I’m not a huge fan of practicing, and as a grown-up Suzuki child, I know my mum hated it too. I’ve met a few rare musicians who really and truly enjoy practicing, but they are few and far between.
As a creature of habit and routine, it is very important for me to stick to a routine in my practicing. Practice routines are so much more than just when to practice, so in this post, I will share 5 tips to keep practicing in a routine and more or less painless for all involved!
1. Practice consistently.
It goes without saying that good routines and habits can only be formed by consistent and repetitive action. I ask my students to practice at the very least 5 days a week to keep it consistent. I myself practice six days a week, I like to take one day off a week for some personal time and events, spending time with my husband and friends and catching up on home things. If your little musician wants to practice every day (and some keeners are like that!), definitely do it, but feel free to take a day off to recuperate. Even musicians need to take “personal days”! Try to keep each session more or less the same amount of time, not too long, but just long enough to practice everything (or most) your teacher wants you to get done.
2. Practice at the same time every day.
Set a time in the day that is ONLY for practicing the instrument, and practice at that time every day. This looks different for every family. Some families have an early start to the day and get home earlier in the afternoon. If this is your family, consider making practice the first thing you do when you get home directly after the just-got-home-from-school snack time. Or maybe you can squeeze practice in before school. If neither of these seems like a feasible option, consider splitting up your practice session into two smaller sessions, completing one before you leave for school and one right after you get home from school. Do this every day, so your little musicians know what and when to expect it.
3. Prepare for practice and make your practice area comfortable and distraction-less.
Good practice happens when the musician is comfortable in their surroundings and with minimal distractions. Maybe this means putting the dog in another room or practicing when younger children are down for a nap. You will know your own little musician’s needs and how your family and home can deal with this. Always make sure to deal with any potential distractions before practice to cut down on unnecessary stalling or dawdling that might occur (like bathroom breaks or such). Wash hands and cut nails before practice so you’re not dealing with sticky hands or bad hand posture during your practice session. The 5 minutes you take to prepare before practice is greatly shorter than having to remedy a bad habit caused by distracted practice down the road.
4. Reward a great practice session!
Most people like to see the fruits of their labour, and little musicians, music parents, and teachers are no different! Long-term, create a practice challenge chart for a length of time (I suggest either 2 or 4 weeks to start, but I know teachers who do year-long challenges, your choice!), and aim to practice every day. Every day that you practice, put a sticker in a box and when every box is full, celebrate! Maybe this is a trip to the ice cream store or zoo, or maybe dinner out, you’re little musician will know what they want most! Short-term, consider practicing before snack so the snack is a motivator.
5. Have fun!
I don’t think that anyone goes into music thinking its mundane. Most musicians started because they saw that music wasn’t normal, and it brings out something different in a person. That said, don’t forget to make music practice fun! This is a little harder said than done, but smile and make sure to laugh while practicing! Tell jokes, make games out of the practice points from your teacher, and if your little musician isn’t having fun, maybe today isn’t the day for a great practice session. Just leave it and come back later.
Sarah Murley-Hauser is a Suzuki violin teacher at Upper Beaches Music School and is currently in her last year of studying violin and music at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about the Suzuki method and making music learning enjoyable, effective and accessible for all. When she is not playing the violin, Sarah enjoys reading, knitting and spending time with her husband.