Tag Archives: music theory

How can I get my child to do their music practice?

Here are our 5 top tips to achieve regular and effective practice between music lessons…

1) Don’t set unrealistic goals.

10-15 minutes good practice 5 times a week will achieve a much better result than an hour crammed in before a lesson, or no practice at all because you can’t fit in a longer session around other activities. Without the pressure to set aside an enormous amount of time, children will often play for longer by choice (or by accident!) once they get into a routine of little and often.

2) Treat regular instrument practice in the same way that you treat other homework.

You wouldn’t let them off Maths homework would you? By treating music lessons with the same importance yourself, you are setting an example to your child. Even if you don’t play yourself, or them wanting music lessons seems like a bit of an unusual choice, by gently giving the message that you expect it to be taken seriously, you are giving them the best chance of making the most of the opportunity they have.

3) Make sure your child has all the necessary tools to work with.

If playing an instrument is a new venture, it is understandable to make a minimal financial investment until you are sure your child is committed to learning to play, especially if they tend to get bored with things. However, there are two things which are proven to improve the chance of them sticking to music lessons. A stand for their instrument so it is on display instead of hidden away in a case means that if they only have a few minutes to spare, it’s easy to pick up and play. It’s also less likely to be forgotten until just before the next lesson, or damaged accidentally. Also, a music stand will make it easier to practice in the correct position and achieve progress more quickly. It’s impossible to follow all of a teacher’s rules if you’re leaning over the bed or sofa to see your book!

4) Be aware of the reasons why your child might be avoiding playing.

It’s less likely that your child will stop playing because they dislike doing it and far more likely that other factors will play a part. The most common are peer pressure, other activities, reaching a point where it seems hard to progress (a plateau) and issues with the teacher. It’s very easy to get into a battle of wills over music practice but a quick chat to see if any of these are causing a problem is much more productive and less stressful.

Often, it’s simply the style of music being played that causes frustration. Most teachers are very happy to mix in modern pop and rock, jazz or other styles to keep things interesting. Don’t be afraid to approach them and ask.

5) Encourage involvement in group music opportunities.

Students who play in orchestras, jazz groups, rock bands and even sing in choirs have a better track record for continuing to play. Find out what activities are available at school or get in touch with your local Music Hub who will be offering all sorts of music groups for all abilities throughout your area. In North Tyneside, you can visit www.ntmeh.co.uk to see all the fabulous, free activities your child can enjoy.

How to survive music theory

And what’s the point of it anyway?

So, you got your Grade 5 on your chosen instrument – well done! And what reward do you get? Yep, you get to take your Grade 5 theory exam. The thing is, even if it’s the first time you have done a music theory exam, you already know a lot of the required information or you wouldn’t have achieved everything you’ve done so far. It’s just that getting it all down on paper can be a little confusing, especially as some of the words will be new to you.

How do you give yourself the best chance of passing? Mainly by being positive and open-minded. Theory is nowhere near as complicated as it first seems as long as you try to relate it to actually playing music. There are lots of past papers available from any good music shop to give you an idea of what it will be like and recently, model answers have become available too so you can test yourself.

Don’t let yourself be easily put off. Understanding all this stuff now is what will make you a stronger musician in the future. You won’t always have a teacher and knowing about the different periods of music, styles of composition and the descriptive words that tell you how to play a piece will be really handy later on, particularly as you’re approaching the top grades.

There is another way!

If you really cannot stand the idea of a written theory test or you are being held back by not passing, talk to your teacher about the Jazz Exams or Practical Musicianship. These are practical exams not unlike the ones you are used to and a pass at Grade 5 will allow you to go forward. There’s more info at the Associated Board website.

Why not tell us your music exam experiences and your tips for getting through them – we’ll post the best ones right here.