The subject of practicing can be a source of frustration for students, parents, and teachers, but it doesn't have to be! Involving all three parties in the process can turn practicing from a chore into something that a student looks forward to. The idea is to make practice part of a big picture plan and to maximize the very precious time we all seem to have these days. Here are some thoughts from The Dallas School of Music and dlp faculty on encouraging students to practice.
Encouraging Students to Practice: Teaching the Importance of Practice
First of all, when you make assignments to your students, explain to them why you are making it. What will this assignment help them to do that they weren't able to before? Giving students (and parents) a realistic assignment and informing them of the tangible benefits it can provide will go a long way toward making practice happen on a regular basis. We encourage our faculty to explain, document, and include the what each student needs to do, why they need to do it, and how they need to do it after every lesson. Parents appreciate this and students of all ages have told us that this kind of direction seem less like "busy work” and more like a means to an end that will greatly benefit their musical progress and enjoyment.
Encouraging Students to Practice: Teaching How to Practice
Don’t assume that your students - especially beginners - know how to practice. In our session here at DSM, we'll often demonstrate how we might practice and then allow our students to “practice practicing” in front of us. This allows us to help them develop solid practice methods and habits. A good teacher can directly affect a student in this way and lead them to maximize their results in the minimum time necessary. As students progress, we'll ask them how they would suggest someone else might practice a particular concept. This helps them to conceptualize a way to solve a particular problem from a teacher's point of view.
As a side note, we purposely avoid giving 'negative' examples as they'll sometimes cause confusion, especially in younger students. Instead, always try to demonstrate, encourage, and promote good practice ideas and habits. You won't be sorry and neither will your students!
Choosing Repertoire for Students: Moving Forward
We hope these suggestions help to promote happier and longer lasting lessons. We welcome all teachers to check out the dlp Music Program for use with students of all ages and levels of ability on any of 35 instruments. You will have access to wonderful music courses (including our new Jazz Course), lessons with theory and ear-training quizzes, resources (featuring great folks like The ZOEN!), forums, and music education blogs that you'll find both useful and entertaining. The dlp program provides a comprehensive online curriculum that can be used as a base of study or as a supplement to any learning method.
This post was contributed by faculty from the Dallas School of Music. For more insights into music education and teaching, visit their blogs.