15 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Music Lessons

Help Your Child Succeed at Music Lessons

Do one of of these descriptions sound like you?

You signed your child up for music lessons because they have begging you for years to play an instrument.

Or, you play(ed) and instrument and couldn’t wait to get your own child started too.

Maybe, you always wished you could have taken lessons as a child and are excited to provide the opportunity to your children.

then reality sets in . . .

After the honeymoon phase is over, you realize that this is hard .

Making time to do anything everyday with our kids can be a challenge. When my kids were young, brushing teeth and combing hair could sometimes become an epic battle (who knew these things were such torture!?)

Developing the discipline to play an instrument? That is a whole other level.

We are choosing to do something hard everyday –  in order to achieve an end goal that children can’t really grasp. It certainly seems less important to their well being than teeth brushing and that makes it easier to quit when the going gets tough.

When everything is going well studying music is invigorating, exciting and a fun process to be involved in.

When things get tough what can we do as parents to help our children be successful in music lessons?

Here are 15 Ways you can help your child succeed:

 

  1. Make a long term commitment. Studies show this is more important than any other factor in music students long term success.
  2. Believe they CAN do it.  Suzuki teacher Alice Joy Lewis says that families she sees be successful are the ones that believe their child absolutely CAN learn to play well.
  3. Find the best teacher you can. A good teacher will help coach you through the rough patches and has the tools to help you turn things around when it’s feeling hard.
  4. Buy or rent the best instrument you can afford. Playing on a bad instrument is like trying to run in bad shoes. If it’s really hard to make a beautiful sound, playing the instrument is not that motivating!
  5. Find out what motivates your child and do that thing. When your child gains more skills on the instrument the music they learn will be their motivation. At first they need help to want to practice. Figure out what motivates them and do that thing a lot
  6. Be Encouraging. Don’t point out the 10 things your child is doing wrong. They likely know they are not Joshua Bell yet, encourage them with something they are doing well. Even if that thing is simply how hard they are working or concentrating. Children do more of what we praise – use that to your advantage.
  7. Help Build ownership. If practice = an adult tells me what to do, children tend to dislike it. Coach them through practice while also letting them feel like they are making some decisions. Ask questions. Give them two acceptable choices of what to practice next. Let practice become something that is for them.
  8. Find time in each day’s schedule for your child to practice. Children are not good at time management. They will need your help to find time to practice.
  9. Don’t give up! Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes our kids fight us on practice. Don’t give up. This is really normal. Your child can do it (see #2)
  10. Go to live concerts. Seeing performers play music live is so motivating! Many communities have free or inexpensive events to attend if you seek them out. Ask your teacher for recommendations.
  11. Connect your child to a social outlet for their music. Working on something hard, alone in a practice room is not the point of music. Play with and for other students. Join an orchestra when your child is ready. Attend a group class or simply invite a friend over who plays an instrument for a musical play date.
  12. Be your child’s biggest fan. We cheer when toddlers learn to walk (even though they hobble around and fall all the time). Cheer on any and all progress. Make sure your child knows you are their biggest fan no matter what.
  13. Make listening to music part of your family culture. When children are surrounded by music in their lives they are much more successful. Just like when we are learning a language immersion is the best way to pick it up quickly.
  14. Connect to other parents. Whether it’s in online groups, other parents in your studio or a friend whose child also studies music – connecting with other parents on the same journey can make us feel less alone and we can learn from each other what works best.
  15. Do something every day. Literally everyday. Play something, listen to music. What we do daily becomes part of who we are. What we do once in a while can be hard to follow through on. A daily habit is makes a huge difference.

What would you add to this list that has helped you or your child succeed in music lessons?

Here are some other articles on practice you might enjoy reading:

3 Minutes a day to radically change your practice sessions

You are Your Child’s Practice Environment

5 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy the Process of Learning Music

For In depth reading on the subject get your copy of 

Beyond the Music lesson here: 

Beyond the Music Lesson Book Cover

Back to School Practice Problems

Lessons have just started for the school year here in Oregon.

As a parent this can be a hard time of year for practicing with our kids.

