It's sunny out and all you or your child want to do is go to the beach, play in the garden or go for a walk in your nearest park. The music practice routine feels like it has gone out the window and you have run out of ideas!
During the year music students get into a great routine and progress through their exams, pieces and songs. If the practice comes to a complete stop for potentially June, July and August, you are wasting time and money spent during the year. They may even forget what they have learned and then have to repeat lessons in September yet again costing you money and more importantly setting the student back. If a student is preparing for a winter exam it is very important to keep up a manageable but solid practice routine during the summer break.
Yes time off from classes is not a bad thing as everyone needs a break but don't let the music just stop!
Here are my top 5 tips to help with this!
1. Follow a Practice Schedule
When it comes to a good summer practice routine, don't wing it! If you do it will fall apart and the weeks will fly by with no real work done. Like for most people, not having a plan leads to inactivity as they don't know what to do or where to start, so they do nothing.
Do give them a fun routine or schedule to go by. It will stop the practice days from getting boring and repetitive. As your child is on a break from term time lessons they will have little or no feedback and accountability so it important to give them guidelines of what you expect.
If you tell them just to "go practice", this will most likely lead to resentment towards the instrument and little work done. Your child will probably fight it eventually causing stress. Ask the teacher to give the student a rough plan or guidelines for summer practice. Sometimes even a summer challenge can be great for motivation! For example, learn your favourite song off by heart or learn your favourite pop song using YouTube.
A practice schedule doesn't have to be complicated or intense. For example it could be Monday - exam or performance pieces, Tuesday - Scales, Wednesday - fun song, Thursday - Sight Reading and Friday - performance or a game.
See my example Summer Piano Practice Schedule below. Feel free to save this image and use it for yourself. You can shape it to fit the level that the student is at or just to give you some inspiration.
Get your free downloadable PDF versions of the schedule for Piano and Guitar below.
2. Short impactful music practice sessions
I get asked a lot about the length of time a student should practice. It can depend on the level of the student. I always say that they should play the pieces or sections they are working on everyday three times correctly. This means the quicker and more accurate they are, the shorter the practice gets throughout the week! It is a pay off system. No need to set a timer for an hour. This won't work. Shorter concentrated practice sessions will be more beneficial and won't put the student off.
If you need to put a time on it, for younger students at least 10-15 minutes is enough and for teens 30 minutes is sufficient on a daily basis or every weekday.
I will say though, ANY practice is better than none so if 10 minutes is all that is available that day don't skip the practice session!
3. Pick a good time and stick to it!
Summer break can be hectic one minute then chilled the next so you may need to re assess the time you pick practice will be once a week, maybe on a Sunday evening when you know what the week ahead may hold.
If possible pick a time where the student will be well rested, not tired, not hungry and less busy! Ha ha.
In my opinion, the mid morning is a good bet after breakfast while maybe the parents are getting organised in the house or packing lunches for trips etc. Chat to the student and get their input on this also if wanted.
Pick the practice time and set a reminder. Write it on a board and put a reminder or alarm on your phone or their device or phone so it is not missed. Make sure everyone knows the schedule and what is expected.
4. Keep it Fun!
This works well especially for the younger students. Keeping things light and fun can make all the difference. Here are some fun different ideas to try mix into the routine.
Learn a short song yourself from YouTube.
Make up words to one of your pieces.
If playing a pop song, change the words and make it funny or silly.
Play your song really LOW or really HIGH on the piano
Record something and share it with family
Teach a relative day!
Theory Quiz - with rounds.
Make a song or a tune up on your instrument and give it a name
Research your favourite singer or band and find out how they began their musical journey
Do a performance, a show or a 'gig' for family and friends.
Practice in a new place like outside or at Nana's etc.
Go watch a performance or go to a gig
Roll a dice and whatever the number is, the student has to play the scale, the piece or the exercise that many times.
5. Reward Good Consistent Practice
Reward charts are a great way to incentivise students to keep up their practice. For younger students having a small treat at the end of every week if they have done their practice can be a great way to excite them. A colouring book, day trip or just a special sweet treat they like is enough to encourage them.
For the older teen students it could be a trip to their favourite café, a shopping trip (bigger end of summer reward!), small gift card or bringing them and a friend to a movie. You know your child and budget best. Listen to their progress (If they want you too) and stay positive and supportive. You are giving them a gift for life!
Do You Have a Top Tip?
Any other ideas? Please comment below and let me know. I would love to hear from you.
So there you have it, follow a schedule, keep practice short and sweet, pick a good time, keep it fun and reward! They are my top tips for parents of music students if they are looking ways to encourage their child to keep up the summer music practice.
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