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“Mom, how do I play a G#?”

A Parent’s Guide For The Young Musician’s Practice Experience

Marc Whitlock

This scene is all too familiar: CHILD “Mom, can you help me with my math?”

MOM “Sure thing, sweetie!”

( hour later…)

CHILD “Dad, can you help me with my history?”

DAD “You got it, sport!” (later that evening)

CHILD “Mom… Dad… can you help me practice my instrument?”

PARENTS “ bet.....” (frantically searching on Google)

It is reasonable to assume that many parents have been in this situation without a clue on how to help their child, and doing an internet search will not provide the answer. Many parents have asked themselves, “I want to help my child with practicing but I don’t know anything about music and I wasn’t in band. How can I help?” As band directors, it can be difficult and frustrating to explain the practice regimen to parents with no musical background or experience. The disconnection from musical “common ground” seems as large as the Grand Canyon.

“Practice makes perfect!” We band directors know this is not the case. By learning how to practice smartly and efficiently, students will demonstrate higher rates of achievement and greater retention of information.

While time and a regular routine of practicing are important, the quality of their practice time is far more important than the quantity. Twenty or thirty minutes of efficient practice is more productive than an hour of unfocused practice.

The following information can assist band directors in their discussions with parents regarding the successful and accountable time and efforts of their child when practicing the instrument at home. These steps will also


show the child that their parents care about their musical education, that practicing is not a pain or burden to others, and that this investment of time and preparation to ensure the child’s success will mean a lot to the child in the long run. If you find the following guide useful, please feel free to reproduce it for your program.

Home Practice Guide for Parents The Environment of Practice

This is the first step a parent must take to ensure a successful practice session. The practice environment should be:

Relaxed and quiet – Similar to studying any other academic subject, practicing an instrument is a mental process. The practice environment should be as similar to a library as possible, except that your child can make lots of good sounds here.

Correct Temperature – The temperature range of 65-80 degrees is needed for the wind instrument to have the best chance to play in tune, with a temperature of 72 degrees being ideal. There are times that students have been sent to practice in the garage to avoid disturbing other people in the house. While it is understandable why parents might choose this course of action, it is not in the best interest of the child’s opportunity for success. The garage would have to be in the ideal temperature range. Abnormal temperatures can adversely impact the performance of their instrument, could possibly damage the instrument, and can cause the child to dislike practicing. Also, it may create a poor perception for the child that practicing is a chore and an inconvenience, instead of a labor of love.

Sturdy Chair and Music Stand – It is vital that the child’s practice space allow them to sit or stand in the same position they do in band class. A sturdy chair is important to help them sit in the correct posture. The child should never have to bend over to read their music, and a practice stand will allow the student to view their music exactly as they do on band class. Wire music stands are available for purchase at any reputable music company in your area.

Use a Mirror – It is imperative that students always check their embouchure to ensure it is being formed correctly, as this concept will be covered in class and illustrations often occur in the

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