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#6 Practice Tips and Ideas for Parents

Making practice time positive and productive can be a challenge.  Some days we flow into practice time and it is a pleasure for both parent and child.  Other days it feels like oil has been poured on water:  each person is going their own way.  Sometime a match gets dropped on the volatile situation and WHOOSH!  It is hot for everybody.  The talent for practicing is not inherited from 'musical' ancestors but rather is developed gradually in an environment of unconditional acceptance and unfailing enthusiasm.  Dr. Suzuki challenges us: "Where love is deep, much can be accomplished."

The parent has a great responsibility as facilitator of the practice time.  Putting aside problems of the day, headaches, and tiredness is difficult, but a must.  If the parent enters the practice session with enthusiasm and anticipation, the child will also develop a positive attitude toward practicing.  When a positive attitude is nurtured, productivity and progress become attainable.  The child and the parent can work together as a team, coaching and helping each other to succeed.

Begin practice by setting goals.  Two goals for parents to hold in the back of their mind each and every lesson are:  1) To educate/improve.  2)  To ensure an enjoyable experience (it doesn't have to be fun and games but it can't be drudgery).  Help the child define their goals.  Involving the child in the process will give them ownership of the task to be completed.  As each goal is reached, have the child cross it off the list.  This concrete action gives the child a sense of accomplishment.

Throughout the practice session, look for good points, the successes.  Encourage the child to reflect on their playing and note what needs improving.  For example, "You played that very well.  What do you think you could do to make it sound even better?"  Help them identify dynamics, intonation, rhythm, finger placement, placements of pinky, etc.  and polish that one less than brilliant spot that needs a little more attention.

As you begin to polish a piece, pick one thing to focus the child's energy.  This can be difficult, but the mind responds better when there is only one thing on which to concentrate.  If there are several things that need attention, start with the easiest, and work with it until it is corrected.  With the feeling of accomplishment and success, attack the next troublesome spot.  Reflect on your achievements.  For example remind the child "At the beginning of the lesson you could not play...but now you can very well.  This sense of accomplishment can be the motivation needed to try the next trouble spot.  Small successful steps lead to a sense of confidence.

Issue #2, March 1987 from UNI Suzuki School publication

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