Practicing an instrument for fun ?

What is the necessary involvement ?

As a music teacher, I have often been confronted with these questions: How much work does my child have to do per week? Is it really necessary to make him work at home? Sometimes, some parents attach great importance to their child's progress. For others, on the other hand, music lessons are above all an opportunity for the child to develop and discover. In this case, it is out of the question for parents to impose work at home, as the impetus should come from the student himself. 

To answer these questions, I would say that several factors must be taken into account, the first being the age of the child. For my youngest students, between the ages of 5 and 8, the emphasis is on play and discovery. Learning must absolutely be playful and theoretical notions are introduced only sparingly, at a pace dictated by the students. Whether it be drum lessons, piano lessons, guitar lessons, singing lessons or any other instrument, this principle remains permanent, beyond the subtle differences that can be found between the learning processes of these different instruments. 

At this stage, I introduce for my part a small amount of homework, which is intended to give the student the impulse and put him/her in the situation of having something to do at home. In this way, he has the opportunity to get involved, accompanied by his parents. These homework assignments are always optional and the smooth running of the course does not depend on their completion. 

Enrolling your child in a semi-private class of 2 or 3 students, depending on the instrument, is a major asset to encourage the playing side, because don't we say "the more the merrier"? The pleasure of the game is therefore of prime importance here, without any other conditions. It will be a little different at a higher level, as I describe below.

From a slightly older age, from 7 or 8 years old, I could observe a noticeable change in most of my students: at this stage, they want to play on music they know and they need it to move! There must be something new on a regular basis. A greater dynamic in the lessons is then welcome for these children, who now enjoy moving forward and progressing, being aware of the work accomplished.

Now it is important to distinguish the learning of music from that of other artistic disciplines, because it is indeed more demanding. Someone who takes painting or pottery lessons can simply go to their weekly class and immediately enjoy it, without having to work at home, as the creative aspect is immediately accessible. 

On the other hand, it is difficult to enjoy playing a violin before having spent some time learning... It will take work and patience, before the student can finally feel the freedom to play, then improvise and, why not, create. Before that, he will go through a learning phase, during which it will be difficult for him to do anything other than the exercises he has been taught. Likewise, a beginner who receives his first drum set at home and who does not progress will quickly get tired of hitting at random. 

If a pupil does not work on his instrument, interest will gradually diminish and, at the same time, discouragement may appear. In this situation, the lessons also become repetitive, the progress of a student who does not work at home being generally very slow. In these conditions, the practice quickly becomes boring, learning the instrument is painful and the student ends up stopping.

In response to this, I encourage parents to set up periods of work at home, which has allowed me to observe exceptional results! It doesn't take much: 2 to 3 times 10 minutes a week is more than enough in the early years. It is, of course, a matter of finding the right balance, encouraging the child to work at home, without it becoming a chore. From then on, the benefits are multiple. 

Firstly, the student progresses rapidly and sees his exercises and pieces vary much more. Classes become more dynamic, i.e. less repetitive. Secondly, the student who notices his progress gets satisfaction and motivation to go further. 

After several years of experience with this approach, I have had many testimonials from parents who have told me that their child, often as early as the second year of practice, was playing and doing homework spontaneously, while having fun at the same time. It was no longer necessary to remind them of this. A lot of children need a little help at the beginning; doing so allows them to show that they are capable of progressing, they gain self-confidence, which is an essential point.

When such a dynamic is put in place, I encourage semi-private courses because they offer many advantages. However, it is imperative, in order to guarantee the quality of the courses for 2 or 3 students, that the students follow a more or less similar progression dynamic. They must progress together, hence the importance of homework (see our article on the differences between private and semi-private courses).

In view of the above, I personally think that encouraging the child to work at home makes sense. This is until adolescence, a period of responsibility for the student, which makes things different. 

But, of course, the approach and the method have to be adapted on a case-by-case basis. It can happen, in different situations, that a student may enjoy music lessons, without wanting or being able to work at home. In such cases, the lessons are more personalized and the semi-private approach - in groups of 2 or 3 students - is no longer appropriate.

In short, there is no one right answer to all situations. Each student is different and it seems to me essential to take into account the age, level, personality and desires of each learner, in order to determine with the parents the right dynamic to give to his or her learning of music.

To learn music with Apolline is above all to learn according to one's desires and one's own characteristics. Only in this way will motivation and self-confidence blossom, essential drivers for learning music.

Drum teacher at Apolline