Here are some things you might be experiencing at home right now:

Your child is getting used to long structured school days again and it feels unfair to make them practice at the end of the day.

Your child is tired after school and doesn’t have much energy left for practice.

Your teen is trying to figure out how to organize time for homework and practice is falling through the cracks.

You are exhausted by the frenzy of back to school activities and to be honest practicing with your kids is less than appealing right now.

Here’s the good news . . . 

Read more

Working Productively with Your Child in Practice

In the Suzuki method we work with our children very closely in practice. The younger a child is, the more parents are involved in the process.

As a teacher I depend on the parents in my studio to help their children practice and complete listening assignments at home. Without their help very young students would not remember all the details I am asking them to practice all week long.

Practicing with our children isn’t always easy though. You can read more about my struggles with my own children in this article: Confessions of A Suzuki Parent.

As a young mom and new teacher I had a pretty idealistic and unrealistic idea of how to practice well and it certainly got in the way of helping my own children learn their instrument to the best of their ability. At least until I started to learn more about how to do it well.

Ever since I have been trying to learn and share as much as I can to help parents and students work together successfully.

As parents we all have our own reasons for signing our children up for music lessons. It also becomes clear very quickly that one size does not fit all when it comes to practice tips and ideas.

It’s important to make sure we’re practicing in a way that works with the unique child in front of us.

How do we work together with all of this in mind?

Read more

3 Suzuki Podcasts Everyone Should Subscribe to

Listening to Podcasts is one of my favorite ways to learn new things and get inspired. Especially while exercising, cleaning or driving.

I listen to a variety of podcasts including shows about writing, creativity, business, books, and of course Suzuki teaching and parenting.

Today I wanted to share a few of my favorite Suzuki podcasts. They are great resources for parents and for teachers looking to fresh ideas and new perspectives about teaching and the Suzuki philosophy.

Suzuki Podcasts

I am not getting any perks for sharing these resources, although I do know a few of the podcasters who make them. My goal is to share great resources with readers of the blog. I also hope to hear from you (in the comments below) what podcasts you would recommend!

Here is a list of my favorites:

 

Building Noble Hearts  is a podcast produced by the Suzuki Association of the Americas. The production quality of this podcast is amazing. Each episode includes great stories about Suzuki himself and amazing Suzuki teachers in our community. My favorite episode is the one about Suzuki ECE. The episode includes the history of this program and how it benefits families –you can find that episode Here.

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The Teach Suzuki Podcast is another great resource and is produced by Suzuki teacher and blogger Paula Bird. I love the information the podcast shares for parents to use in order to work with their children effectively in practice and to better understand the Suzuki method. In each episode Paula shares her wisdom and many useful resources for parents and teachers alike. Here is a great episode about how to beat burnout – click here to listen.  

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 Chili Dog Strings podcast is another great resource. This podcast is actually hosted on the Suzuki teacher duo’s Youtube Channel where you can find all sorts of teaching and Suzuki parenting inspiration. I really enjoy Neil and Rachel’s style and their love of teaching shines through everything they do. I had the pleasure of being interviewed on one of their podcast episodes – you can listen to that episode here. 

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Another podcast worth checking out is Rachel Barton Pine’s Podcast Violin Adventures. The most recent episodes are from 2013 but you can still find all 80+ episodes online. They are really good! You don’t have to be a violinist, or be the parent of a violinist, to enjoy this podcast. It’s worth checking out.

What podcasts (Suzuki or related) do you listen to regularly? I hope you’ll share your recommendations in the comments below!

Scheduling Your Child’s Fall Lessons

As a parent I know all too well what it feels like to get children’s schedules lined up for the school year.

Your child may be involved in many different activities and it may feel like a puzzle to get them all to fit together.

Alternately, your family may limit activities to a couple each season but getting signed up for the right ones before they are full and making the schedule work for your family may be a challenge.

What about music lessons?

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Solving Interesting Problems and Learning to Lead 

I am currently in Stevens Point at the American Suzuki Institute and while driving around Wisconsin this week I heard a great podcast episode with Seth Godin. 

