Motivation and Practice

We all know that our children need to practice! But how do we get them to do it without resorting to negative ploys? Forcing a child will never be successful in the long run. Maybe a little bribery doesn’t hurt? (If done nicely and with just rewards), but the biggest motivation is seeing other children doing well and wanting to be like them too. Here are  your practice stories …

Devan is just 4 years old and has been coming for small group lessons every Saturday with 2 other boys aged 3 and 4 for 2 terms. They have had 4 actual lessons on the piano this term. Devan’s mother was worried that she wouldn’t be able to get him to co-operate at home so I showed her the practice routine for beginners and this helped, but the biggest motivation has been the big Group Lesson we had recently. He saw the other, older children playing and enjoyed himself, even though some of the tasks were not age appropriate for him, and his mum says that since that day he has kept running to the piano to try his Twinkle A out, determined to play through like the others…he has completed it with a beautiful hand shape and bouncy rhythm in just a couple of weeks.

Alex, also 4 years old, has been motivated by his parent’s interest in piano playing..they bought a Japanese Yamaha U3 piano recently and are both having lessons and practicing at home. Alex joins them for his practice and it has just become part of family life. Each Friday they have a family concert and Alex is videoed playing his Twinkle A. He loves this and it motivates him during the rest of the week.

Alex’s dad told me that he and Alex’s mum have to run round the room while Alex practices Twinkle C (Run mummy/run daddy) and if he hesitates, they stop (and Alex likes to keep them running), so by playing  this game he is improving his fluency! Brilliant idea!

Thomas, age (just) 4, was seemingly not going to co-operate, preferring to ‘pretend’ play on random keys only at first, but after a couple of group lessons and observing the other 2 boys succeeding, he decided that he would do it too! He can now play through Twinkle A unaided and has willingly jumped up first and played, with a big smile on his face, at Group Lesson recitals ever since… very relieved, as I thought this was going to be a hard task for me!

Anna, (8) has established an excellent practice routine of listening to her CD on the way to and from school each day and in the car. She also listens ahead to the pieces in the next book so that these become familiar. She never misses a day’s practice and methodically works with her parents on what is written at the lesson. Everything is in place for success.

On returning to lessons after the Easter holiday Anna has listened ahead as far as book 4 and has just picked up (no lesson) on her own, the melody from a Beethoven Sonata  in book 4 almost all the way through. The power of listening repeatedly!

Cameron (6) and Sophie (9) have started a new practice routine before school each day on both recorder and piano and their older sister Emily (12) gets in to her new secondary school early to practice as well as at home. Emily has always practiced a lot – from age 5 she played her recorder almost obsessively but of course this really lead to fast progress and she didn’t even realise she was building skills – just enjoying herself.

Like Anna, Emily (granddaughter) has done a lot of listening to the repertoire and especially when she has been with me and heard me practicing – last summer she tok a real fancy to one of my exam (Level 5) pieces, picked up big chunks of it on her own and insisted I taught her the rest – to her surprise this was the last piece in book 8 recorder!

On one holiday in Devon, we sang the whole of Book 1 recorder tunes before going to sleep each night (as Summer School was the next week) – and in the morning Emily could play them. In 1 week she completed the last half of book 1…amazing what can be done with intensive practice. Sophie also joined in, although too young to play, and can now, several years later, still remember all the words and tunes. Cameron can sing all the recorder tunes in Solfa ( he loves doing this) because he has heard them so many times within family life from birth. His day cot was in the room I taught the girls in each day. One day, on our return journey from Summer School in Malvern we were stuck in traffic and Cameron, age 21 months, started singing all the tunes he had been absorbed in all week. This all proves that absorption in the music and intensive listening really do work.

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