Practice Pays Off

(a testimonial from a grandmother)

Kate takes her granddaughter, Shelby, to Mr. Brett's weekly piano class. She told us that often times Shelby will practice her piano and sing through her book 1 and book 2 songs in what they call their "hobby room". What was really cool, though, is that Kate said that Shelby's friends, who often sew and make crafts in the hobby room, frequently request Shelby to play and sing her songs because it helps them with their work. Situations like this have made Shelby's practice become less about practice and more about fun!

Parent As Student

Some of us have a hard time taking directions but are very good at being bossy. Ask your child to help you learn to play part of a piece they're working on right now, or just sit down and start noodling around on the keys. Presumably you will make many errors, possibly even starting with your hands in the wrong position, getting the rhythm wrong, forgetting the sharps and flats, etc.
You will have so much difficulty that you'll probably have to ask your child to point to the notes for you as you try to play it, to sing the song with you as you play it, to record the song for you so you know what it should sound like.
Often times they'll end up frustrated with you and just want to sit down and play it themselves. 
(Read between the lines on the intention of this activity) 

Contingency Contract

or If ---> Then

Think of something that you were going to do for or buy for your child anyway. Then gather paper, pencil and your child. Brainstorm together about the contingency, if______, then__________. 
For instance, you might say that they get one sticker, or one marble in the jar, for each complete practice session. Once there are a certain number of stickers or marbles, your child gets the prize. One of our parents set up a program where it takes a certain number of points to get a $3 prize, another number for $5 prize, and still another for a $7 prize.  She keeps the plan going for as long as it works.
Remember, all of these practice tips are valid, but usually what works for a week or two or three, won't work for six or eight in a row! The trick is to do the change up before they lose interest with the tip/strategy you're currently using.

Chore Swap

(requires that you have a rather outrageous and unusual chore at the ready in your mind.)


You are going to have fun with this one! Sometimes a person needs just to have an option in order to make the right choice. Here's how it works…You hear from your student "I don't want to practice today. " You respond very calmly and matter-of-fact, "OK, you don't have to practice. I have a different idea." You continue in that very calm and matter-of-fact way to explain to your student that often times in life we have choices.
"So here it is. You don't have to practice, you can do this chore instead." Child will generally ask what's the chore. That's when the fun begins for you! You go on to describe that all they need to do is the special chore, something such as sweeping the bathrooms, kitchen, patio/driveway, bagging everything up and taking it down to the trash.
Chances are they'll say, "do I HAVE to do that?" "Oh no, you can choose to practice instead, if you prefer."
This worked very well for us when our four sons were all learning piano at once, and we found it very entertaining for ourselves.

Use the Power of the Camera/Phone To Motivate Your Child

Most of us want to be fully prepared if we know we we'll be recorded.  Let your student know that you'll be recording the piece/measure/one line to share with Mom/Dad at work, Grandma/Grandpa, etc.  They will no doubt want to practice a bit harder once they see the first take! Hopefully the receiver of the recording will make a big deal about the effort and progress they observe. FaceTime or Skype are great tool as well.
To get your full value out of the camera/phone tool, keep the recordings and show them to the student from time to time so they can see how much they've improved - a very powerful reinforcer!

Remember:  We applaud the process as well as the final product!  

Helping Your Child to Do Their Best

First of all, students need clear directions and goals which are provided on a weekly basis by the very highly skilled Wagner's School Of Music teachers. Secondly, students do their best when they can experience some initial success. Thirdly, most students need help to organize their time and establish regular practice habits.

Consider this. Students have a math lesson every day at school with promptings by the teacher. Still, they sometimes need a little bit of extra help at home. It's reasonable that your child may occasionally face some frustration at home with their music. They don't see their teacher every day, so they very likely will need you to help them stay on task and to encourage them frequently. If we're honest with ourselves, we know that most learning experiences involve a little bit of frustration, whether it's learning to catch that first ball, hit a tennis ball, learn a new app on the computer, or even to tie a shoe! The trick is to just keep pushing through the frustration until you experience success! Experiences that take a bit of effort are perceived as more valuable.

So, never tire of encouraging your child. With our expertise at teaching children music and your encouragement and help at getting practice organized at home, they WILL experience success And have a lot of fun in the process!

Positive Motivation

 It's been said that, "A taste of success is the surest indicator of future success". The Christmas/Holiday recitals were that "taste of success". So here's the practice tip for January: Refer back to the joy, pleasure and pride of a job well done if they need a bit of encouragement. If they struggled, no worries, it's not a problem, merely an opportunity for growth! Refer back to previous practice tips: use praise & cell phone motivators to seize the opportunity to 'reboot'.


Praise your child's efforts, even if it comes to "Well done, you've got your thumb on middle C...your fingers are curved went to the piano all by're making a great effort...I love how you concentrate," etc.
New learning theory suggests that only praising the final "job well done" may actually work against your child's success. The thought is that they may, unknowing, conclude that only a perfect finish is worthy of praise, and thus they become more anxious and possibly less willing to "give it a go".