Learning any musical instrument is a long-term and often time-consuming activity, yet one for which the rewards are many and varied.
Even in the early stages, it is important that pupils respond to this challenge and that parents or carers both support and reinforce this commitment. With this in mind, the following are some guidelines with regard to practice for any instrument.
Learning a musical instrument involves the development of a remarkably diverse range of skills, ranging from hearing and listening through to motor coordination and logical and analytical skills. The diversity is one of the reasons why music is so often considered not only to be an activity which is hugely enjoyable in its own right but also one which is highly beneficial in assisting pupil's development right across the curriculum.
This development, however, requires an ongoing commitment from pupils and, crucially, parents or carers.
The mastering of such a wide range of skills is only achievable through ongoing and continual work in the form of practice. A lesson once a week merely serves to review ongoing work, monitor and correct any issues and set work for the coming week. It is therefore a mistake to assume that pupils will progress simply because they attend weekly lessons. The majority of progress can only be made through a pupil's practice in between.
The amount of practice, especially in the early stages, need not be huge, but the regularity of practice is of paramount importance. Pupils who practice consistently on a daily basis will make far quicker progress than those who practice only intermittently (less than 4 times a week.) Those not practising at all will struggle to ever progress in any real sense.
With this in mind, we offer some guidelines with regard to practice times. For any of any of these stages, we recommend a minimum of 5 practices per week. For pupils then this represents a little practice every school day:
Beginner - grade 1: 10-15 mins
Grade 1 - 2 : 15 - 25 mins
Grade 3 - 4: 25 - 35 mins
The key here is not marathon practice sessions, but the adage of 'little and often'. For primary school children, we have found that the best approach is often a short practice session every morning before school, built-in as part of the school day routine.
It is very important, particularly with younger pupils, that parents are actively involved in pupils practice. This need not necessarily entail musical or instrumental knowledge on the part of the parent (though this is a big advantage) but it means parents monitoring practice time and encouraging it where necessary. Creating a practice timetable is often a very good way of keeping tabs. Practice sessions can then clearly be ticked off.
It is the teacher's job to educate, motivate and inspire students, but we alone cannot ensure any real progression. That is down to students themselves and the active involvement of parents.