If you have invested in music lessons for your child, the best way to maximise that investment is to follow up on how the lesson went each week. I love it when parents come to the lesson, or at least send a family member. For parents of very young children I make it a requirement, so that the follow up is done through the week. But for busy parents (perhaps of older pupils) who can’t attend, the next best thing is to equip them with some useful questions to draw out from their child what was both taught and learned at the lesson.
Did you have some new music today?
Asking about a new piece can tell you several things. If the child didn’t get something new to learn, it may be that they hadn’t established last week’s material and needed more time on it. If they did get something new, it means they are building on what they have learned and moving forward. It is always nice to share a new piece with someone and it gives the learner more incentive to press on and learn it well when a family member takes an interest.
Can you play it for me after dinner? (or whatever time is a good time for you both)
If your child is bursting to show you their new piece, it is going to be really helpful to find a time when you can give them your full attention. Full attention at an arranged time is going to be more meaningful than a quick, “show me now” sort of hearing.
Is there anything you are finding difficult?
Ask if they know what they should do if it is difficult. Suggestions if they don’t know:
- Find the hard bit – maybe over 1 or 2 bars.
- Play RH slowly, counting aloud one hand at a time – until 3x perfect in a row.
- Play LH slowly, counting aloud one hand at a time – until 3x perfect in a row.
- Play it again hands together – until 3x perfect in a row.
- Now see if you can play the whole line of music it is in.
If there was a trouble spot that seemed too hard, let your tutor know at least in an email so they can be aware of it in the next lesson.
Could you play one of your old pieces now?
Playing through older pieces often, in some sort of routine, is going to help the young musician become more confident and fluent. If they only ever play through the latest piece, they are always in learning mode. They need times to simply play music they know, happily and easily. This is the reason I usually like to keep the last 3 to 4 pieces ‘on the boil’ so to speak.
You played that beautifully! Would you like to play it for ‘X and Y’ next time they come? They would love to hear it.
It is so valuable for children to perform for friendly audiences such as friends or grandparents, especially something they like playing. This is why it is good to keep those older pieces that have become favourites up to a good performance standard. If they have a positive experience with a sympathetic audience, switching to another setting later is easier.
Shall we play together? (if you are a musician)
If there are duet parts that someone can play with the learner, it is best to do those with the pieces they know confidently. Some books have CD tracks to go with them. If so, listen to them with your child and see if there are any older pieces they know that they can play along with.
Could you show me how to play that? (If you are a non-musician)
Children do so well when a parent is keen to learn from them what they learned. You get double the value from the lesson too! And the child will learn it better as they teach it. Depending on the age of the child, choose something manageable for them to ‘teach’ you. Make sure you practice!
I hope you can find something to draw from to ask your child after their lessons each week. But it’s best that you don’t do them all in one hit! Whichever way you do it, the interest you take will have a direct effect on the enthusiasm of your child to keep at their learning when the initial novelty becomes routine.
In all of this, if you discover something your child particularly liked in their lesson, let the tutor know. Teachers are also investing in your child’s learning and are interested to know what is working well.