An easy solution that will be music to your ears!
More often than not, when kids practice by themselves they have a difficult time keeping a specific goal in mind as they play their piece over and over again. Their practicing becomes painfully inefficient, their progress slows down, and boredom sets in. Soon your budding musician becomes less and less motivated to practice. He whines every time you remind him to just “sit down and practice” and you start wondering why you are spending all this money and time on music lessons. What do you do?
Since letting your child quit is only for wimps you try everything from practice games and coloring books to stickers charts, or even edible rewards to get your child to practice more effectively. Even though it seems to be working, you soon start noticing that your little musician is spending more time playing the game, choosing which crayon to use, or which sticker to put on the chart than actually playing his instrument! That’s when you start questioning yourself… is all this time and money really worth it? Maybe my child has no interest or musical talent after all?
As a busy mom and music teacher, I too, was continually searching for a simpler way to motivate my students to practice. In my search I found the most effective motivator to be jars of pennies or marbles, or even colored candies to help the students keep track of successful repetitions. (Similar techniques are used by speech therapists.) However, there was a huge down side: I was spending way too much time fishing pennies from between the piano keys, or retrieving marbles that had rolled under the piano. I was determined to find a better way!
In desperation I decided to keep the beads under control by stringing them on a loop of wire that I cut from an old wire coat hanger which I then stuck the ends into a piece of Styrofoam. I handed it to my husband who willingly took my prototype to the workshop. He figured out a way to secure the wire in a wooden base, and surprised me with his own design: a double eighth note! It was an instant hit! The “Play It Again!” Practice Note was born. That was in 1986. Even today, my students (and grandkids) never tire of trying out new ways to flip the beads from one side to the other as they practice or during their lesson. I have found that the visual, tactile and aural reinforcement is all my students need to stay on task. The beautiful music that fills my ears and the confident smile that appears on their face (as I applaud their success) is all the reward I need!
Melody Baker, B.S., MT-BC
(Melody has been teaching voice, piano and guitar since 1980. She is currently a music teacher and music therapist in the central California foothills.)