Updated: May 16
By Christy | The Practicing Pro
Read the Blog HERE
Let's talk about teenagers and how to help them start the year off with their best foot forward in their music studies - whether they're at the beginner, intermediate, or advanced level.
Last year I interviewed a lot of teens about practicing. I asked them the simple question -
If they could change anything about practicing, what would it be?
Can you guess what they said?
* Nagging parents
* Not knowing what to practice
What are the Solutions? Let's look at each one:
FIRST THING TO CHANGE - "I have nagging parents"
a) Make a time to sit down together in a meeting with your child/teen. Look at them, no distractions, no multitasking - just them and your full attention. Ask them about their long term music goals for the year or next few years.
b) Write their goals down. It's official once it's written down. It's no longer a “floating around” idea and the chances are higher that it won't be forgotten.
c) Break that bigger goal down into smaller bite-sized pieces. What are the steps to get there from where you are now? Work backward from the end to the beginning. Write it down.
d) Schedule - quantify the time it will take for each step and assign each piece a time slot on a calendar/ schedule.
Come to an agreement that practicing needs to be done for 45 minutes each day before homework and TV. Block it in the calendar. Once a plan has been set, chances are you won’t need to nag them as much because they know what is expected of them if they want to reach their goals.
e) Change your language.
Reward the self-discipline it took your teen to practice according to the set schedule:
“I heard you practicing. I’m proud of you for sticking with the schedule. It sounds great! Your goal of mastering that piece is in sight.”
Don’t always treat it like a chore if not done there is a punishment.
Instead of saying “You can’t watch TV until your practicing is done” instead say -
“As soon as your practicing is done you can use the computer, watch TV, etc…”
Focus on the overall decided plan and schedule, as well as what will come next, and not specifically on practicing.
Tips for Teens:
When you practice, put your cell phone in a separate room from where you practice.
SECOND THING TO CHANGE - "I don't know what to practice"
The teens that I interviewed said they just don't know what to practice, they feel like they have too much and get overwhelmed not knowing what to do first.
Many students come to a lesson saying that they have “practiced”, but this can mean a different thing for every student. Some students like to practice the new and challenging pieces. Others prefer to practice pieces that they already know well or feel comfortable playing. And some students like a combination. At the end of the day, they will feel inclined to practice what they want to practice, and what that may look like can differ for each student.
Teenagers need to have practice charts. They need direction.
Always practice with some sort of a practice chart. Either loose and general or more specific. If you have any kind of goal, you have to have a plan. You wouldn't build a house and not have a plan. You wouldn't just show up on the job site and pick up what tool grabs your attention and start building the part you feel like building that day. You need to have a plan with very clear instructions and order of completion to have success building a house. Learning an instrument is exactly the same. Have a plan in writing with start and end dates and goals clearly outlined.
Students with a “no practice plan” or "just play what you want" philosophy usually stop playing over time. Unless they play with friends or in a group with peers (like a school band/orchestra program). But this mentality when just playing on their own or when taking private lessons is not the best plan for success.
Have a practice plan to make the most of your time. A detailed practice plan is so important if you are busy and/or have big goals. Someone who is not as busy or has more general goals can have a more general practice plan. The personality of the child and family is important here, so you will need to LISTEN and OBSERVE your teen to make the best practice plan for them.
Be careful not to assume that your teen is “like you” since you raised them a certain way. All people/teens are different and they may not act or think like you as they get older. Despite their environment, teens need to be observed carefully to be able to help them be successful in the way they need.
Here are 9 things for successful practicing with teens
(including links to blogs for more information and support)
1. Listening every day
Make sure you're listening..if you're not listening, you are working MUCH too hard for your results.
More on that - # 22 Listening (Valentines Chart)
2. Reviewing every day
If you want to improve your technique faster, review the pieces you already know.
More on that - # 31 Reviewing (Spring flowers)
The BIG SECRET HERE - Listen and Review
Teens especially sometimes like to skip these.
3. Long-range practice goal
What do you want to accomplish this year or in a few years?
For some teens, they know exactly what they want and when. Whereas others are either not sure or feel too vulnerable sharing.
Remember to listen to your teen and observe without judgment - help them to realize their own dreams and goals, and not yours. This can be hard!
Be flexible and make compromises For instance, let them play what they want to play in the summer and then decide on a program together for during the school year. etc...
4. Smaller steps to get to your goal
Be as precise as possible with what you need to do and for how long.
BIG SECRET HERE -
Use the Magic Practicing formula to improve the fastest when learning NEW things. You should know exactly how many times to repeat a new & hard drilling part. Don’t just pick an arbitrary number each time, KNOW the exact number of repetitions that you need to really start to feel comfortable with a piece
Interested in learning more? I offer a FREE masterclass in September/October & in January. I’ll teach you the Magic Practicing Formula. It will be a game-changer for you in your lessons and in-home music practices. Watch for it being announced online to grab your seat, or join our waitlist HERE.
5. Same place and time - repetition doesn’t only belong in the music - playing a piece over and over. There should also be some repetition in your practicing routine. For example, try to have your teen practice at the same time every day and in the same room at the same time. By feeling comfortable in a routine and getting adapted to a creative space, your teen is more likely to build confidence during their practicing.
