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Motivation for DD to practice her viola?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
My 9 yr. old is supposed to practice every day and it is always a big fight to get her to do it.

She says the stuff she has to practice is either "too boring" or "too hard" DH and I try to impress upon her that the too hard stuff will get easier if she practices, but she still spends much of the time complaining.

I tried to put her in charge of it, and she came up with an idea of having a chart, but she is still not good on keeping up on it. If I say, "I haven't heard that viola much lately," she will say, "Mom, stop bugging me about it."

I also play violin and sometime she will ask me to play with her, but if I make any kind of corrections about her playing, she goes nuts.

(BTW, she is the oldest--very sensitive to criticsm)
post #2 of 12
As a child of a concert violinist, I was exposed to musical training early on and understand the reluctance to practice. The chart is an excellent idea and having her in charge of it is great. The things I would suggest are:
1. Have a consistent time set aside for the practicing every day. Let her take a day off if she practices 6 days in a row. Practice doesn't have to be the same amount of time everyday.
2. Is there a reward for practicing every day? Maybe after a week of practice, she could pick from a variety of fun things to do: a trip to a park she likes, a walk on the trails with mom &/or dad, make homemade ice cream, bake cookies, etc.
3. Once a week (toward the end of the week when she has practiced several days), have her record her playing and then listen to it. If she likes what she hears and is proud of it, you can play it as "dinner music" while you eat dinner that night.
4. Make sure practice time isn't too late when she is tired or right after school when she needs some down time.
5. If she doesn't have them already, suggest she add these things to her chart (these should be her perceptions)
Length of practice
Quality of practice
How hard was the music (easy, medium, hard)
How hard was it to make myself practice (easy, meduim, hard)
Did I miss out on anything while I was practicing?

Good luck! I think that musical training is very important for children! I hope she develops a love for her instrument and music!
post #3 of 12
maybe let her become a "fan" of some great musicians

point out that they became famous and good by practice

maybe she will want to become similar to someone she admires.
post #4 of 12
I have a master's degree in music, so I've spent alot of time in the practice room over the years, up to five hours a day at some points.

I think it's normal for children to not enjoy practicing--I hated it until I got to college.

I think the key is to find a way to make practicing intrinsically motivating. She needs to come to enjoy the process of perfecting something. Easier said than done! There is a certain amount of tedium in practicing that can't be avoided. But, I feel the problem for most people, adults included, is that they don't know HOW to practice. Most people practice by simply playing something over and over and over. That IS boring! They haven't learned how to mentally engage, how to use their minds creatively to make practicing both more efficient and more interesting. There are lots of techniques that can add variety to practice, but they are kind of specific to the instrument, so the ones I've used probably wouldn't work (I'm an organist).

I would sit down with your child's teacher and discuss this, asking her about ways to not only practice, but to practice BETTER. I would get on the internet or try to get access to teaching journals or other publications that would have creative ideas to help students and see what you can apply at home. Then, when you are armed with some strategies for your daughter to use, you will probably have to make a commitment to closely supervise her practice for awhile as you help her learn how to make her practice sessions more effective. Help her learn to use her mind so that she can be in control of her own practicing to make it work for her. Depending on how much of a musician you yourself are, you may be able to help her draw out of herself this kind of thinking by being there in person to model to her how to make practice more meaningful.

Motivation is a very complex thing. I took a whole class in graduate school on theories of leaning and motivation in music.

One other thing about practicing is that it's usually so isolating. Does your daughter belong to an orchestra or some other group where she gets to play with other people? Maybe she has a friend who plays the same instrument with whom she could get together and have joint practice sessions, just for some variety. Have her record or videotape herself playing.
post #5 of 12
We have an agreement at our house: the parents pay for the lessons if the kids practise. If not, they have a choice of continuing the lessons and paying for the week for which they didn't practice, or dropping the lessons. They get an allowance, so they can pay for the lessons, although it means missing out on something else, like a movie. My reasoning goes along the lines of : I'm not just paying for the lesson, I'm paying for you to become a better viola player, dancer, bagpiper, etc. Like a lot of other issues, though, it involves the parents remaining unemotional about the outcome, or at least appearing to remain unemotional.

