Practice Is About Progress NOT Perfection
Did you know that drop out rates amongst young piano students are very high?
According to the research study conducted by Slobda and Howe (1991) and many other similar studies carried out since then by Comeau (1998), Biggs (2010) and many more – the numbers are quite bleak.
Less than 47% of kids who start playing piano, continue with their piano lessons for more than 1 year
This drops further to 24% for the children returning to piano lessons after the 2nd year and the number drops even further with only 19% returning for a third year.
In order for children to become at least somewhat proficient at playing piano they need to consistently practice and the course of study often takes at least 4 – 6 years to get them to an intermediate level.
If children make it through the first 4 years of piano lessons its more likely that they will stick with it in the long term and the reason for that is, after 4 years or so of solid learning, they have acquired the technical skills necessary to help make it more rewarding and self motivation kicks in at that point.
Now, the question is, how do you get from year 1 to year 4?
Well, there are the obvious solutions like – finding an engaging teacher or online piano course, having a robust curriculum, encouraging and supporting your child etc.
Yes, all of the above ingredients are essential, but all of the above without consistent practice will not lead to mastery of the skill and without mastery of fingering, movement, sight reading and much more, the child is not going to find that it gets easier.
Rather if your child does not practice, he will see that he cannot progress very far and that in itself will be a demotivating and will lead to him giving up on his dream of becoming a pianist or a musician.
Now we come to the next problem.
Yes, that is what is the most off-putting of all.
It is one of the many reasons I gave up playing piano, many, many, many times.
Its boring, its tedious, it requires rigour, it requires focus, it requires a strong work ethic and most of all it requires a lot of patience.
All of which kids don’t have a lot of.
Even we adults don’t have a lot of these traits or enough to see us through acquiring a new skill.
So, how do we get over this hurdle then and ensure that our children stick with piano lessons and practice in the long term?
Practice is very important, we have agreed on that.
But we know that it is the hardest part of the learning process.
So, the best way to make it more palatable is to have a change of mindset.
I can imagine your eyes glazing over now.
Please stay with me and read on.
Here are five mindset changes you have to make now!
You also have to help your child make the same changes.
Mindset Change No 1 – Practice Is About Getting Better
When we practice, we should do so with the aim of improving not simply playing perfectly.
No one can play a difficult piece perfectly the first time unless they have mastered their craft and as a learner, mastery is the end goal but the current goal is to continuously improve.
So every little bit of improvement even if it is miniscule like playing two measures accurately when previously your child could only play one measure accurately should be considered as an improvement.
Mindset Change No 2 – Take It In Bite Sized Pieces
Instead of trying to play an entire sheet of music, try playing and mastering one bar line at a time. Doing so will not only help break up the entire task into smaller tasks but it will also help reduce the stress that your child feels.
Furthermore, there will many short term victories, that will help to build confidence in your child.
Mindset Change No 3 – Celebrate the Victories
Yes, I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again. It is very important that even the smallest victory is celebrated.
Doing so will help your child focus on how she is improving rather than what she is not doing correctly.
Mindset Change No 4 – Habit Building
Long term musical studies require much dedication and practice, this is the same with mastery of a sport or some other skill.
Look at practice not simply as an exercise to improve or finally become perfect.
Look at it also as a habit building exercise.
Pat your child on the back for taking the initiative to practice even if there was no improvement seen in that particular session.
Pat him on the back for taking the steps necessary to build a habit that will be very useful not only in this area of his life, but in many other areas, as practicing on a consistent basis, inculcates discipline.
Mindset Change No 5 – Perseverance
There are going to be times that even with consistent practice your child will not see any improvement, this is normal.
Everyone plateaus at some stage and it can be very frustrating both for yourself and your child.
However, this is no reason to give up. So always praise your child for persevering and not giving up.
Tell her that even though she hasn’t really seen any improvement in the last few days, the positive changes are happening below the surface and before long it will manifest itself in improved playing and praise her for continuing to play without giving up.
What do you think of the mindset changes I have discussed above?
Did I miss any?
Comment below or email me and let me know if you can think of any other mindset changes that we should make around practice?
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Creator of the Teach Your Child Piano Series
Karen’s programs are grounded in her signature method the Transformational Five Framework, which ensures that all learners gain a solid foundation to help them master the art of playing piano.
It is Karen’s dearest wish that all children, irrespective of their background are able to experience the joy of music in their homeschool. And to this end, it is her vision to reach out to a million or more moms’/parents’ who have always dreamed of teaching their kids music, but couldn’t do so because they were not taught music as kids.