If you don't practice regularly, you won't improve. Simple as that. But the duration between practices also matters. If you wait a while between practicing, you won’t always be able to pick up from where you last left off. You may have gotten a little rusty. That muscle memory got a little forgetful.This can be so discouraging. It takes time and practice to get back to a level from when you last stopped. I call it constantly “scraping rust” or “getting the rustie's out”.
Have you ever gone a long time without exercising (broken a bone, were ill for a long time, or simply lost motivation), and when you try to do an exercise it is much harder than it was when you were doing it regularly?? That's so discouraging, right? It’s the same with music. Keep your practice regular to avoid being rusty once motivation strikes again.
Remember, if you improve quickly and learn quickly, you will like it better! OF COURSE!
When I see and feel improvement it's EXCITING and I want to practice even more.
6. “As soon as, then” - put your practice time before something you always do and never miss.
More on that - #40 Habit Bundling
7. Music brings joy - Make sure they know how happy they can make others and how great music can feel for them in a personal way.
Beware: Busy and goal-oriented families/parents can miss this one completely.
Make sure your teen has learned that music is a gift that gives them the ability to make others happy.
It also can bring them great happiness on a personal level (coping with stress, working through emotions, creative expression, et)
When traveling and going on vacation, bring your instruments and find ways to make others happy on your adventures. When you review your music as part of your daily practice, you always have music on hand that you can share with others. Students that just play a song in a method book so that they can check it off and move to the next one, miss out on this. Make sure they have a repertoire of songs that they can play at a concert level that they review daily. That way, if they want to share with others or play somewhere more public such as a hotel room or park, it's a joy and not hard or embarrassing for them.
Nursing homes, children's hospitals, visiting other countries, playing in nature etThere is always a time and place to make people (and themselves) happy through music.
8. Easy concerts - Make your concerts all about bringing joy to others in the audience and NOT about playing your newest, hardest, most advanced or impressive piece without error.
As a parent or teacher, make your post comments be about how it made you feel or made others feel. Tell them about how it moved you or brought back memories. Don't focus on how clean it was,how complicated or advanced it was, etc.
What is your musical heritage? Make an effort to learn your traditional music. Feel a connection with your ancestors through music and then share it with others. You will be amazed to see the way it can move people that share a similar background.
Find groups that you like and listen to them regularly. Follow groups and watch for any new videos and recordings. See live concerts.
9. Let them be their best - Don’t surprise your teen by telling them they will give an impromptu solo performance for those family members that are visiting, or the neighbors who happened to pop by for a coffee. A teen put on the spot might smile and be polite, but they are likely hiding anxiety. Music is personal and no one should feel forced to play. It should be a choice made only by the person who is playing. If they do want to play, encourage them to play a piece that they know best. Something that they feel comfortable and ENJOY playing. Playing a piece they know best builds confidence and may make them more likely to want to perform again.
I can’t stress this enough. Do not make the mistake of using concerts/exams as an excuse to push your teen to practice. This might work in the short-term, but in the long-term, they are more likely to quit, or will secretly want to. Let them feel amazing when they perform. Let them feel accomplished. Find other ways to motivate them to practice besides "pressure practice performances". If they do want to perform at home, try to have them perform music that they know, love, and feel great about. This builds their confidence and their love for playing. I always recommend the 3-month performance-ready rule for a piece. They should be at performance level three months before playing it in a concert. We use this rule at our school and it is amazing!
10. Earn money!
Work as a musician at the local market, go busking, play a wedding, perform at nursing homes, be a piano accompanist, playing at restaurants, be a practicing buddy, etc. What better motivator for a teen than earning some pocket money?
EXTRA SUPPORT FOR PARENTS / TEACHERS
If you need extra support, or you just want to make sure you get it right the first time, join the Suzuki Practicing Academy This is the year to have amazing, effective, and easier music practices. This is a 6-week course where I walk you step by step through how to have amazing music practicing in your home. The course runs only twice a year - in October and February. Watch for registration which is open for TWO weeks before the course starts in September / October and in January. Spaces are limited, so you will need to act quickly once registration is open. I hope to see you there.
So that's it for today - it’s a big subject - we could talk about it all day!
9 things for Success with Teens & Practicing
1. Listen every day
2. Review every day
3. Have a long-range goal
4. Know small steps to bigger goals
5. Same place and time to practice
6. Master “as soon as”
7. Find the JOY in music.
8. Easy concerts
9. Let them be their b
Music is a gift for your teen.
Support your teen in their own musical dreams and goals, don’t just push for yours. There is room for both. Be creative and work together. You’ve got this!
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
DIGITAL COURSE - Practicing Pro Academy
Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course I built and teach for practicing parents and music teachers from the Practicing Pro Academy. It is an at-your-own-pace, six-week online course for teachers and students that will bring you even more successful practices with your players! I am also with you in person the whole time with Q&As to answer all of your questions. You can join the waitlist here.
Free PDF download
Checklist for an Amazing Music Practice
Your easy checklist to have successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
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