In it he talked about the fact that what kids need to learn, in order to be successful in our new economy, is not compliance but rather to learn how to lead and how to solve interesting problems. 

As I was listening to the episode,  it made me think of what I am learning this week in my practicum course. 


On the first day, everyone in the class started off by sharing with one another “why” we teach.

 I think for everyone in the class the “why” was some version of: teaching so that we impact the lives of our students and are part of the process of watching them grow and develop as people in addition to develop their instrumental skills. 

I couldn’t help but think that part of what makes our jobs as Suzuki teachers (and Suzuki parents) so interesting and exciting is that we are engaged in this very type of innovate thinking about children that Seth Godin talks about. 

We are asking our children and students to solve interesting problems musically and on their instruments in ways that give them unique problem solving skills. 

We are teaching them to lead – in group classes, in the studio, at home with siblings, and in ensembles. 

Music study has a unique way of helping develop successful students who are also leaders. 

What the world needs are people who can think and people who can lead.

 How lucky we all are to be able to work on developing this in our students and children every single day through music. 

It is exciting work!

(Listen to the podcast I heard here)

Success Breeds Success

“Success Breeds Success” is a well know Suzuki concept that many people have heard before. On the surface it makes logical sense, but what does it look like in practice?

It’s easy to nod our heads, say: “yes that is so true” and totally forget about it when we are teaching our students or practicing with our children.

I see this concept in action in the most obvious of ways when I teach Suzuki Early Childhood classes (SECE). New students who are old enough to play an instrument with the teacher’s help, may not want to at first. Instead they often choose (and need) to observe for a number of classes.

Eventually the come up for a turn, sometimes bringing a parent up with them for reassurance.

After a time (which varies depending on the child) they start to come up for a turn, maybe quite tentatively at first.

Lots of praise is given at each of these stages. Success with observing closely leads to success on being able to do the task with help. Success at this step leads to success with independent turns.

An instrumental student goes through a similar process but sometimes it happens more slowly, and is harder to see as clearly.

success breeds success

I may have a young violin student who is learning to hold the bow. At first their fingers struggle to form the shape of a bow hold at all and we just notice the effort they put into trying it.

Over time they make a bow hold with parent help and then eventually independently (sometimes with varied success at first).

Again we praise each level of development.

Success at the effort to make a bow hold leads to success of making bow holds with the parents help. All the repetitions of that process equal success at independent bow holds down the line.

“Wow your muscles are more relaxed today!” is much more motivating for future effort and future success than pointing out the 5 things that (in fact) may still need work.

Criticism breeds insecurity and fear of failure.

Success (and celebration of that success) breeds more success.

How have you noticed this concept at work when working with your own children or students?

Have you purchased your copy of Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families? Purchase and email your receipt before August 1st 2017 to Christine@Suzukitriangle.com to get bonuses including parent discussion questions, a printable PDF, and access to a facebook community where we’ll discuss topics from the book and go through a book club this coming fall. 

Habits of Successful Suzuki Families

The following is an excerpt from the book Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families which officially comes out on Amazon Thursday June 22nd.  It is meant to be a resource for families looking to answer the question: “How do we make the Suzuki method work in our every day life?”

 

I was a Suzuki student, starting lessons at the age of two and a half. There are parts of being successful at the Suzuki method that I take for granted, because I’ve never known anything else.

As a teacher, though, I am often reminded that there are many parts of what make this method work that are new ideas to the families I work with.

Some of them require changing how a family plans their day, or how they interact when working with each other one-on-one.

It’s my job to explain how families can help their child be successful at studying their instrument through small, day-to-day changes and through shifting their mindset about their role in the process.

As a Suzuki parent, I struggled with all of this myself. So I want to do everything I can to make it easier for the families I work with.

That has caused me to spend the last eighteen years learning all that I can about what it is that makes families successful. The more I have learned about the topic, the more I am able to help the families in my studio. Learning an instrument is difficult. Without the right information and expectations, many people struggle or even give up, which is not the outcome I want as a teacher.

