Is This Whole Practising Thing Really Working?

By Jodie Compeau

When parents decide they want music lessons to be a part of their child’s education, one would hope they realize that practising is a part of the experience! However, do students and parents come to the table with an understanding of what it means to practice? What does success look like, and how can you prepare parents for the reality of what practising actually looks like?

What a teacher means when they talk about practising:

  • RESULTS! As teachers, we hope that for the week between lessons, a student retains a strong memory of what was discussed and applies this to their instrument. We hope they make great strides in “fixing” and molding a piece into a beautiful balance of what the composer was trying to communicate and what the student wants to express through the music.  In reality, students struggle to produce the results at home that they had in the lesson, and this can be frustrating.
  • SATISFACTION!  We also hope that the student recognizes daily progress and is encouraged to come back for more.  In reality, growth is often unnoticeable from day to day and it’s important to find strategies to help the student recognize momentum and progress.
  • BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE BASE!  We hope that the student solidifies their knowledge of a particular skill or new terminology and can then transfer that knowledge across many different pieces and even into other life skills.  In reality, so much happens in a single day for the student they can’t remember the skill by the time they get home, let alone transfer it to other areas!
  • BUILDING A BETTER HUMAN BEING!  This is lofty and grandiose, but there is a hope that through regular practice and performance, the student learns to share the gifts their hard work has produced. And in reality, this does happen. Learning music nurtures areas of human interaction like no other activity can.


What a Parent means when they talk about practising (actual comments made by real parents):

  • I would like to see some degree of practising most days of the week (not every day, and some practises are 10 minutes…hopefully some are 20-30)
  • I expect to see some improvement over the week
  • I hope to see that as my child gets older they can troubleshoot more effectively, take more personal responsibility, absorb some of the many strategies they’ve been given
  • I love seeing that my child’s musical knowledge is helping in other areas (math/fractions, other instruments, music class at school)
  • I LOVE to see my child enjoying music (humming, singing in the shower, find a new favourite fad song, tinkering with their own music)


What the reality looks like for these very same parents:

  • Some weeks are a total write off for practicing – the calendar is just too full
  • Some songs are favourites, some are less than favourites, and some are completely loathed (and that’s ok… but it’s definitely harder!)
  • Sometimes there are fights, …and tears and… ‘I Hate’ and ‘I want to quit’ (which hopefully is just anger and frustration)
  • I see many “lightbulb” moments, pride when my child has overcome a big challenge, pride when they’re “showing off” to grandparents, or friends

So if you are a Music Teacher communicating with parents who want their little one to become proficient on an instrument or a vocalist, be sure to explain the broader benefits of practising and also the normal reality of practising. The last thing you want is for them to pull their kid out of lessons because they think the whole practicing aspect is just “not working!”