Music Practice and Accountability


I get this question a lot, “Tim, how much should my child be practicing”? I love this question.

If asked in front of a student it helps set precedence, meaning the student and parent will hear my opinion at the same time and I as the teacher can reference that conversation when I ask or remind the student about their practice habits. It sets the tone of our lessons. I almost always ask my students while they’re warming up or tuning up about how their week went, did they learn something new? Everything ok in school? After we chat for 2-3 minutes about their life, I ask the dreaded… “did you find time for practice”? It always shocks me how enthusiastic my kids are in class, but outside of class it’s like they forget their instrument exists. They had time for TV, video games, cell phones, etc., but not fifteen minutes a day for their practice. I now understand why my mom pulled me from piano lessons at 10. Yes, I do ever so slightly guilt my students about not practicing. I never say anything mean, I just reflect on how the lesson will be slowed down so they have time to catch up on what they should have covered the previous week.

We also need to understand that practice does NOT make perfect, that’s a misnomer. Practicing correctly makes perfect and to do that students need to attend classes and spend a little time every day with their instrument to become well versed in the lessons.

This last part here is directed at parents and it’s a little harsh. If your kid isn’t practicing, it’s your fault. Why would I say that? To remind you that your kids are KIDS! They are not fully developed humans with rational thought and the ability to make good choices. That’s your job, make those choices for them, turn off the TV/phone/video games, put the instrument in their hand and tell them that for the next 20 minutes, that’s all they can do. This should be fairly obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of families who treat their kids as equals and as a parent myself I'm not 100% on board with that mentality. I regularly have to push my kids into doing work or practicing, I’ve never seen one just get up and start doing it on their own, though I wish dearly that they would. So, buck up and get your kids playing! When they reach high school, they will thank you; I promise. Remember no one has ever said, “I wish I hadn’t spent all that time playing” … you’ll only ever hear, “I wish I had…”

Timothy Flynn