Practicing at home, part 1

Being a mother of 7, I have had some experience practicing music with children.

I will say that most of it–at least the sit down with a child at the piano (or violin or harp or bagpipes or guitar) probably won’t be among my most “fun family memories.”

It’s like what I told my son this morning: “The reason the ‘Daily Note Search’ and sight reading isn’t very fun right now is because you are still learning the notes. When you know the notes and where to find them quickly, it will become easy, and then it might even be fun!”

That’s how it has been for me with practicing with my children. I didn’t know how to practice with a child–at least not very well–when I started with my first three. When I practiced with a child, we would get so frustrated with my lack of ability to help them effectively that we both wanted to stop the experience as quickly as possible.

But now I’m down to my last two children. I haven’t given up yet! I am determined to figure out how to make practicing together a successful experience.


Because I know that practicing together will provide a foundation for much more rapid and successful music learning and enjoyment in the future. And aside from the musical benefits, they will have learned some fabulous life skills: how to break down something new and challenging into smaller bits, and then how to work on those bits until the task is mastered. Think of the applications in any other walk of life!

It’s called learning discipline/hard work/perseverance/etc.

(For me, it includes lessons in interpersonal relationships.)

Really, if you have someone who loves you helping you to learn a new skill in a way that is pleasant, the odds are that you will learn that skill and want to do that skill. So if I can figure out how to practice in a way we both enjoy that is still effective, then I will be able to add these memories to the “fun family moments” mental album!

As we started practicing together when we got back into the new school year, I noticed that there were some things that really have helped us to be successful. I have been learning a lot, and so have my two children. I decided I want to blog about my learning in hopes that another parent might benefit.

So here’s what went well today:

1. All of our practice tools were in place. This included:

  • their piano bags and music, with flashcards and practicing instructions for the week
  • a metronome
  • a timer
  • a pencil (sharpened)
  • good lighting
  • something for me to sit on at the side of the piano
  • a garbage can
  • fingernail scissors

2. We had all eaten breakfast and, amazingly, were well-rested.

3. I had a positive attitude, and frankly, so they did they! Wow! A pat on the back for all of us!

One thing that I did today that I haven’t before was to sit next to my son while we practiced. Another was to give him 5-second back massages after he finished something hard. He really loves physical proximity and a kind touch. I hadn’t thought of that before. Other times he hasn’t wanted me to sit right next to him. But today it worked. Hooray again!

Another thing that went well was I didn’t get mad! YES! If I could just get a few more of those days in a row…

So, onward ever onward.

I’ll keep you posted.

No pun intended!

Happy Music-making,

Mrs. Livingston 🙂