It’s a common situation. Your child’s been having lessons for a few weeks/months/even years, enthusiasm in bundles, and then suddenly, like that, they’re becoming more resistant to playing. You keep encouraging, reminding and then nagging until it gets to the point where it’s stalemate and the worst happens: music becomes a chore, unenjoyable and something they resent.
So, here we offer our tips on keeping your child’s enthusiasm for playing:
Make sure you are involved from the beginning. This means communicating with the teacher and checking what they’re doing in lessons rather than just reminding them to practise. Try sitting with your child when they’re practising-you could learn the instrument alongside them. This helps as you can really see how they’re progressing, and recognise areas that are more of a challenge/fun/easy and change the balance before they start to wane.
Talk to your child and keep the communication open. You’ll know what they’re enjoying most as this will be what they play the most. But ask what they’re enjoying, why they like it. If they’re a bit more advanced what kind of pieces they like playing, is it the jazzy ones, the more classical ones etc. Do they like sight reading new music? Playing familiar tunes or making up their own music? Ask them what’s a bit trickier and get used to discussing it all. You’ll be able to get a much better idea of the whole picture and may be able to pre-empt a lull in enthusiasm.
Exams work for some not for others. Remember that above all your child has got to be having fun and enjoying playing. Some children thrive off working towards a goal whereas others find it intimidating. Exams aren’t the be all and end all and should be used as benchmarks rather than the only focus of playing. They may be something needed for school but remember that some of the best musicians didn’t learn this way. It can be hard to know how to guide your child if you are not from a musical background yourself but there are many different routes to learning music as well as the traditional sight reading route. Playing by ear, composition and learning chord patterns should also be incorporated for a broad and exciting journey so keep talking to your child’s teacher and make sure they can offer this. Which leads on to...
Find out about the teacher. Each one will have their natural leaning but make sure that teacher can be flexible depending on your child’s needs/interest. If a teacher only wants to teach a particular type of music or only focuses on sight reading, for example, they may be missing out on what really brings out your child’s enjoyment in music. If your gut tells you that you need a teacher with more enthusiasm/a broader outlook don’t be afraid to find someone else. Your child won’t want to keep having lessons if they’re not enjoying them.
Be relaxed and allow your child to try a few different instruments. You may want your child to take piano or violin lessons but maybe they naturally take to the guitar instead. Keep an open mind. Some children progress faster than others initially. It doesn’t mean they’re not musical if it seems like a slow start. Allow your child to find their own thing and they will naturally want to keep playing and practising. Remember that no amount of nagging to practise will make your child want to play and ultimately it’s got to come from them.
Encourage them to play with others. This can really fire up enjoyment as it is so different to learning and practising solo. Google your local area and find out if there are any classes or groups going; Perhaps band type arrangements, choirs, orchestras etc. Do they have any friends that would like to join them?
And lastly... Not all children will want to carry on with music. The rare few will make a career out of performing but ultimately if they enjoy their instrument and what they’re playing they will be able to pick it up at any point and have a skill for life. If it is something they see as positive and enjoyable you are giving them many opportunities in the future to work in one of the biggest industries in this country.