Repeating musical phrases, groups of notes, entire songs is extremely valuable in developing precise skills on any instrument. I often use soccer analogies to convince students of the value of repetition: if you practice corner kicks, passes, penalty shots, etc., you become a better soccer player. The question for parents is, “whether convinced or not, how do i get my child to perform repetitions?”

The answer: jump through hoops. Sit down with your child, pick a group of notes, and think of whatever you can to make repetitions fun, engaging, and challenging. Here are some ideas and games.

1) have your child play the song and identify a part that was easy and a part that was not
2) pick a few notes from the challenging part (as few as two!) and have your child play them correctly
3) ask new questions to redirect your child’s attention every few repetitions: how many notes are we playing? how many notes are on string one? which note should sound the loudest? what is your pinky doing? when do you cross strings? can you miss the note on purpose? can you play the note on purpose? can you sing what you are playing? and on and on…
4) now let your child pick a note or two before or after the group already practiced
5) repeat step 3
6) after a little while you should have a larger chunk of music that your child is working on and chances are that your child will find this process engaging. however, it is possible that your child’s attention may start to dwindle. Bring in the cavalry:
7) games (serious parental hoop jumping):
a) every time you play it through well (specify no buzzes, no pauses, rhythm, etc…) i’ll draw a part of a picture and you get to what i’m drawing. you win when you guess the picture. this is a classroom favorite.
b) every time you play it through i will invent funny words to sing with it.
c) every time you play it through you get a tally, ten tallies equals a sticker, box of raisins (i know, but some kids go for this), an extra cookie, a quarter, extra ten minutes of playing before bed, etc…
d) every time you play it through, i’ll stack these blocks. you win when they come crashing down.
e) every time you play it through, i’ll stand on my head, juggle three flaming bowling pins with my toes, and sing the national anthem….
8) when everything is going well and you’ve reached your time goal or when games no longer staves off waning focus, pack it up for the day with great praise for your child’s accomplishments and remind your child that you look forward to more playing time tomorrow or the next time.
9) it’s not over, yet. spend the next day (or better, later on the same day) reviewing the same group of notes or musical phrases before picking new material to work on. review is crucial.

Hand out prizes and hugs!