When it comes to your child’s musical success, music lessons constitute only a piece of a much larger puzzle. Success to me means helping your child become proficient at her instrument while ensuring she hones an appreciation of music at the same time. So as a parent who isn’t necessarily familiar with music education, how do you know if you’re helping or hurting your child’s musical future? Here are some common mistakes that parents make.
Picking the wrong music teacher
There are a few factors that should go into choosing the right music teacher including your goals for your child, your child’s desires, and your child’s disposition.
Strictly classical instruction usually requires more work and a sacrifice of stylistic flexibility, but yields a more honed and disciplined instrumentalist. A more flexible teacher might allow for more experimentation, creativity, and fun, but might not get your child into Julliard.
Be reasonable and logical, and try to align you and your child’s goals as best you can. You may want your child to ultimately become an expert, but stringent lessons can be demoralizing, and certainly aren’t for everyone. For the majority of 8-and-unders, I would begin a child in more exploratory lessons. After about two years, I would consider value of a stricter, narrower education.
Being too strict or not strict enough
At an early age, the most important aspect of music lessons is fostering a love of music, and a desire to play it. A music teacher structures your child’s music education, and a parent upholds it.
There will be a time when your child’s initial enthusiasm about music lessons wears out. It is your job to gently push them through this wall. Learning music is work. It can be incredibly rewarding, but it does not yield immediate results or instant gratification. As a parent, you must be your child’s far-sight. Not wanting to practice isn’t usually a good excuse for not practicing, and you need to enforce that. Conversely, being overly strict can demoralize a child. As a parent, you know what shuts your child down. Being overly strict or insulting can damage your child’s love of music for years.
Not structuring practice sessions in a practical way
Read my last post. Practicing is not rehearsal. Running through songs your child already knows won’t do him as much good as practicing passages that frustrate him. Inject a healthy balance of both into sessions, and he will feel both rewarded and challenged.
One last thing: make practice sessions only as long as your child is making progress. All children should be able to sit down and practice for ten minutes at a time. If ten minutes is the maximum, schedule a few practice sessions a day. Slow and steady wins the race, and consistent practice is much better than binge practice.