How To Get Your Students Practicing At Home
Do your students turn up for lessons each week filled with enthusiasm, eager to learn something new, and keen to show you the work they have put in during previous week to master what was taught in the last lesson?
Or do they turn up having somehow forgotten yet again to do any practice? We all have bad weeks and music students are no exception. We also have things in our lives outside of music that can interrupt practice. But these things should be the exception and not the norm.
And yes I fully appreciate that some students simply will not practice, no matter how hard you try and encourage them and seek to pique their interest in whatever instrument they are learning. Sadly playing is not for everyone. Such students aside, teachers can use the following 5 tips to help set practice guidelines and routines and see their students start to progress from week to week. And as students see they are progressing, their sense of accomplishment will push them to do more.
- No Time
The best excuse I was ever offered by a kid for not practicing was that he had ‘no time’ to practice during the week. I asked why he didn’t have any time and he told it was his mum’s fault as she had made him take a shower. I gently asked if his mum had made him take shower for the whole week since I had last seen him, and they is why he had no time to practice? He had obviously decided that was his excuse so he just stuck with it.
Encourage students to find a time when they can consistently practice. Maybe it is 7am every morning, maybe 4pm every afternoon. Consistent timing will help establish a routine. It might be helpful or even necessary for you to discuss this with the student’s parents or guardians to get them onside, especially if the student is a younger child.
- I Forgot
Similar to the ‘No Time’ excuse. Establish a practice routine with your student and hold them too it (at least as much as you can). And look to reward them throughout the year when they are sticking to the routine.
- It’s Too Hard
As a teacher it is you’re job to give your students the tools to be able to work through lesson contents away from you. You need to plan your lessons and ensure their is enough time to cover everything that is needed so the student can work at home on the material and use effective practice strategies to work through the tricky bits.
- It’s Boring
Why did you start playing an instrument? And why did you stick with it? As a beginner or younger player, what excited you and made you want to pick it up? Think about how quickly someone could have crushed your desire by demanding that you play a particular piece or style that you found boring or hated.
As a young kid I was sent to a local teacher who decided I wanted to be a classical player…it was convenient for him. I didn’t want to play like that. I wanted to play rock music that I heard on the radio or saw on TV. I asked if I could learn songs I liked and he just ignored my pleas.
I didn’t give up (but I didn’t stay with him either), but many people will if that is how they are treated.
It is not about your desires and interests, but rather about developing a musician that will continue to grow and explore the wonder and beauty of music for their whole life. Listen to what they want to do, what motivates them, and plan your lessons and repertoire around their desires and needs.
- It Wasn’t Me
Passing the blame is something people are good at, no matter their age. Kids will blame their parents to shift responsibility from their lack of practice. Sometimes that is fair. I have taught kids who have had a tough time getting their parents to understand they needed to practice regularly and consistently…and without interruption. As a teacher you should provide the tools the parents need to see their kids get the most they can from home practice times.