Practice is a word that can divide students, parents and teachers. To parents and teachers, practice represents a pathway to progress and achievement but to students it often feels like a chore or something that is not fun.
The challenge is for students to realise that practice can be fun and rewarding and for parents and educators to learn how to help students develop good practice habits in an enjoyable and rewarding way.
To the teachers: Set your standards early on. Let the students know when they begin drum lessons that practice is part of the learning process. I tell my students; you come to music lessons to learn new things. You then go home, practice those things and come back next week to learn more new things.
Empower the students to be able to learn themselves. Show them an example of a pattern or piece of music during the lesson and then ask them to work out one by themselves. Demonstrate the process of learning. Then encourage them to work independently. This will help them develop the skills they need to be able to practise by themselves at home.
Offer you students challenges for the week ahead; "See if you can play this piece by next week".
Always ask your students to demonstrate what they have been practising during the week at the beginning of each lesson. This will provide an incentive to practise but also a platform to show what they have achieved.
To the Parents: Your support at home is vital for students to develop good practice habits. Encourage your child to practice but try not to present practice as a chore. Don't lump it in with washing the dishes or taking out the rubbish. Instead, ask your child to show you what they have been learning. Or to play you their favourite piece of music. Try to provide time and appropriate space for your child to practice. Often being by themselves can be a deterrent to students practising. Perhaps offer company, be an audience, ask questions about what they are doing. Make it fun. Creating a timetable of when they are going to practice is often helpful to a student. If there are regular days they practice it will soon become part of their weekly routine.
To the Students: Students often ask me; "How much should I practice?" The easy answer to this is; "How good do you want to be?" The more you practice, the better you will become at your instrument. It's as simple as that.
If you are looking for a guide, a good recommendation for a beginner aged 10-12 years is 20 minutes, 3 times a week (although some teachers will say everyday). Remember quality is better than quantity.
Remember to practice new things or things you can't play yet. Don't just play things you're good at. Practice a variety of things; drum rudiments, patterns, a song chart. Practice with and without written music.
If you want to make things a bit more interesting, try practising to a metronome at different speeds. Or play along to a C.D or MP3 of a song you like. You can use the C.d as a metronome. Spice up things that you usually find dull by playing them along to your favourite song.
I hope this gives you ideas of how to make practice more enjoyable for everyone. At the end of the day, remember to keep it fun.