Practice - How to help during practice?

Need help with your young piano student or maybe just like to share the joy?

Postby 100-1092678947 » Mon Aug 16, 2004 12:48 pm

I don't know how much or how little to help my kids as they practice. For example, suppose the boy (7 years old, lacks self-confidence, and hates to be told he's making a mistake, or is doing something the wrong way) is playing a song, and makes a mistake. Do I tell him? Suppose he makes the same mistake several times, and doesn't seem to know it? Do I tell him or leave him alone? Another example, suppose he's practicing, and knows he is making a mistake, so he plays the same 5 notes over and over, and makes the same mistake every time, and is becoming aggravated and agitated. Do I suggest a different strategy, or leave him alone? More broadly, should I sit near him so that I can help , or go about my business? He hates being told that he's doing something wrong. I know he wants me to leave him alone, but what is the benefit of practicing something the wrong way for a week? On the other hand, what's the benefit of annoying him by trying to help? He doesn't want to do anything that's hard, and he wants to quit piano. What do you think I should do?
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Postby Mins Music » Mon Aug 16, 2004 8:00 pm

Hello Dean. Welcome to the board.

It's a tricky sticky line that 'help or hinder' one, isn't it? Perhaps give the teacher a ring and speak to him/her about this. (I recommended doing this privately, otherwise your son may be embarrassed or annoyed with you.)

Parental involvement sometimes comes across better if the child knows that the parent is only doing what was assigned by the teacher!! Then it's not the parents fault, it's the teacher's fault, cause it was their idea. I've done this in the past with students, and it has worked well.

I think it's important for your son to have some space to himself, where he is allowed to figure out how to tackle problems on his own... and experiment with the ideas his teacher has given him.

One way that you can begin to develop a good piano practise relationship is if he knows that he'll have to perform a piece or a scale or exercise in front of you at various points in the week. It doesn't have to be a polished performance, perhaps just one section of a piece with one hand.

Your role will be the appreciative audience member who congratulates and praises what he does well ... and is graciously forgiving of mistakes by not bringing them to his attention.

This may sound like a waste of time, cause as you say, what's the good of practising something if it's wrong. But if he does have self confidence issues (and lets face it, who doesn't?) then keeping score of everything he does wrong is going to have a negative effect on his attitude toward practise and the piano. Of course it's NOT your intention of 'keeping score' you just want to help, but HE may not see or appreciate this.

So for the next month, you could try slipping into the 'audience' role. Whether you do this once a day or once a week is up to you (and the recommendation from his teacher). I would probably recommend that you do this three times in the week.

I would have you both there in the lesson and let both of you know what is going to happen for the week, so that it is very clear that it's not 'my Dad's' interfering idea, but that "Oh good, Dad's getting told what to do too." Kids like that.

The 'praise what is good, ignore what is bad' stage is a very important one for sensitive young people. It reassures them that Dad is on my side and he's proud of the effort I'm putting in. The idea is that your boy can become proud of what he CAN do, and will want to put a little more effort in to progress even more.

When his 'sensitive' skins thickens a bit, mistakes and strategies to overcome them can be addressed a little more openly.

Dean, you need to be congratulated that you ARE taking such an interest in your sons' musical education. Kids with active parental support do much better than kids left entirely on their own.

But for a while, be the Captain of the Cheerleading Squad. Let him know very specifically which bits are sounding good (or that he sits nice and straight, or that his fingers curve naturally, or that you can tell that he's playing notes smoothly and well connected, or that hey, that bit sounds louder, is it suppose to? - to be used only when you know the answer is yes!)

Let us know how you and your son get on. :)
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Aug 19, 2004 8:17 am

MinsMusic has given you an excellent answer and advice. :)

You may also want to know of our page Tips - Your Child and Lessons which has additional advice and help in this area. Let us know how things develop and welcome to the site and message board. :D
All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. - Albert Einstein
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