Thursday, July 16, 2015

Family Music: When Parents and Kids Learn Together

Perhaps the most common question parents ask me is "how do I get my child to practice their instrument?" There are lots of potential solutions for this problem: make a practice schedule, make practice a part of his/her daily routine, use games to make practicing fun, etc. Yet few consider the most powerful method I've seen so far: make learning music a family affair. How so? By taking lessons with your child and practicing together.

So many parents tell me how much they wish they'd learned an instrument as a child, which is why they're putting their children in lessons. To those parents, I say, it's never too late. I often teach parents and children in the same lesson, and many of those children have become my most successful students. Why? 

1. Good Examples

When parents takes lessons alongside their children, they're demonstrating their own commitment to music and learning. It's one thing for your mom to drop you off at violin lessons and then nag you to practice. It's another thing to watch your mother struggling and persevering to master difficult techniques herself. What's more, when parents learn an instrument themselves, they can become excellent home teachers who give helpful feedback. Young children often learn best when they can see a parent or teacher demonstrate a technique. If you love classical music, don't just tell your children that, show them!   

2. Fun Duets and Ensemble Music 

One of the difficulties with private lessons (as opposed to learning in school) is that there's fewer opportunities to perform with other people (though I try to play duets with my students as often as I can). But when families learn together, they can play together as well. I have a family who loves performing trios every Christmas. They have several books of trios for string instruments, and the mother, father, and child rehearse and play together for the rest of the family. Playing together helps students develop their ensemble skills and gives them the opportunity to try new and exciting music. What better way to make music joyful than to share it with the people you love?

3. Mutual Compassion

As I've talked about before, sometimes parents can put tons of pressure on their children to succeed. I've had parents get impatient when students struggle with a concept or a piece. Yet, unless they are musicians themselves, few parents truly understand how difficult music can be, and the amount of effort and discipline even "easy" technique or pieces require. That's why it's great for parents to learn alongside their children. After all, it's much harder to judge, or worse, berate a child for messing up when you've had to struggle through the same section. Likewise, children can appreciate the effort parents put into learning music. (Of course, it's a bit different if the parent is already an accomplished musician. If that's the case, try to remember what it was like when you first started).

I often hear people talking about how their grandparents or parents played music together, or the whole family sang/played for special occasions. Music teachers should encourage these beautiful family traditions, and help to build new ones around the joy of music.


  1. I wish my eldest played an instrument, but he's never really took interest in music, there has always been other things taking his interest. Maybe my littlest may be a budding musician! ;) #WeekendBlogHop

    1. It's never too late! Maybe your eldest will decide to learn an instrument when he's older. I actually teach plenty of beginners who start playing in high school or as adults. In the meantime, I hope your little one enjoys music.

  2. The Tubblet has music lessons and enjoys it. We encourage her to practice, but otherwise try not to,pressure her #weekendbloghop

  3. I love the idea of learning together. I had recorder lessons in first school and we all played together but when I went to middle school I took piano and clarinet, and they were both more insular, with no real opportunity to play with others and I really wasn't interested in playing alone.

    1. I think that lots of musicians, especially young musicians, really prefer to play with other people. I've often had students want to continue private lessons after they've dropped their orchestra class, but even well-intentioned kids lose interested when they can't share music with their friends.