles with his routine.  When he does eventually take over, it will be a sweet reward.

Post written by Gina Weibel, Let's Play Music Teacher 
Revised by Melissa Lunt

No comments:

Post a Comment