THE BLOG

Singing Lessons: How To Get Your Kids To Practice Music

11/17/2010 11:13 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"How do I get my kid to practice music?" As a vocal coach, I am often asked this question regarding my younger and young adult students. To learn music is excellent for brain development and improves brain function. Learning to sing, play piano (or any instrument) is an important component of a child's education. With arts education diminishing in schools, many parents seek music lessons and classes outside of school to provide this foundation for their children.



Parents are aware progress on an instrument or learning to sing better takes a commitment to daily practice. What I hear commonly is that no one has time to practice. Everyone is overcommitted and overwhelmed. The time and space to practice singing or practice piano, guitar, etc., feels impossible to carve out. However, if something is important to you, you find the time. The deeper question is, how do you get your kids to want to practice music? How do you make practicing music fun and productive and not another obligation?



Playing piano, singing and writing songs kept me sane as a child. Practicing protected me from "the noise" outside my room. No one told me to practice. Music was a sanctuary. I clung to it.



In a way, not being driven to practice could be the sign of a content child. Not needing music means a student must develop an understanding of its benefits -- an appreciation of music -- to want it.


Consider your source, but I think singing and/or playing an instrument is as important as exercise, diet and academics for a healthy, happy, and productive existence.


To get your children to practice music, you have to create an appreciation for music in your home and organize a simple schedule.


Inspire your children by talking to them about music. Find out what they enjoy and enjoy it with them. Expose them to great musicians. Make a family music night where you play or sing together or sit and listen to an album or go on YouTube and find performances. Go out and see live music every couple of months. Play something beautiful before you go to bed or when you wake up. Email your child a song that you love.

Don't talk over the music. Listen to it, then talk about it or try to learn and play it.



Practice is a practice. Before your child begins lessons or classes, discuss when and where they are going to practice music -- the where is as important as the when, because your child may feel private about his practice. If the piano is in the family room and that is where other things happen, a student may be afraid of disturbing others. Is there a place where he can be alone to shut the door and make some noise?



Start small. Carve out 5-10 minutes a day for a month -- you are solely practicing how to practice. Incrementally build up to 20-30 minutes a day. There will be days when the student intends to practice for thirty minutes, and will instead play for an hour or two, because she wants to, because she's enjoying it, and other days, thirty minutes is enough for enrichment, skill development and maintaining the habit. No one becomes a virtuoso practicing only thirty minutes a day. However, this is the groundwork to make practice customary and it will make music an enriching part of life, while developing skills to allow her to take music further should she want to in the future. It will make it evident that her dedication grants her new abilities.



Avoid employing guilt or begging your child to practice. Instead try, "Would you sing me a song? I could use some music!" "That made my day! Can you play another tomorrow?" "I enjoy listening to you."

Listen attentively. As a parent, avoid critique, but share how the music makes you feel.

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On a personal note, my mother was a violist, she went to Juilliard and was a presidential scholar in music. She practiced eight hours a day her whole life growing up, but she says she felt as though she were a prisoner of her instrument due to parental pressure. She never plays anymore. She gave it up, because playing music lost its joy for her.



Alternatively, hearing my mother play and sing are the happiest memories of my childhood. It was so beautiful. I never practiced eight hours a day as a child. That kind of dedication came later as I matured. Through my mother's inspiration, music became my living and my life -- and perhaps it developed my brain.