Zero Drama – Tips for practicing music

Parentlife with Anthony Burbidge

Have you and your child ever struggled when it’s time to practice music? Here are some tips to help your child make maximum musical progress while minimizing drama.

Piggyback your practice to establish a habit

To ensure practicing becomes habitual, “piggyback” it on another daily activity. For example, schedule practice time so it falls right after dinner. Your child will soon adopt the routine; first I eat dinner and then I play music.

Low-tech timer

Buy a cheap egg timer and magically transport your child to 1988 B.I. (Before Internet). Set it for five minutes and practice scales until the bell rings. Then, set it for 10 minutes and work on a new song, and so on.

Micro breaks

Kids’ brains benefit as much from moments of rest as they do from periods of intense focus. Practice for five to 15 minutes, then take a short break before returning to focused practice.

Remove the stump

Imagine tripping over a stump on a forest path while on your morning run. Would you jog the same path and trip over the same stump every day? This is akin to repeatedly playing a song from beginning to end, making the same mistakes each time.

Slow it down/break it down

When getting stuck on a musical passage (the stump), slow down and break down the passage to its simplest form. Play one note at a time. Then play with quarter notes and so on. Once the passage is solid at a slow tempo, increase by 10 BPM and repeat until, finally, the passage can be played at full speed.

Repetition leads to mastery

As a toddler, your child practiced walking, daily, for months but now walks effortlessly! The same is true for music – daily repetition programs skills deep into the unconscious part of the brain.

Patience & praise

Remember your kid’s not a professional yet! Take time to appreciate the little musical miracles as he moves from one step to the next – just as you celebrated each successful step when he was a toddler learning to walk.

2018 Airdrie Arts Educator of the Year finalist Anthony Burbidge (B. Classical Music) is an award-winning singer-songwriter and the owner of Airdrie Music Lessons