I tend to err on the side of saying too little rather than too much about practicing. I have been more inclined to ask questions and address specific issues, but resist general advice. There are so many variables. Are parents available to help practice? Do they have musical skills? Is the child stubborn or compliant? Do the kids have any free time? And on and on..
Nonetheless, there are a few ideas that tend to stretch across a variety of variables and family circumstances.
One thing I have noticed is that once a student has been taking lessons for a year, the practice routine or lack of routine, is firmly in place. Kids that don’t practice in the first year, don’t tend to start practicing regularly later. Parents that are not involved in the beginning don’t tend to become involved later.
Like a rocket launched into the sky, students and parents set their trajectory early on. I have come to see the first year as a window of opportunity for parents to help their child develop healthy practice routines.
The first step of good practicing: Establish a routine.
It is not easy. But it does not rely on musical skill. It relies on administrative skill.
Routines that happen everyday are the easiest to maintain. Kids count on them. Dinner is at 6. Brush teeth in the morning and at night. Read a book before bedtime.
Young children do not have the ability to make practice happen regularly on their own. Your child is likely not one of those children ‘who never has to be told to practice’.
If you can’t create a regular routine, I suggest you create a good-enough routine. Suggestions:
- Practice while dinner is being prepared.
- Practice after dinner while ‘clean-up’ happens.
- Practice in the morning before breakfast.
- Practice immediately after breakfast.
Note: Practices that happen before school are more focused and effective than those that happen late in the day. But, it is the unusual family that can make morning practices happen.
Most of the effort of learning the violin will fall on the parent in the first year. And the practice routine you develop in the first year will go a long way towards setting the trajectory for your child’s musical journey.