I am midway through two weeks of school holiday time and, though enjoying the break, I am conscious of my to do list. All through the school term I’ve been putting off a number of jobs I needed to do. My wardrobe needs a good sorting out, but that can probably wait. Right now I’d rather write a blog about procrastination instead!

Hopefully your child or children enjoy doing their practice, but I know it is not always the case when they are tired, or there is a lot of other homework to do, or there is a screen not far away with a really cool game… the list could go on.  Playing an instrument has some instant rewards but often it does involve some repetitious work to make meaningful progress. To avoid the learner putting it off, here are 7 tips to deal with it in whatever way it may affect your situation.

  1. Plan on a performance of some sort. This gives a meaningful goal to work towards. I usually have some sort of annual concert for my pupils, but family performances are ideal to work towards when there is a family gathering. There may be opportunity for a school talent quest. Let me know in advance if you need help on playing an appropriate piece.
  2. Clear time frame. Practice needs to be scheduled, providing a clear time length (suitable for the age of the pupil) and regularity, so that there are no reasons to put it off. We can’t underestimate the value of routine. It’s like wearing comfortable shoes, you just slip into them.
  3. Be accountable with clear expectations. Make sure you understand from your tutor exactly what is supposed to be practiced. This way all parties are on the same page about what needs to be done from week to week.
  4. Interesting music to play. Playing music the pupil is interested in can be one of the main motivators to get to practice. If they want to learn something that is not in the material provided by the tutor, they may need some help to make sure the music is close to their level of ability so they don’t give up on it easily. It may be a piece they really like that is beyond their ability now, but could be arranged to suit their current level. Or there may be a style of music they like. Some of the most helpful pieces I have written for pupils have come out of a particular need or interest. So, again, let me know if this is something I could help you with.
  5. No space for frustration. The expression: ‘hitting your head against a brick wall’ is a metaphor for frustration. Maybe the task is too big and all attempts at it fail miserably. Try using a hammer and take down one brick at a time! So in our music we need to start by breaking down the difficult parts of music into short, easy to play sections. If at the piano, practice with separate hands and get them correct before putting them together.
  6. Deal with the difficult sections. If you only play the stuff you can without conquering the difficult you don’t move on to the next level. Measure perfect practice, so that the progress made is really clear. Three times perfectly in a row for 1 small, difficult part corrected is no small feat. It feels so good when achieved. When I help pupils through this process in lessons I see the work it involves but also the satisfaction of getting it perfectly played. I count progress using an abacus in a variety of ways to suit the situation.
  7. Rewards are great motivators once we get them in place. Practice charts, star charts and the like are all helpful.  If we work together on what a desired achievement could be, the incentive will definitely help motivate practice. How about a star chart that rewards completed practice with a treat? This might be something like going on a special outing once a chart is filled up. A musical concert is an excellent reward for music practice goals reached!


I hope there is something there that registers with you.

Now that I have confessed about my wardrobe, I’m going to do it... right after I put the jug on for another cup of coffee  🙂

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