I am often asked by parents, “How can I help my child succeed in music?” Here are a few ideas to improve the experience for you and your child, which can directly impact your child’s success learning a musical instrument.
Encouragement Prevents Discouragement
First, help your child understand that learning guitar or any other instrument is a long-term process that includes some challenges and it is normal for your child to feel discouraged from time to time. Let your child know that proper dedication to practice in the early stages of learning a musical instrument can yield years of enjoyment. When your child faces those challenges from time to time, avoid the simple response, “Just keep working on it and it will get better…” and certainly don’t belittle them. Instead, do your best to understand the issue causing their struggle.
A couple things to consider – the predicament might not be caused by lack of effort or dedication; improper technique might be the culprit and additional input from their instructor might be required. Practicing using improper technique can diminish your child’s progress and make learning music very discouraging. But there will be times when your child just doesn’t feel like practicing. When that happens, give them a day or two off. Just like you and me, your child may need a little break once in a while. It is most important to encourage your child throughout their struggles and allow them to be a part of the solution.
Next, another question I am often asked by parents, “Is my child progressing at the proper rate?” Don’t be overly concerned with your child’s initial progress – much like the military’s boot camp, the basics of music can be extremely tough. Acquiring proper finger strength and dexterity coupled with learning other skills such as fretboard balance and not having calluses for guitar are enough to make a grown man struggle.
One step I implemented that has yielded terrific results is having the parent(s) participate in their child’s music lesson. This not only allows the parent to better understand their child’s progress, it benefits their child during the lesson and can provide a sound basis for the parent to assist their child with practice at home. As a busy parent, it is tough to remain at your child’s side during practice, but if you spend 30 minutes several times a week working with them, you will drastically improve your child’s ability to succeed in music.
Dedicated Practice Space and Time
Having a dedicated time and distraction-free practice space can support productive practice sessions. It is best to use a location without a television or video games. Create a musically inspirational practice space that includes the necessary tools – chair without armrests, music stand, foot rest, tuner, metronome, pencil, notepad, and proper lighting. Then, add some inspiration with musical pictures or posters.
Don’t forget the metronome. Practicing with a metronome or a click track aids your child’s development of good rhythm. All too often I receive new students with poor rhythm skills because they neglected to utilize a metronome or some sort of click track while learning the basics. Many students believe practicing drills and scales slowly doesn’t require using a metronome. But nothing could be further from the truth. It is difficult to maintain proper rhythm when practicing slowly because of the extended gaps between notes.
I hope these recommendations help you and your child better prepare for learning guitar and make it a more enjoyable experience.
Blake C. teaches songwriting, singing, and guitar lessons in Lowell, IN. He specializes in classical guitar technique as well as modern rock and blues styles. Blake has been teaching for 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in July 2013. Learn more about Blake or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Ian Muttoo