 

Book : Beyond the Music Lesson

Why This Message Needs to Be Heard

I end up having a lot of conversations, both online and in person with other teachers. We often talk about what books we ask parents to read to learn more about the method. Of course, many teachers ask families to read Nurtured by Love by Dr. Suzuki,

but what next?

What resource gives a good picture of how the Suzuki method looks today, here and now, and in our own lives?

To that question, there are many varying opinions but no consensus that I’ve ever heard.

Certain books are good for technique, and others give some good insights into part of the process.

But what resource addresses the question, “How does the Suzuki method look in modern times, in our lives today?”

That’s what I’ve been looking for.

Since I haven’t found a resource that does this well for me, over the past few years, I have written my own set of parent education materials for the families in my studio. I try to answer questions before they come up about practice, the environment we create for our children to practice in, why playing in a group or with other people is important, why repetition and review is going to be a big part of our work together, and other such subjects.

Giving out more detailed materials like these, I have seen a dramatic change in how new families approach lessons and how successful they are at navigating the process from beginner and beyond.

This book [Beyond the Music Lesson] combines those materials with interviews and success stories to help answer the question, “How do we make the Suzuki method work for our family today?”

I hope teachers will find this book a useful resource for sharing with the families in their studios and most of all, I hope parents will find it encouraging and helpful to set up successful Suzuki habits in their homes.


 

To read more you can find your copy of Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families  (ebook or print) over on Amazon by clicking HERE
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Not sure the book is for you? Read a great book review HERE

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Bonus Material: Order you book by August 1st and email the receipt to Christine@SuzukiTriangle.com to receive:
  • a pdf of parent discussion (or book club questions)
  • a printable infographic of the habits of successful families
  • an invitation to join a private facebook community where we will discuss the ideas in the book and have a book club this fall. Get your Copy Today! 

 

 

How Collaborating Helps us Thrive

This post contains an affiliate link. That means if you click to buy something it helps support this blog but does not cost you anything extra.

 

Sometimes private music teaching can be lonely. Unless a teacher is part of music school there are often many hours spent working alone, planning alone, and running events alone and it can be a bit isolating.

I taught in a music school for 10 years and then about 6 years ago left to start my own studio. There are many things I love about running my own program, but I do miss the people.

When I spend too much time teaching in isolation I find my creativity goes down. I find myself getting burnt out more easily.

I recently read Jeff Goins new book Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age (which officially comes out today – get your copy here!). As an aside I think that it should be called “Real Artists Don’t Have to Starve” but once I put aside arguing with the title in my head, it was a fantastic book about thriving while doing creative work, and I highly recommend it.

 

Collaborating

A few chapters of the book that stood out to me as a musician, writer and teacher but my favorite one was on the importance of collaboration.

Mostly because I have seen first-hand what a difference this makes.

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Working Productively With Parents

This article was originally given as a short presentation at the Suzuki Association of the America’s Leadership retreat last week. It was parent of  a series of short talks about working productively with parents. If you would like to share it please do!

 

How do we work productively with the parents in our studios? How do we help new parents understand what being a Suzuki parent involves? How do we help them be successful working with their child as they learn and grow?

I was trying to come up with the most useful thing I could share with other teachers on the topic of working with parents. So, I started to think about all of the things I do in my studio like conferences, parent education, and parent talks.

There are lots of things we can do as teachers to help parents be successful. However, I would like to ask teachers to think bigger picture than that.

Working Productively with parents

As a young violin teacher I heard a concept that blew my mind at the time. When you look at the beginner student in front of you – don’t think about what they need in order to learn to play twinkle. Think about what they need in order to play a Mozart Concerto and teach them with that in mind.

I believe we need to do the same thing with new Suzuki Parents.

  • What do the parents we work with need to know about the process of helping their child thrive in the Suzuki method?
  • What can we explain better from the start that will keep parents from struggling later?
  • What bad habits can families get into that might not matter for a beginning student but will cause big problems down the road?
  • How do we take parents – who probably don’t know what they are getting into when they get started with us and help them make the Suzuki method work in their everyday lives?
  • How do we help get them come on board and be willing work with us to help their child succeed?

When I think about the families that I work with the most productively I think about families that:

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