A situation I’ve often come across is a parent wondering how much is enough for their child(s) when it comes to practicing their musical instruments. It’s a good question, and one that warrants a justifiable answer – however, as frustrating as it seems, there is no hard number that applies to each and every student.
A very general answer you’ll hear from most music teachers is to ‘practice for 30 minutes every day!’ Whilst this is an admirable statement, it’s often not realistic, nor do I agree that this provides much benefit to the student.
For students who go through one 30 minute lesson with a teacher on a weekly basis, my personal recommendation is that they allocate at least two/three days before the next lesson for additional practice. More is not always better, for the simple reason that students (especially if they are young beginners) cannot be expected to sit through practice in a ritual-like manner. The time spent on practice must be well-spent, even if the duration is short, to work further on improving or correcting mistakes learnt from the lesson with the teacher. It is mentally hard work, so for students who are in a primary-school level, I strongly suggest that the parents supervise them through this process.
Also consider doing practice from the student’s point of view – often they have other subjects to learn, which might mean more homework to do. Also, making practice seem like a chore will quickly contribute to demotivating the student’s levels, which will negatively impact the long-term learning process in their musical development.
I stress at this point – not all my recommendations are the same. Each student gets different advice from all our teachers at Melodic Majors, based on their own situations and learning habits. Please note for senior or more advanced students, practice needs to be more consistent throughout the week, and held for longer durations.
Let me share a personal example of what my 5-year old student is expected to do in regards to outside practice (name has been changed in this example).
Sam has just started kindergarten – he is quite big for a 5 year old boy, but is bright and bubbly, and plays well with other kids his age. During our weekly lessons, our 30-minute session is light but constructive, we get through learning songs and notes but still fit in time for singing, which he loves to do! Without offering something like singing, Sam can get fidgety and even bored with the whole lesson.
Practice is the same – Sam’s mum reflects that she practices in 20 minute increments, as that’s the amount of time they have before Sam’s attention wonders off.
In cases like this – as Sam gets older, his attention span will also get bigger which will allow more effective use of lesson and practice time. At the current state, it is my opinion that having short practices are still beneficial to having forced practice for longer durations (or none at all!). Progress is evident on a weekly basis, and I have even employed the use of stickers at the end of each lesson in the hope that Sam sees through to the lesson with anticipation of a reward.
Other teachers may have other tricks up their sleeves, and I welcome all opinions so I can further my own techniques.
Any other suggestions or questions, please feel free to contact our experienced teaching team at Melodic Majors!