The ability to read music is a valuable skill for any music student. When learning to read music, beginning students become familiar with individual notes and symbols and learn how to play them on their instrument. Music students also learn how to recognize patterns and shapes of the melodies written on the page. It is important for parents to help beginning students with music reading during their practice at home.
To practice individual notes, you can ask your child to name the notes of the song he/she is working on and show you how each note is played on their instrument. Flashcards are another great way to practice notes and music symbols.
To help students work on identifying musical patterns, you can ask your child to describe the music as the notes move higher, lower or stay the same. For a fun activity, have your child draw the melody using ups and downs like a roller-coaster.
As summer begins and schedules change, it’s best to try to maintain a consistent practice routine as much as possible. Please check out our posts related to establishing and maintaining an effective practice routine:
It’s effective for young children to play a song or passage three times during a practice session. To make this more fun, draw a picture with three different places and have your child place a small toy on the picture. Each time a song is played well, your child can move the character to the next spot on the picture.
2. Revisit Old Favorites.
Revisiting songs that your child enjoyed and learned to play well builds confidence and makes practice fun. These songs should remain a part of regular practice even after the teacher considers them finished and has moved on to new pieces
3. Have the Student become the Teacher.
Ask your child to teach you how to play a song. Ask your child to show you the notes, how to play it, and give comments on how you sound.
4. Listen to Music.
You should consider every listening experience a part of music learning. Going to a local concert or playing your or your child’s favorite album and talking about what parts you enjoy and why can help your child develop an appreciation for music.
5. Try a New Activity.
Teachers have lots of worksheets and other tools to help your child learn music. In addition, we recommend getting a note speller book to practice notes and you can also find flashcards that will help learning music symbols.
Below are four tips to vary your music practice routine and stay energized in your playing.
Mix up your practice routine. If you are studying multiple songs, you can vary the order that you play the songs. On one day, you could play each song for a set amount of time before moving to the next. At the next practice session, you can play each of your songs once or twice in a row and then repeat the whole set.
Avoid always playing from start to finish. On certain days, you can focus on just practicing the more difficult sections of a song. Then, at the next practice session try playing all the way through.
Listen to your songs. Look for different performances, recordings or live versions of the songs that you are learning. This can renew your inspiration to work on the song or come up with some new ideas of how to play a certain section.
Remember that you don’t have to play to be practicing. There are many other music activities that you can add to your practice routine that will benefit your playing. If you are learning to read music, you can practice sight reading and note names. You can also focus on just the rhythmic aspect of your songs by clapping or drumming.
An article entitled When Repetition isn’t the Best Practice Strategy sheds some light on what really works when practicing music. Although the technique seems geared toward more advanced students’ practice routines, it can be beneficial for students at every level.
The article suggests that an effective practice routine could consist of choosing two or three focus points which students can alternate between during a practice session. For example, a beginner might play song A, then play song B, then play song C, and then play the songs again in a varied order. By alternating between songs the student will be more focused during each piece. For advanced students, the focus could alternate between different sections or passages of a longer piece. The student might play section A for 3 minutes, section B for 3 minutes, section C for 3 minutes, and so forth.
The most important takeaway about practicing is that the quality of the practice is more important than the length of time practicing. We agree that an efficient and focused practice session should be the objective for students of all levels.
For many beginning students, practicing scales may seem like the least interesting part of their practice routine. However, as professional musicians of all genres and instruments know, a proficiency in the relevant scales can carry your musicianship to the advanced level.
Music is based on a scale, which is a set of notes in a predetermined order. The scale that music is based on varies depending on the genre, but the scale will determine the set of notes and patterns to be played in the song. The scale can be used to compose a melody, to improvise a solo, and to accompany other musicians.
Practicing scale patterns on instruments helps students gain the muscle memory necessary for each scale. Gaining this proficiency with scales can take a number of years, depending on the instrument. The reward for doing so is well worth the effort: a student who becomes familiar with different scales will have an easier time improvising music in any desired genre of music like jazz, rock, pop, and even classical.
The quality and consistency of practicing is more important than the length of time practicing. For beginners, just a few minutes a day is all that is needed. The key is having a practice routine that you and your child stick to over the long term. Below are a few tips for effective quality practicing:
Repetition is important in learning any skill, but it can be boring. An easy fix is to have fun and creative games for practicing your songs and exercises at home.
Start small – Music is better learned in smaller sections rather than playing the whole song over and over. Identify the most challenging parts and play through them until you are comfortable with them.
Most children don’t like playing the difficult parts and often end up skipping over them. You can help by asking them to stop and find the tricky part. You can even guide them to find a way to fix it.
Sometimes learning a song will be difficult and it takes time. Praise and encourage your child daily for their efforts. Allow them to take a break or play another song if it is too frustrating.
Include time for your child to play songs that they know well and enjoy. Improvisation and composition of new songs can also be included. Listening to music that your child enjoys, looking things up on the computer, or watching a music DVD of any genre all count towards your child’s at-home learning.
There is so much that can be said about practicing a musical instrument. Practice at home is the key to turning weekly music lessons into a lasting ability to play an instrument. The role of the parent is especially important with young beginners.
For children ages 4-6, the music teacher will need your help to guide your child in practicing at home. Make sure that you understand everything that is taught during the lesson, what your teacher expects to be done at home, and how you can be involved. Essentially, you will be learning music alongside your child.
For beginners age 7+, you may not need to be as involved in every part of practicing. We still recommend that you set a routine for practicing, ask your child what they are learning, and listen to and praise what they do. After 1-2 years of music instruction, your child will be more able and willing to practice on their own.