“My child just picked up a new instrument. How often should they practice and how can I support them?”
Learning a new musical instrument can be an exciting and rewarding journey. You child is probably learning to use muscles in ways they never have before! They will also be strengthening their fine motor skills.
Regular short sessions are more effective than infrequent long sessions.
Building new skills and muscular strength requires regular practice. It’s much better to have regular short practice sessions, instead of a couple long sessions each week. Leaving days between practice sessions will frustrate new players as progress is limited.
Many teachers will be happy for beginners to do 10 to 15 minutes of practice 4 days per week. As the player progresses, they will need to have longer practice sessions at least 5 days per week.
Regular practice is important when preparing for an exam.
It's especially important to have longer, regular practice sessions if the student is working towards an exam. Exams involve learning technical exercises and multiple pieces. Most teachers will expect to see commitment to regular practice before enrolling a student in exams.
So how can you support them?
✦ Provide a space and time when they can practice and make some noise. Some instruments might have methods for dampening the sound (i.e. brass practice mutes), but this should only be used occasionally. It's important to hear the tone they are producing.
✦ Some children may benefit from having you sit with them as they practice (at least in the beginning). You don't have to be musical to do this, just ask them what they went over and the feedback they got in their lesson. Then just be there as they apply this to their pieces.
✦ Applaud their progress and determination! Learning a new instrument is challenging, and new players may feel like they aren't progressing. Words of encouragement can go a long way.
When it comes to learning a new musical instrument, what you put in is what you get out! As a parent of a new music student, your support and encouragement will be instrumental in their progress. Your child’s teacher will also be able to outline what your child needs, so don't hesitate to touch base with them for advice on how you can best support your child.