Many students get frustrated with playing a band instrument because they don’t see progress from day to day and then get discouraged. Maximize your investment. Students don’t learn to play an instrument simply by going to band lessons. Invest in the time at home and the entire experience will be a positive one. I am compiling some helpful hints so that, even if you have no musical experience, you can help your child accomplish more during the practice session. These ideas have come from several articles I have read on this topic. I hope they will help you help your child succeed.
- Establish a quiet time and place for them to practice. Consider practice time like active homework sessions. Keep distractions away and let the student focus on the playing without TV’s, stereos, or siblings interrupting.
- Set a practice routine. A good start would be:
- Warm up softly and slowly with long tones, then move to faster ones.
- Isolate the hard measures and work on small sections before putting songs back together. Breaking big problems into small ones helps make them easier to solve.
- End the session with fun pieces to review and improve on by playing faster with more correct notes.
- Practice means repetition. Students need to play problem spots over and over again. Once or twice will usually not solve a problem.
- Occasionally, have the student play an exercise for you without a lot of pressure.
- Divide practice sessions into smaller times with short breaks in between so the student doesn’t tire too easily.
- Help analyze problems. This isn’t as scary as it sounds! In the early years and first books, most of the exercises are taken from familiar folk songs or known tunes. If you or your child hears something obviously wrong, help him or her figure out the solution.
- Record practice time. Practice time is essential to improving and is also part of the band grade. If the student knows you are listening and helping to keep track, he/she will be more focused and aware of what they are doing. As the routine settles in, this time will go by very quickly and they will feel good about what they are playing.
- Be a motivator. Don’t dwell on the rough, early sounds or wrong notes. Focus on the positive. For example: “That was better than yesterday!” “That has some tricky notes or rhythms and they are getting better and better.” “Your sound is improving all the time!”
- Know when lessons and rehearsals are. Help the student keep track of rehearsals and lessons and make sure the instruments are there and ready.