How often, and for how long should your child practice?
Ideally, all students should be practicing each day. The amount of time spent with their instrument varies with age, as it can be difficult to get younger children to stay focused. Here is a helpful chart that shows the target time amounts for each age group:
|Daily Music Practice Time|
|Under 4 years old||5-10 minutes|
|5-6 year olds||10-15 minutes|
|7-8 year olds||15 minutes|
|9-10 year olds||20 minutes|
|10-12 year olds||20-25 minutes|
|13+ years old||30+ minutes|
How much improvement is to be expected? And what does improvement really mean?
When it comes to children and music, improvement can sometimes be hard to recognize. Learning an instrument or how to sing requires practice, focus, fine muscle control and intellectual understanding. For some it is faster, for others it is slower; what is most important is that they are gaining knowledge and control at their own pace.
If you can look back 6 months and your young musician is now able to play things they couldn’t before, that is more than enough improvement. Simply being around and involved with music at an early age sets them up for success as their minds and bodies grow.
What does practice really mean? Is there a “right way” to do it?
Practicing is the same as studying for a big test in any other subject. It takes discipline and attention to detail. This is hard for people of all ages, but especially children.
Parents can help their kids make the most of their music time by having small goals to tick off when they sit down with their instrument. For example, this weeks daily practice regimen could include 1 warm up exercise, 1 major scale and the first half of a new song.
It is best to keep these goals simple and achievable, as it helps the student feel accomplished and stay motivated. With this being said, for growth to happen students must continue to raise the level of difficulty in what they are playing. Performing what one already deeply knows is not truly practicing!
The trick is to strike a balance. Much liking working out, the challenge should be increased incrementally. Too big of a jump in skill too fast can feel impossible, and not enough of one can leave the student feeling bored.
Keep them continually moving forward, with small steps!
What are some ways to encourage your young musician?
Sticking with music can be difficult. It is challenging and new concepts and songs can seem overwhelming when first presented. It is helpful to remind your child how far they have come from when they first started.The goal is to keep them excited so they want to practice and learn, rather than having it feel like a chore.
Small rewards can be a great way to mark success and inspire a student to keep working hard. This is one of the reasons we use the Musical Ladder System here at Toronto Arts Academy, which provides students with wristbands and trophies when certain skills are achieved.
Also, although it is important to create time for conscious practice, it is just as important to allow children time to mess around with their instrument and simply have fun. It is called “playing” music for a reason!