Spoiler! This post might be about parenting!
How to make a child practise piano?
One answer. With LOVE.
1/ Make sure that he or she absolutely LOVES music. There is no question about it. You can’t make music if you don’t love it.
2/ If you don’t know what they love, find out. Play all kinds of music to them. Talk about it. Music is for sharing. Share with them the music that you yourself love. They won’t and can’t practise if you yourself don’t love music. You may find that they don’t actually love music. If that’s the case, move on to Step 12 below. If they love music, then everything will fall into place and you can continue with Step 3.
3/ Once you know what they love, get the sheet music or if you play music, play it to them if you can play. If you cannot play, get them sheet music that is very simple so that they can play.
4/ Get them a teacher that is fantastic, enthusiastic, friendly and who loves children. The teacher is very important. If they don’t love the teacher, they won’t love the music and they won’t love what the teacher has to say. They will associate the teacher with the music which is a sad fact. Get the teacher to play them something fun and then teach them to play it. If they love the teacher but don’t love music, then you have to go to step 12 below.
5/ Once they play what is fun, play other things, widen their taste and their repertoire. Don’t ever sneak in stuff that they won’t like like scales, exercises and tuneless tunes. They can smell it. That will come with time. They will want to please you and want to play the stuff they don’t like.
6/ Let them play for only 5 minutes a day if they are very little. They don’t know it yet, but they are indeed ‘practising’. Practising is training the mind. If they are older children, they should practise for 15 minutes without flying tempers (yours or theirs). Of course it is easier said than done.
7/ Never raise your voice. Just stop and do something else so that they won’t see the piano as a torture chamber. Repeatedly making mistakes and playing incorrectly with an angry, bored and frustrated face is not practising. Remind yourself that music is joy.
8/ Offer rewards. We all love rewards. Each day of practising with a happy face for 5 minutes earns one sticker. After ten stickers, they can enjoy a little gift.
9/ Watch live gigs together. Also watch Youtube videos of other people or children playing music.
10/ Do music in school. The environment and peer pressure is important. Once there are other ‘cool’ children doing music, the magic will rub off.
11/ Routine, routine, routine. Remember those sleepless nights? Now they have a bedtime routine right? Make the practising time whether it is 5 minutes or 50 minutes part of the routine. It has to happen at a certain time of day.
12/ If the above ten steps don’t work, then give yourself a deadline as to when to give up. If you are not a tiger mum, and clearly, I am not, then you cannot break their spirit. These are your own children that we are talking about. Giving up is not a bad thing. Giving up means you and your child are now free to explore doing something else. Maybe David Beckham gave up piano to do football and his parents said ‘great stuff’ rather than ‘what?!’. Some children are not meant to be musicians. How can so many billion people on earth all be musicians? Some of us have to do something else. Maybe we will be fantastic at something else. Giving up is not a sign of losing or of failure. Giving up is a sign that you only want them to be happy and that’s because you love them.