Is your child practicing at home? Musicians need daily practice to ensure that they play at their very best! Music is a mental activity, but it also has a physical element that is often overlooked by younger musicians. The best players in the world have highly developed muscle memory in their arms, hands, feet, wrists, fingers, and mouths. Muscle memory isn’t developed overnight. Musicians need to spend enough time with their instrument, so the proper technique becomes second nature. Here are some helpful tips to inspire daily practice by setting up a dedicated space and carving out time each day. Taking these measures will help your child succeed in band and orchestra!
Step 1: Create an Ideal Physical Space for Music Making
Having a dedicated space in your house for making music inspires practice on its own! You will want to start with selecting the area with the right atmosphere for creating a practice corner. This should be a comfortable place with limited distractions and where it is least likely to bother other people in the house. The quality of practice will improve if your child isn’t worried about disturbing others.
Setting Up Your Practice Corner
This space should have enough room to contain the necessary items for making music:
- Instrument– Make sure there is room to store the instrument in the practice corner. A great tip is to display their instrument on an instrument stand. If it’s not out of sight, it’s not out of mind! Seeing the instrument out will help motivate them to practice.
- Chair– Select a chair with a straight back to help your child maintain proper posture. Slouching will inhibit their sound quality and reinforce the posture your child’s teacher is fostering in their lessons and at rehearsals.
- Music Stand- You can store their music directly on the stand, so it’s at the ready for practice.
- Pencil- Your student should have a pencil, rather than a pen. They should get in the habits of making notes when they make mistakes, with the ability to erase marks if they need to!
- Instrument Care Accessories- Make sure they have everything they need to keep their instrument in excellent playing order. Examples of these essential accessories are rosin for stringed instruments, valve oil or slide grease for brass instruments, and extra reeds for wind instruments.
- Timer- Setting a timer at the start of practice will help your student avoid continually checking the clock to see how long they have played. Once the alarm sounds, they have completed the appropriate amount of practice for the day!
Step 2: Carve Out Time for Practice
Is busy your middle name? For most families, it can be challenging to fit it all in. Creating a sacred time each day to schedule a practice routine is critical. Some families will build daily practice time in their child’s chore routine. This is an opportunity here to create a reward system for accomplishing daily practice. Another approach is to look at practice as part of your child’s daily homework routine. It is entirely appropriate to treat school band and orchestra practice just like daily reading homework or math worksheets.
There are many ways to frame daily practice routines. It is up to you to choose the right methodology for your family!
How Much Should They Practice?
Every teacher has slightly different parameters for daily practice. Ask your child’s music director or lesson instructor about their practice expectations for your child. When a student first begins an instrument, 15-20 minutes of daily practice is generally recommended. In the early months of your student learning an instrument, practice sessions longer than 30 minutes could potentially be detrimental to their success. Your student may grow bored or disinterested from practice and play beyond their stamina level can lead to sloppy playing technique.
Once students have been playing for a year, the practice sessions can progress up to an hour, depending on their level of focus. Breaks are encouraged to keep your child fresh and ready for improvement.
A common instruction from teachers is to practice 100 minutes per week. Spread those minutes out over the week rather than cramming them all into one or two practice sessions. This will help your child build their muscle memory and focus.
Step 3: Encourage Your Child, Every Day
Playing an instrument in school band and orchestra is a lot of work. It is also a lot of fun! As a band or orchestra parent, you are your child’s biggest cheerleader. Encourage and support them every day to give them their best opportunity for success. Daily practice builds muscle memory for them to perform their instrument with their hands, fingers, arms, and mouth. Once the muscle memory forms, they can start to focus on the musical elements, such as tone, tempo, and style.
Creating a practice corner and carving out time will help them succeed at daily practice. Your positive encouragement will ensure your child will excel at music!
Katie Senn is the Content and Community Engagement Manager for West Music. Her background is in music education, with an emphasis in orchestral directing and cello. She performs regularly around the midwest with her all-female folk band Awful Purdies. She serves her local community as a board member for the following organizations: Iowa City Music Auxilary, Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child, and her children’s before and afterschool program.