There has been a lot of talk in our home recently about the benefits of mulch in the garden, and the impact of putting wood chips and compost down around certain plants so that moisture is regulated and the plant gradually fed. There are parallels in providing ideal conditions when learning an instrument.
If you do not keep a plant’s irrigation and nutrition needs met, its growth will suffer. Similarly, it is not enough to rely on just the weekly lesson with the tutor to foster the growth in musical proficiency on the instrument. The surrounding home environment is key, but a healthy musical environment extends beyond the home as well. If you are a parent without a background in music, or one who doesn’t play an instrument, these tips are for you. Even though you are not playing yourself, there are still really good things you can do to help provide a good learning space for your child.
Here are 9 tips to fostering a healthy music environment, whether you are an adult learner or helping a child learner.
- Show interest in your child’s playing especially the day of the lesson. Be eager about hearing what was covered in the lesson.
- A regular time to practice and an expected length of time too helps learning become a natural part of life’s routine rather than a random thing you do just before the next lesson.
- Encourage them to take part in school music activities such as talent quests, dance groups, junior orchestra, percussion ensembles and choirs.
- If your tutor provides concert opportunities, don’t miss them. It is a good opportunity for your child to hear where other pupils are at. I have often seen great leaps in progress and enthusiasm to practice after these concerts.
- Look for opportunities to play at your local church. So much wonderful music from great musicians came out of their expression of worshiping God. Some children get involved with youth bands this way. I know for me this was a safe, caring place to grow as a musician.
- If more than one child is learning, it provides an environment for younger siblings to want to do it too.
- Play recordings at children’s bedtime which include a range of classical styles. Our children got very used to hearing their Suzuki Piano music recordings to go to sleep to. It was a great way to help them learn to really hear what was happening in the music.
- Send a video of your child playing their latest piece to your tutor, family or friends.
- Play your new piece to another family member or a sympathetic friend. This does take courage and effort but they will be proud of you and give you an encouraging boost.
- Some adult learners struggle to make practice times regular even with bags of enthusiasm. Check out my blog on the power of 5 mins if this is you.
- Find somewhere you can be accountable to others on a regular basis. If you’d rather not do it with your instrument, at the very least join a local choir. There are many musical skills you learn in a choir.
- It can be really hard for an adult learner to play at a basic level in front of children or other adults who are musical, but if you can swallow your pride and do it – it is worth it. Just make sure you are as practiced as you can be.
- Being involved in a church choir or music group can be a stepping stone to building relationships with musicians you can trust to share your experiences with. It’s a great place to learn how musicians can work together. Depending on the context it could also be a place to explore improvising and use of chord charts in the absence of written music.
- If you are learning an instrument maybe it could be fun to do it with another member of the family so you can encourage each other.
- You will know the best time for you to listen to music – often driving in the car is a great opportunity. But along with that, a time to just pause and listen to music before bed could be better than screen time for a good night’s sleep.
- By actually recording yourself playing you will hear the playback differently than when you are actually playing. It’s a fun thing to do and it makes you practice the piece to a better level than you might have.
- For either adult or child: Look for opportunities to hear music from different cultures. It may be harder to make the effort on this if the music seems strange to you. This is only because the sound patterns may have a different meaning to you because the meaning of the sounds is assigned according to the culture it comes from. But you can feel the enthusiasm that comes with music when people play what is their own.
Have I missed something that you do? Add your comment below so we can try your suggestions too.