A love of music and the ability to play is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child, one that will last the rest of their life. As a guitar teacher, my role concerns the lessons themselves. But time spent between lessons is just as important, perhaps more so. That means that you as parents play an important role in supporting your child’s interest and improvement. Here are some pointers that I hope you find useful.
Playing an instrument well requires effort over a long period of time and progress does not come overnight, even for adults. Time spent regularly and willingly playing and practising counts far more than anything you might think of as natural talent. As teacher or parent our job is to encourage that. With that in mind, allow me to suggest some helpful “Dos and Don’ts…”
DO help your child to find the time and space to practice. Time spent with the guitar in their hands is the only path to progress.
DON’T force them to practice if they are too tired or not in the mood. Practising should be done to make them happy in the future, not to make you or me happy in the present.
DO encourage regular practice. 10 or 15 minutes of practice three or four days a week is far more useful than a rushed hour or half hour just before the next lesson.
DON’T scold them for not practising. That’s my job as the teacher. Your job is to encourage and enable.
DO compliment good playing and congratulate them for improvement and for practising.
DON’T scold or criticise them for poor playing. Making mistakes and getting things wrong is an important part of learning to get it right.
DO buy a guitar stand and put the guitar on it. A guitar within easy reach is played far more often. Remember, time spent playing is the only path to progress.
DON’T keep guitars in cases if at all possible. Yes, cases protect guitars, but guitars in cases don’t get played.
DO make sure your child’s guitar is in good condition and playable. Call me when an issue arises – I am an excellent guitar technician and can fix all but the most serious of problems.
DON’T start your child with a guitar that you bought for €30 on eBay. It will be difficult to tune, difficult to play, and will kill your child’s enthusiasm, possibly forever. Avoid buying a guitar that costs less than 4 or 5 lessons would cost. If you need help or advice, don’t hesitate to ask me.
DO talk to your child about their lessons. Encourage them to engage with me, to ask questions during their lessons when they need to, and to let you know if they have problems either with the lessons or with practising at home.
DON’T hesitate to talk to me if there are any issues. Acting quickly to solve problems for your child is great encouragement to them in itself.
DO expose your children to music at home. Switch the TV off and crank up the gramophone, preferably one with good speakers. Everyday enjoyment of music is a better indicator of your child’s progress with the guitar than any level of interest they express in playing it.
DON’T force music down their throats. There is no need. If you love and enjoy music around the home, they will too.
DO encourage your child to explore many musical styles and help them start their own musical library.
DON’T criticise their taste in music. It’s perfectly OK to listen to Slipknot and Miles Davis in the same afternoon. Headphones for them and/or earplugs for everyone else make great stocking fillers at Christmas.
DO encourage your child to play for family and friends.
DON’T push them to play for others if they don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with music being their own private journey. What is important is that they are on that journey at all. Pushing too hard will put them off.
No student progresses at at the same rate all the time. Some students pick up the basics in a matter of weeks but their progress may slow for some months after that. Conversely, some students take months to master the basics but may then progress quickly for the following months. Progress is never constant and every student is unique.
Interest will also ebb and flow. No student, whether adult or child, can give all their attention to one thing all of the time. Nor should they.
Finally, enjoyment is just as important as practice. I encourage my students to make clear distinctions between practice time and playing time but to give equal weight to both. Enjoyment and practice need to be balanced. When they are, enjoyment and progress maintain each other.