Do I have to practice?!?!

How many times have those words been uttered by you, your children, your students, someone you know?

Practice (for our discussion: music) can become or has become an ugly word for many people…especially kids.

It means 20-30 min of sitting at the piano or holding your guitar while the kitchen timer ticks by and you decipher what your teacher told you 5 days ago, because you haven’t looked at your book since then. You think, “Maybe I can squeeze in 3 days of practice and I’ll get close so my teacher won’t notice I really didn’t try that hard…” Nope. We know. We’re teachers and we did the same exact thing.

I remember my mom told me that parents would ask her, “How do you get your sons to practice their instruments??” She would say, “I have to yell at them to stop so that they will come eat their dinner or do their homework.” I’m sure that happened, but I remember plenty of time when I said (or thought) “Do I HAVE TO PRACTICE?!!?”

How do we bridge the gap between the years of fighting practice and when they WANT to PLAY.

It reminds me of a multitude of adults I’ve talked to say, “I wish I would’ve kept it up. I wish my mom would’ve made me keep going.” Is that really what you wish? I’m sure your mom doesn’t! (or your teacher…) It’s not just adults, it’s plenty of high school kids that did the obligatory 1st grade-4th grade piano lessons and then quit for one reason or another. Now, just 6 years later, they wish they could start a band in HS or play a song for their significant other or jam in the talent show or just play their favorite song off the radio for fun.

Is there a way to push through or guide these kids to the next stage or is the grass just greener on the other side? I feel like I’m a supportive piano/guitar teacher who tries to teach to each student’s interests, encouraging them, correcting them, having a little fun, while making sure to provide a solid base of fundamentals along the way. Still…in what seems to be a healthy environment, they don’t want to practice.

I try to tell parents to ask their kids to PLAY for them, not practice. Say, “Play a concert for me.” (but then really listen and clap for them) I’m just trying to find ways to make practicing a “non-chore” and instead an opportunity to do something incredible- create music!

When it all comes down to it, I think it’s a maturity thing. Some kids are ready to see it as an opportunity and bonus before others (who still see it as a requirement).

Maybe one day the majority of kids will stop saying “Do I have to practice?!?” and instead say, “When do I get to play?!?!”

If you have any thoughts from your own experience, I’d love to hear!

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