Practice Time or Lesson Time?

Families can maximize their music learning experience by understanding the difference between music practice and a music lesson. Music lessons are a little bit different than other activities we do. For example, we go to soccer practice or dance rehearsal. But practicing music is something we do at home - not at our lessons. Music lessons are when we come together with our teacher to perform, learn new material and cover concepts.

Nearly 10 years ago I had a student who would regularly come to lessons without having anything ready to play despite having clear instructions on what to do. After having conversations about his daily routines, what he was doing at home and his parents' involvement; it became apparent that the family treated it just like his soccer practice. They were bringing the child to lessons thinking that everything he needed to do for the week could be done in our thirty minutes together. This didn't go very well and after a some changes in routines, the child really took off and lessons became way more exciting and productive.

Here are some simple guidelines for families to follow when it comes to practicing at home:

  • Have a dedicated space in the home for practicing
  • Have a quality instrument, metronome, tuner (if applicable) and a way to play recordings in the practice space
  • Practice on the days right after a lesson (or even the day of the lesson when they get home) - this helps students retain information introduced during the lesson
  • Dedicate a specific time each day in the family routine to practicing
  • Make sure all the materials/music needed to practice are always in their practice space
  • For kids who spend time between separated or divorced parents' home, have spaces and music in each place (often buying two copies of all the books helps a lot)
  • Print out the weekly assignments from the website and have them in the practice area or have a computer so the student can log on to view assignments

Here are ways to approach each lesson so students start to feel forward momentum:

  • View each lesson as a mini-recital
  • Avoid deciding which parts of the assignments are important - treat all assigned pieces as equal
  • Treat each lesson as a "deadline" to have everything as great as you can make it - then the teacher can help you make it even better
  • Think of the lesson time as a time to work on new concepts - the more prepared you are before your lesson, the more new material you can cover in the lesson

Finally, simply using the term "practice" for practicing and "lesson" for a lesson is really important. If you catch yourself dropping your child off and saying, "It's time for your violin practice", catch yourself. Try, "It's time for your violin lesson." It's amazing how creating a different space with our words can change the students' approach.

Hopefully this is helpful. What ways have you used at home to help delineate between "practice" and "lessons"? Feel free and post in the comment section below.