Making music is really fun if you get ahead quickly while practising. If you notice: human, something happens to me. I can do it! Wow! Precisely because not only the instrument but also the process of musical learning are new to you, you are faced with the question of how to reach the next stage goal as efficiently as possible. Here are our tips for you and your parents! 💡🎶
A balancing act between concentration & relaxation
You want to get ahead and not stop there. Understandable. But you might think that you have to practice continuously, as long as possible and with the highest degree of difficulty. Not exactly, there’s no reason to overexert yourself because once your energy has run out your musical memory is like your smartphone in a dead zone: NO SIGNAL. To go on now would be a waste of time and energy. So don’t put your head through the wall. You still need it – and maybe walls are important too, they tell you when it’s time to stop and get rest.
So how long and how often should I practice?
Basically you have to know one thing: What you train first is, the so-called, “muscle memory“. In order for the movements, chord patterns and melodies to be permanently locked in your brain, they must be stored in your long-term memory. This works if you practice for at least 20 to 30 minutes and play what you have learned after a break in concentration. Then a process starts in the brain – proven by doctors through MRI technology – with which the practised movements are stored in the long-term memory. To ensure that what you have just achieved is not forgotten, you must practice it on several consecutive days, preferably at a regular time. In addition: do not practice intensely for two hours one day and not at all for the following three days. Better half an hour, or more, everyday, as long as it is continuous.
Understand the song
Before you practice a song, you should first understand it. Listen to the whole piece several times, understand the changes, the structure and the intention. This will save you lots of hassles in the long run. Starting without having an idea of the result makes little sense. You need to know where the journey leads before you start it. Look at the notes, chords or tablature first. What key is the piece in? Remember where any repetitions occur and how many times. There is lots to learn through active listening before you start learning the chords.
Step by step with the handbrake on
Most music students play the pieces much too fast from the beginning. A nasty habit is to rush through an unknown song and to confuse this with practising or even learning. That’s not the way to go. While learning you grasp one section after the other. Only until you nail one part (error free) should you move on to the next one. If you have worked through the whole song according to this motto, you stick the passages together and now, slowly (!), play through everything as error-free as possible and without doubting yourself. The next step is to pick up the tempo. General rule of thumb: If you have performed a piece three times without mistakes, you can devote yourself to the next one.
Exercise plan for structure and self-discipline
For most kids and teens, the following words don’t sit well: “structure and discipline”. You simply have to understand them as helpful tools for practising and learning. If you are strumming aimlessly into the night, it might be a hell of a lot of fun, but it rarely leads to quick and motivating learning success. Of course you can and are allowed to let off steam on your instrument. But then you could flick the switch and devote yourself to highly concentrated practise of an actual piece. It is ideal if you set up a practice plan with your music teacher. The plan helps in two ways: On the one hand, it helps to stick to regular practice times. At the same time, it prevents you from overtaxing yourself with exaggerated ambition. Write down, everyday, when and for how long you have practised. Or hand this “book-keeping” task over to your parents 🙂
You need a quiet, peaceful environment
For the next math test, you probably wouldn’t be cramming into a confused and swirling environment. If the family were happily talking at home, the TV was screaming live from the Super Bowl or the brothers and sisters were chatting while gaming, you would be far too distracted. The same goes for practising on your instrument. When starting out, make sure you practice in an environment with as few distractions as possible. Parents, or siblings, shouldn’t be looking over your shoulder. After all, the challenge is a very special one: Concentration on the instrument, on notes, timing, playing technique and above all on yourself.
A few more words, especially for parents
So that the kids learn the instrument with joy and stick with the wonderful hobby of music, encouragement is the motivation par excellence. It always makes sense to praise your kids when they make progress and reinforce a good feeling. Encourage, but don’t admonish. Mistakes should be understood, even encouraged, because they are an integral part of the learning process. Don’t demand perfection and keep stress and frustration levels as low as possible. Wherever possible, let your child play with others and experience the sense of community with others in school, orchestra, band or wherever. And the hammer for motivation is, of course, when you, the parents, also master an instrument and make music together as a family.