The Music Place, San Jose California, Where Learning Is Fun!

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Children Learning Trumpet
Piano Teacher with kids exploring the Trumpet

Practicing 101


by Mrs. Yvonne Reddy

Learning an instrument is different from dance and sports, in that there is often no additional work required after a child has had their dance class or finished their soccer practice or played their football game.

To learn an instrument your child must practice on their own after their lesson. It is important to remember when signing your child up for music lessons that in order to become proficient at their instrument of choice, they will need at least 2 hours of practice time per week, spread over several days to . Advanced students require even more practice time.


What happens when students don't practice? Here's a short list of the most obvious outcomes:

  • Little to no progress in their instrument.

  • Students start to dread their lessons because they can't play what they're asked to do.

  • Students outgrow their books. Starter books are geared to younger children and become too juvenile for older students but more mature books can't be assigned because the student hasn't mastered the necessary material for advancement.

  • The teacher must find other ways to fill the lesson time when the student is unprepared. Sight reading, ear training, rhythmic skills, etc. are important but shouldn't be the sole focus of lessons.

As a parent, your student needs your help to develop successful practice habits. Simply telling your child to go practice isn't enough if they don't know how to make the best use of their time. How do you instill a love of practice in your child from the very beginning? Here are some key ways to help.


Establish regular practice times for your child. It might not be the same time every day but each day should have the same amount of time set aside for practice. It's okay to break practicing into 2 or 3 sessions, providing that the student practices different material at each session so that they touch everything each day. The amount of practice time required depends on the level of the student and the amount of material assigned. For beginning or young students I often ask that the student play each piece at least 3 times at every practice, with additional time spent on harder passages. This way they are not watching the clock and either stopping before they practice everything or sitting at their instrument getting bored while they finish their allotted amount of practice time. Students should be practicing 5 days a week but a minimum of 4 will still result in progress.


Remind your child to open and read their notebook EVERY time they practice. At each lesson your student's teacher should be making notes in a notebook or on a practice record that details what pieces the student should be practicing and what improvements or corrections need to be made. Sometimes teachers will also mark the music to indicate areas needing extra attention. Go over the notes a couple of times per week with your student to confirm that they have, indeed, done everything that was asked of them. Your student needs to practice everything assigned, not just the pieces they like. The various assignments are inter-related and to become a good musician your student needs to practice, scales, technique, performance skills, etc.


Encourage your child to record their practice time in their notebook or on their practice sheet. I have a student who places a check mark at the top of their music every day that they practice a particular piece. Whatever system you and your child develop to record practice time is a helpful way of visually tracking the amount of time spent practicing. It also gives your child's teacher an idea of whether or not a student is effectively using their practice time.


You don't need to sit by your student as they practice but if possible, listen to what they are playing. If it sounds wrong or you can't follow the beat there is probably something that needs attention. It might very well be that the lesson notes address this problem and can provide direction to the student. For "non-musical" parents I record the pieces on the student's iPad so that parents can compare what the piece is supposed to sound like with what their student is playing. This is also very helpful for students who are auditory learners.


Don't skip practices. Newton's First Law of Physics asserts that a body at rest will stay at rest while a body at motion will remain in motion. This also applies to practicing - the more days between playing an instrument the more difficult it is to get started practicing again. Don't let your student skip a scheduled day of practice. Even 5 minutes of practicing scales or concentrated attention to a difficult passage will keep the student in the habit of playing their instrument every day. As teachers, and former students ourselves, we all know that life can get very busy and it's sometimes difficult to find the necessary practice time every day but it is crucial to learning an instrument.


If your child struggles with practicing, ask his or her teacher to teach practice skills at the next lesson. This will help provide structure and guidance. If I have a student who seems to be progressing more slowly than expected I ask them to show me what they do when they practice. From this we can identify a few changes they need to make to their practice routine and they're quickly back on track.


Once your child has good practice habits firmly entrenched they should require less supervision from you but it's always a good thing to periodically check their notebook, listen to their practicing, or ask them to play for you. This way you will know if they are improving or if they need more direction on how to practice. Remember, the more they practice the better they become. The better they become the more fun they have at lessons. The more fun they have at lessons the more they want to practice. This is the result that all students, parents, and teachers want.


Yvonne R.

Piano, Voice, EMA teacher

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Last Modified: 2013.10.07T00:40:06

Actual Customer Testimonials:

"We have recommended to many of our friends. We love the place. It has totally helped our daughter to not only know the notes but to truly have fun with them! We love the teacher(s) and wish them all the very best. - " -- Happy parents

"Our daughter, Melissa, loves her music class, and she looks forward to the recitals. She's made friends and become more confident. We'd recommend the Music Place to anyone. -- Melissa's parents, Kathy & Matt, Los Gatos" .

I tell everyone who will listen about the amazing introduction to music that our daughter is getting with the Music Place. People are always amazed when a 3-year old explains that she played an oboe last week and is going to play a piccolo next week! Most importantly, our daughter can't wait for music class & asks to go every day. -- The Pace Family