Step #7: Listen to lots of music, their music.
Please note: This the final installment in a seven part series on building better practice habits. Please begin with the first entry if you are just now finding this series. I think you will be happy you did. Click here to read Entry #1.
And now something really simple to help your child.
Building practice habits extends far beyond the instrument, in fact, much of the best practice your child will ever do is off the instrument. Yes, let’s repeat that, some of the most important practice you or your child will ever do will not include the instrument itself.
Here is a great story shared my good friend and band mate for years, Mark Suter. Mark has been playing with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project for over ten years. Over the years he noticed something unusual, Yo Yo always sounded incredible yet he rarely had time to practice his instrument. Sure, he was able to warm up in the green room before a concert, but otherwise, most of the time he was on the tour bus or in an airport travelling just like the rest of the group. One day, Mark decided to find out how he maintained such a high level on tour when he truly did not get much quality time to practice. So he asked….
Mark: “Yo Yo, how is it that you can play at such an incredible level night after night, but have so little time to practice?”
Yo Yo: “Actually Mark, I just finished playing through a cello concerto while sitting on this bus.”
Mark: “I don’t understand…we’ve all been just relaxing. I didn’t hear anything…”
Yo Yo: “I played through the entire piece in my head. Start to finish. It takes just under two hours. I am performing it next week and needed to prepare. ”
He had literally visualized and performed the entire piece while sitting on a bus. He could hear the orchestra in his mind. He could hear his cello soaring above the string section. No instrument. Just his inner musical ear. Just his incredibly well developed musical memory, his intense musical focus. For your child, listening intently to music they love and or music they will be performing is the very important first step towards this level of visualization.
And this is where you come in. Encourage listening to gig songs. Encourage focused listening. Sit and show them what it means to only listen.
Not listen and do the dishes. Not listen and do homework, but for one song, just listen.
Ask to listen to the music they like (note: it’s not usually until kids are nine and up that they have strong opinions…so your influence still counts if you have a young one!) And if you want to motivate them even more, you can take it to the next level….buy them tickets to see their favorite bands and go with them. Do that one often as there is absolutely nothing more effective than hearing and seeing music made live. Your children will see that music is made up of real musicians and has lots of real fans. That will stick with them forever. Watching a Youtube video will not.
Building music practice habits can be require lots of patience and a certain level of investment by the entire family. But, sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down and encouraging one of the most joyful activities for all of us, listening. I challenge you to find 5 minutes to listen together today. Just 5 minutes of togetherness…..