Here is a question many parents probably ask themselves when they enroll their children in music lessons: How important is my involvement and how do I do it successfully? The younger the child, the more parental involvement is necessary. Learning to play a musical instrument is much like learning a language or even, perhaps, like learning a sport. If a child goes down to a baseball field on a sunny afternoon once or twice a week and throws the ball around, the child will have fun. But the child will not refine and improve motor skills to be a competent baseball player without constant practice, hard work, parental guidance, encouragement, and unfortunately, some bad days that are no fun at all. A scenario like this one is not metaphorically perfect but you get the idea. Those of us who love music and value the ways in which it enriches our lives want our children to have a positive experience, if not a profound one, during the process of learning a musical instrument. We want our children to experience pride and success en route to developing their abilities to express themselves artistically. So it is up to parents to take care of all the peripheral details to ensure their child continues to grow through their musical experience. To this end, here are some practical ways to help your child at home. More detail and rigor is necessary early on for the younger child (ages 5-10).

During lessons:
1) Attend all the lessons.
2) Sit close to your child, keep a journal, and take notes.
3) Don’t wait until the end of class to clarify confusion.
4) Observe hand positions and posture to reinforce properly at home.
5) Listen to the language the teacher uses for instruction and become familiar with it for use at home.
6) Keep track of everything the child did well and praise them for it afterwards: “That finger exercise really improved after you played it the third time!”

At home:
1) Establish “Music Time” at home at least 4 times a week but strive for 6!
2) Create a comfortable space with all that is necessary (tuner, music stand, chair, etc.) for successful practice.
2) Keep a journal (perhaps the opposite page from the notes taken in class).
3) Try to create a little routine (left hand warm-up, right hand warm-up, new songs, review, etc…)
4) The more consistent this becomes the less battles you’ll have in the future. It becomes something you just do. Somedays will be great, some not so great.
5) Help in a passive way and only use positive language. Notice what is good and ask your child what could be better.
6) Keep a sense of humor handy to diffuse tension.
7) Praise your child for working hard and trying.
8) Keep a list of games that are fun for when excitement or the novelty of a new song dwindles.
9) Be specific with instructions: “Let’s play that group of notes four times slowly and then we can move on.”
10) Communicate successes with your child’s teacher.
11) Ask your teacher for more advice.

The more music making at home the better!