The Only Advice You Need to Get Started with Practicing Music

Practicing a musical instrument can be an overwhelming thing for kids and parents. One of the biggest questions/concerns from parents of kids getting started with music classes or private lessons is:

Will my kid practice? And what should I do if I encounter resistance from my kid to practicing?

These are legitimate concerns. After all, consistent practice is a key component of learning, loving, and succeeding with music. If your child isn’t practicing regularly, their progress will be slow at best. And parents don’t want getting their kid to practice to be a struggle. But I hope that after reading this you’ll discover that building a consistent practice habit can be much easier than you imagined.

Conventional “Wisdom” is Wrong!

Ask most musicians, music teachers, or even parents of musicians, “How much should my kid practice music?” and the standard reply is 30 minutes a few times a week. I’m on a personal mission to rid the world of this advice when it comes to beginning music students. Simply put…

The 30 minute practice rule of thumb is wrong.
It just doesn’t work for most beginning music students.

Some music teachers are very strict/militant about this 30 minute advice. I’ll spare you my long winded rant about where this outdated/misguided advice comes from and why it persists. But the next time someone tells you that a beginning student should be practicing for 30 minutes, I want you to smile, nod, back away, and just know in the back of your head that there’s a better way.

Now, to be fair, the 30 minute practice advice may work for some advanced musicians. But I would tell them that our advice below can help them to start or restart good practice habits as well.

There’s a Better Way to Practice

There’s a better way to get your kid to practice and it’s based on teaching over 2000 students over the past 15 years at Oregon Music Academy as well as the most recent research on building habits and how our brains work. If you want to skip right to our recommendation, scroll to the bottom. Otherwise, keep reading for everything you need to know about establishing a good music practice habit.

Key Components of Practice

Let’s take a look at two of the core components that make up this thing we call practice:

Frequency – How often to practice
Duration – How long to Practice

Frequency: How often should my child practice?

Practicing music is like brushing your teeth. It should be a part of your child’s daily routine. You can’t skip brushing your teeth throughout the week and make it up by brushing extra long and vigorously on Sunday night or the day before the next dentist appointment. The same is true for music lessons.

Take Away: Aim for daily practice.

Duration: How long should my child practice?

I want you to wipe the conventional advice of practicing for 30 minutes from your brain. Because, if you’re still holding onto the notion that 30 minutes is the gold standard of practice, what I’m about to tell you will shock you:

Start with just 5 minutes of playing/practice.

Five minutes may not seem like a lot of time (and it isn’t). But that’s the point! Five minutes seems like such an insignificant amount of time that everyone (and I mean everyone) can fit in 5 minutes of practice into their day. Short 5 minute sessions start to add up throughout the week.

Take Away: Aim for playing music for 5 minutes.

The Power of 5 minutes a Day

  • Five minutes eliminates the excuse of, “I don’t have time to practice.”
  • Five minutes transforms practice from a long boring slog into just another short part of your family’s daily routine.
  • Five minutes of focused practice can deliver more than 30 minutes of unfocused practice.
  • Five minutes keeps the practice habit going even if they’re (or you’re) not in the mood to practice… anyone can “persevere” through just 5 minutes of play/practice.
  • Five minutes is enough time to build and reinforce musical skills and concepts between lessons.
  • Five minutes gives you a low enough bar that you should have ample opportunity (daily) to praise and encourage your child.
  • Five minutes may “trick” your child into wanting to practice more. Wouldn’t that be great!? Instead of nagging them to practice for another 25 minutes, you’re likely to find yourself reminding them that they’ve been playing their instrument for the past half hour and it’s time to get ready for dinner, to head to soccer, etc. It’s OK (encouraged) if they want to practice for more than 5. Just don’t make longer sessions the stated goal.

Stop Supersizing Kids’ Practice!

MORE is not better. “Super-sizing” a child’s practice time leads to frustration and burnout. 30 minutes or more is too long and too much to expect for a beginning student that doesn’t have a solid practice habit established. And it sets an unbelievably high bar for a kid to reach when they’re just starting out.

Our experience at the Oregon Music Academy with teaching over 2000 students over the past 15 years has proven again and again that consistent, short, practice sessions are the key to long-term success for students. And to do that, you just need to start off with 5 minutes a day.

Bottom Line

Help your child establish and stick to a 5-a-Day practice habit to ensure they learn, love, and succeed with music long-term.