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“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. 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, productive existence.
To get your children to practice music, you have to create an appreciation for music in your household 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. Learn songs and sing them together on road trips or while you walk. Go out and see live music once 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 – and may be disturbing others. Is there a place where he can be alone to shut the door and make some noise? Is it possible to also have a keyboard with headphones in his room, so he can work privately when he feels like it and come out to the family piano when it makes sense?
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.
One of the top vocal coaches in NYC for many years, Ruth Gerson has taught voice, songwriting and performance at Princeton University. She currently runs San Francisco Vocal Coaching and also teaches at Blue Bear School of Musicand The Music Center in San Francisco. As an independent artist, Gerson has appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” the entertainment news show “Extra,” PBS, Showtime, HBO and Lifetime television. She has performed at the Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage, High Sierra Music Fests and many more. Her career has included vocals on many popular jingles, as well as back-up vocals/keyboards for Gloria Gaynor. Her latest album Deceived is produced by five time Grammy winner, Rick Chertoff and William Wittman. Gerson has opened for Dave Matthews, Lisa Loeb, The Indigo Girls and Steven Wright. Gerson moved to the Bay Area in August of 2009 and has rapidly become one of the most in-demand vocal coaches in San Francisco and on the Peninsula.
The BEST of the best vocal coaches in NYC. She gets exceptional results with singers on all levels. I have been amazed. I recommend her highly whether you are a beginner or a seasoned performer.
– Lisa Barbaris
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