Locate a qualified teacher.
Teachers are necessary in order for children to succeed with music lessons of any type. Teachers teach and motivate students to excel and encourage by coaching. I think it is important that teachers teach students how to practice as part of the lesson time. I often show my students ways to practice certain sections of music by having them actually practice a section in the lesson. I then remind them that this is what they do at home. I also share practice ideas that work for me because all musicians have to practice, even teachers! When practicing doesn’t happen, progression as a musician stops no matter how many years one has played an instrument. A good teacher should also teach theory and explain the “how” and “why” of the curriculum.
Practice with your beginning student.
Most beginning piano books are self-explanatory, even for people with very little or no music instruction. It is not enough to tell young children, “go practice.” When parents show an interest and practice with beginning students, this sets them up for success in later years.
Require regular practice times at home.
Children who decide when to practice will most often not practice. There are always exceptions to the rules. Some students practice because they want to practice. My mother had practice requirements for me at home, and she made sure I followed through with the requirements. When students do not practice, they will progress very slowly and sometimes not at all. Practicing even one or two times a week is not enough. Daily practice produces the best results (5-7 days a week). Practicing what the teacher has assigned and practicing correctly is a must!
Limit extracurricular activities.
So often, students have involvement in so many extracurricular activities that it is difficult to succeed at any of them. Unfortunately, music lessons usually end up at the bottom of the to-do list. If parents pay for music lessons and want children to learn, the lessons must be attended and deemed important.
Adopt a “no quitting” policy.
My mother determined that I would not quit piano lessons. There were many times when it was hard, and I didn’t enjoy it, especially in those first few years. However, she encouraged me along the way until I began to love the instrument and had a desire to excel. Students who drop in and out of music lessons will also have a difficult time making progress due to lost ground during the drop-out times.
Listen to good music in your home.
Music is so accessible these days! Listening to it makes us aware of sounds around us and helps us develop good ears to recreate beautiful sounds.
Own a quality instrument.
Students who practice on broken instruments have a hard time practicing. You don’t have to own the most expensive instrument in the world, but own one that is in good working order. As a pianist, I think it is important to practice on a tuned instrument with all working keys and pedals.
Use extra materials as needed.
Flashcards are great for at-home use. The Internet also has games and resources for music exploration. Microphones and rhythm instruments are also fun for encouraging music learning.
Encourage a love of music at an early age.
For more ideas on how to do this read, Four Ways to Develop a Love for Music in Your Baby or Young Child, here.
Don’t expect progress overnight! When I began piano lessons at age eight, I thought it wouldn’t take very long to learn how to play like the church pianist! Boy was I wrong! Learning to play an instrument is a life-long journey! The more you practice, the better you will be, no matter your age!