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The Music Practice Mentality

How to Overcome the "I don't want to!"

"Practicing is so BORING!"

"I want to be able to play it NOW!"

"I like piano, but I hate practicing."

We all get this. Learning a new skill is challenging and even once we become adults, sometimes practicing that skill to make it better just feels tedious. We look for ways to solve the problem and make ourselves do it: we review and revise our habits and routines, we promise ourselves, we set goals for how often we'll practice, and we think of long-term goals or outcomes we want for our future selves.

People of different ages approach practicing differently, and because of that, it helps to shift the mindset around practice for stages of musical development.

Students / Musicians - Age 4-9

Students in this age bracket need a clear environment, a routine time in their otherwise busy schedules, and most of all, they need support from a grownup in the home. At this age, it's common to have students need help reading instructions, track their place in the music, or even need help getting out of the "It's impossible," mindset. Even if you don't have experience playing music, providing that emotional support can make a huge difference. I know growing up I was much keener to play and practice when my grandmother sat in the room with me. She always responded with, "Oh, how lovely!" It gave me a big boost in confidence every time. I know my children respond the same way to my presence in the practice space and positive reinforcement. They just feel better for the company and support.

To read more about how you can set up a supportive practice environment, you can read more here:

Girl playing piano with sheet music

Musicians - Age 10+

The average age for inhibitory control is around 7 years old, but it takes another few years to fully develop self-regulation and independent routines. On average, age 10-11 is about the time that the method of practice needs to change. For students who are ready, this can happen at an earlier stage, but the practice goals need to stop being an amount of time or a number of repetitions and they need to turn into progress goals instead. Mindful, intentional practice is the real goal here with the idea that students will listen to themselves play and work to make progress on a particular part or section of each piece of music they work on. This is a harder thing to do and more tiring, but it's how professional musicians learn and grow. It's how we take a complicated, lengthy piece and break it down into smaller goals. Sports psychology has started playing a bigger role in how musicians approach practice and learning new pieces, and Dr. Kageyama hosts a site with cheap/free resources and blog articles to tackle many of today's bigger practice issues. A great place to start as a parent to help adjust our mindset around what practice should look and sound like can be found here:

Understanding how practice should change over time can help us as parents adjust the mindset of our children when they approach their instrument and music. You can ask them, "What's your goal for your practice session today? Which piece of music will you focus on?" It changes a student's mindset and helps them get out of the idea of, "I have to practice this piece x times before I can watch TV."

For more help and resources if your child is struggling with their practice routines or is having trouble finding ways to motivate themselves, please ask by email, text or at lesson times. I'm more than happy to talk about different approaches and provide resources to see what will help each individual student!

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