7 Easy Things Parents Can Do Right Now to Extend Their Child’s Musical Life

JySIR_3Py2gmbs3GeU_fe8vBD-Tu0g0EN-Rf5HkoCds,b7_wOLS_1e61ufCyN48OCx4pxljeNciVw0qHXzz1sfc,pOUHXOyNN5VKlyOrCLxMauE9_P66MbkzUR9dCvTKe9s,gL_YtQk_kVeub_qTRCL_zWQ0j2BB9Ih_OIigzEPbIAM,v9apTRn60r4Sbl9vkznqag5BU7FmxmzTP6gnyhZGQ5wMany parents find small ways to help their children with school homework each day.  They also may know the basics of how to help their children with things like swinging a baseball bat, throwing a football or swimming.  But when it comes time to playing a musical instrument, many students quit too early because their parents have no idea how to help even the slightest bit.  Whether your child has just come home with their instrument for the first time or they have been playing for a while, there are a few things you can do right now in order to ensure your child continues their successful study of music for years to come.

Here are seven things you can do today to help your child continue to succeed in music:

1.  Dedicate 10 minutes for practice time daily.  Calm the house down and make the home quiet for 10 minutes, or at least dedicate a “practice zone” somewhere in your house.  You would want it quiet and calm for homework — this is no different.  Keeping a set time every day helps solidify a routine, and treating music as a core subject is key.  Value what your child is doing for those 10 minutes each day.

2.  Listen to something beautiful with them.  Find some music that includes the instrument that your child plays and listen to it with them while you make dinner or in the car.  Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube are great ways to listen to some of the masters play.  If your kids play baseball, you play catch with them.  If they play a musical instrument, you listen to music with them.  Who knows, you just may like it!

3.  Check their posture.  Poor posture will lead to bad playing, which will most likely lead to quitting (and a few muscle aches).  It only takes a few minutes to learn what good posture is for playing an instrument and help your child solidify it as part of their routine.  A quick glance once in a while during your child’s practice is all it takes.  Consider placing a large mirror in their practice space so they can check their posture consistently.

4.  Learn how to put together and maintain their instrument.  It only takes five minutes.  Go to the Music Parents’ Guide YouTube Channel (coming soon) or another instructional video on the internet and learn how to do this.  It’s easier than most other things you need to learn how to do, and it may save your child’s musical life.

5.  Buy a Play-a-Long CD.  Find a recording of a piece your child is playing so they can play along with it.  It’s a lot more fun that way!  There are also jazz improvisation CD accompaniments to have fun with, and SmartMusic software that has a ton of accompaniment tracks for your child to perform with.  A less affordable option is to find free sheet music and accompaniments online.

6.  Know when your child needs a break.  Studies have shown that sometimes a break is just what you need to wake up your brain.  If you see your child getting frustrated or bored, insisting that they “fight through it” isn’t always the best strategy.  Allow them to take a break and do something fun for a few minutes then go back to practicing.  The break is also a good time to listen to some music (see #1).

7.  Be there.  Be present, if you can.  Sit and watch your child make music and support them.  If you can’t physically be there, ask them how they are doing with their music from time to time; ask them what they like to listen to and what they like about music class.  Be there.

A successful musical life is developed one day at a time with small successes.  Parents are extremely busy, but not too busy to pay attention to the items above.  You may not know all the details necessary to help your child with every aspect of their daily practice, but treating their practice as a crucial part of their growth will ensure that they grow up to be amazing human beings.


  1. Yet another great post! I’ve thought of comments all along and regret not having contributed. A lot of the issues overlap. I understand that this post pertains to children who’ve already begun, or who may be about to, but I’ll start with a couple of general comments (that do relate to kids’ sticking with music study) then write the targeted ones.

    General comments:
    1. Don’t start them too early. This is a huge thing that I could go on about. Prepare the ground, but don’t push them too young or let them leap in without understanding that with the fun there is also responsibility (there are lessons on a schedule, practice must be regular) and without having formed even a small idea of the instrument they want to play. I wanted my children to wait until age 8 (though my son pummeled me until I let him start at 7). Preparing the ground is absolutely essential, but this post is already too long. The key stuff is pretty much below.

    2. Let them pick their own instruments. Part of preparing the ground is exposing them to both the sounds and appearances of each instrument, and not just once, and chatting about what they like and why. Funneling or forcing them into something that is your choice – or a school orchestra director’s – may backfire hideously, turning them away from music entirely. I believe in a classical music background. It’s the best foundation, even if a child is destined for the guitar. Regardless, listen to “Peter and the Wolf with them.” You’ll see why.

    Specific comments:
    1. On a space to practice: So important that there is a space, one a child is comfortable in, and is consistently that space unless (s)he wants a change. It’s essential that it not feel like exile. Dedicating a room is fine if it’s one the child is familiar with and comfortable in, and it’s not far away from the heart of the home – living room, kitchen, den. Even his/her own room can feel like exile. My son found his spot in the middle of the den and every day would drag his chair and music stand there. Noise is not so much an issue with today’s children. Gentle background sounds of cooking, people walking around, even talking softly, can actually be helpful, reassuring. Rather than exiling a child to a noiseless place, just keep the noise to a minimum during practice. When I was a child, my piano was in our very formal living room, where we rarely went, and which was removed from everywhere I felt comfortable. It was awful. Don’t do that.

    2. Practice time: The younger the child, the less required and the less there should be. If more than 15 minutes, have a small child take a brief break. If more than 20 minutes, a break for any child or teen. There is burn-out, and there is injury. Those are both big topics. Anyway, you may be thrilled that your child wants to practice for an extended time or you encourage it. Don’t do it. Music study for the long haul is a process of building.

    3. Support and encouragement: Too much can be bad. Hovering can be bad. Better to make things like listening to music organic than a regimen. Playing music regularly at home is great. Music in the child’s genre of study should be part of it. And music played by young people is important. It will help make music feel much more accessible and a child’s aspirations feel more achievable. A child who sees other young people playing will say “I can do that.” A child who hears only pros play might say “I could never do that.” At least some of the children they see play should be not much older, i.e. for preschoolers, an elementary school orchestra; for elementary school kids, middle schoolers; for middle schoolers, high schoolers. When a child is practicing, a “That sounds great!” from someone in the next room can be helpful.

    The struggling child: Learning to play does not always come easily, and too much struggle can be the end of music study for a child. If (s)he is in weekly private lessons, temporarily adding another could solve this. If (s)he is in a school music program, temporarily adding a private lesson could solve this. It’s important, in the early years, to be attuned to children’s degree of struggle. It’s also important to not make them feel they’re being punished. If extra help is feasible, ask the child whether (s)he wants it and be clear that it’s for a little while. It could be two months or two weeks to get past a road block. My daughter sometimes used her private lessons to work on her school (orchestra, band) music, and that was fine with me.

    Children should know that being able to study music is a privilege that not everyone gets to do, and that keeping their study going and working on it will be an amazing and special accomplishment. Even young children understand the concept of mastery and the degree of “specialness” and importance that comes with it.

    Oh – and don’t require your child to play for others. That can go either way, but probably at least half the time it’s dreadful.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful article. I will post it in our web. We are a Music Academy in Miami, Florida and we give this kind of hints to the parents.

  3. Great article. Only thing I’d caution against is purchasing a play-along CD to use because it would be hard for most students and parents to find an exact duplicate of the song being learned (there are so many versions of pieces and they’re in different keys) plus students may not always be able to keep up with performance tempo. Bastien has some play-along books and CDs that kids can use and I’m sure there are others.

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