More practice makes better performance

So your daughter or son wants to play or plays a musical instrument and they ask, “Why is it important to practice?”

My students ask this question a lot, and there are many answers. “Because I told you to practice” is not one of their favorites!

Many times when I am asked this question I tell a story, so … here goes.

When I was a young trumpet player, I was told to practice 30 minutes, five days a week. My mother used to put an egg timer on the arm of the sofa where I practiced. I, like many of my students, did not enjoy practicing as much as I did performing. I knocked more egg timers off the arm of the sofa, and destroyed them in the process, than I care to remember.

Needless to say, mom was not happy.

After a few broken egg timers, my mom stopped using the egg timer and would sit and listen to me play. At first I was not happy about this, but when she would offer comments or encourage me, I liked it. Then one day, I realized my mom was my audience! I was no longer practicing, I was performing. After a little while, I realized the more I practiced, the better I was at playing the trumpet. I liked that, and soon I began to practice without being told to do so.

My point is that one way to get young musicians to practice is for parents or guardians to participate in the practice sessions. You can sit and listen, or if you were in band, you can get out your instrument and play along. The important thing is to be engaged and participate.

You may also wonder how much your daughter or son should practice. I tell my students that they should practice until they can play all of their music, so they have a positive impact on the ensemble. (I am a high school band director, and that is my perspective).

If they want more information, I tell them practice for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, for a total of 150 minutes (some things never change). One thing to remember is, it is better to practice for 30 minutes, five days a week, than one session for 150 minutes. Repetition is an important aspect of getting better at almost everything, so the more practice sessions a musician has, the better the music will be.

I hope this helps, but if it does not, you can always just say, “because I told you to practice.” That might be all it takes.

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Arthur F. Belfiore is the Director of Bands at Mifflin County High School.