Another thing along those lines is to let your daughter be responsible for handing the money for the lessons to the teacher. I don't know why, but it really impressed my daughter when she got to hold the money for the lessons in her own hand.
post #6 of 12
I think bestjob gave excellent advice. Let her feel in control of the situation by choosing if she wants to continue and pay for the lessons (with your money) and she may be more apt to do it. How many kids want to do things if they feel their parents are "bugging" them about it?
post #7 of 12

We (sometimes) go through the same thing

My ds plays the double bass which, at age 9, is no easy task. He picked it up very quickly, and so often gets frustrated if things aren't immediately easy for him.

I try to vary what he practices. For example, he takes his lessons at school once per week, and his teacher will give him new music if he has "mastered" (that being a variable term, mind you) what she gave him before. When we practice, if I see him getting frustrated, we switch to another piece that is easier for awhile. I have also learned to give him a break when he REALLY doesn't want to do it.

I don't have any better advice than the earlier posters, but I know what you're going through!

post #8 of 12
I got a fun game to play from my violin teacher a few weeks ago. Take a dozen plastic Easter eggs and fill some of them with notes that describe various tasks, like "Practice such and such a scale 3 times" or "Practice your hardest 4 bars" or whatever the teacher feels needs work. Then, in other eggs, put a little note telling how much you love her, and in one or two of them put a little treat like a candy. Then she picks up the eggs and opens them and does the task or gets a treat. We call the game "Musical Eggs" and my kids beg me to set it up.

The game serves a couple of different purposes. First, the music practice gets done (it actually gets done before they are out of their pajamas, this game is so loved at our house.) I get involved in the children's practice sessions without being the boss, and I now get to sympathize when a tough task comes up. By dividing practice into 8 or so easy tasks, they are learning that a big job is actually a lot of little jobs.

The downside of this game is that it doesn't exactly engender a deep passion in the kids to do the job very very well. They practice, but they are really there for the treats. However, since the alternative is me hovering around criticizing their practice methods, I think it is a grand improvement.
post #9 of 12
Maybe she doesn't want to play the viola. Maybe she would like another instrument better?
post #10 of 12
Um, as Keiko said... maybe she doesn't want to learn the viola? Any particular reason you feel she should?

I took trumpet lessons as a child, but quickly abandoned it... attending class meant I had to skip a totally free, wonderful hour of reading... and practicing meant I had to skip thing I enjoyed a lot more when I was home. For me, giving it up was a no brainer. My dad, who is very musical, I think was disappointed (and disappointed that I'm his only kid who has never even attempted to learn guitar)

Do you want her to learn it, or does she want to learn it?
post #11 of 12
Don't be so serious about it She's 9 years old. There's plenty of time for her to buckle down and practice if she ever chooses to be a professional violist.

If she really does want to play music on the viola, then I'd find a teacher that's interested in her having fun playing. If you can't find someone who will help her to have fun, and you want to encourage her to play, than you should think of ways for her to have fun. Playing songs, improvising, playing stuff by ear, are all more fun and useful for someone this age than your pedantic and mostly boring average "classical" training. If you want some suggestions for this kind of stuff, just ask me.

What (if anything) does she like about playing?
Focus on those things, and get rid of the other stuff. The idea that playing music is about the pain and discipline of practicing is a self defeating concept. If she likes playing and wants to play, than practicing is a joy. If she doesn't, than it is painful, and you'd be better off in supporting her to do those things that she does find joy in.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
She takes lessons through her public school and there is a very minimal yearly fee, so having her pay is not really an option.

Whenever I suggest that if she is having such a hard time, maybe she shouldn't play next year, she very definitely wants to continue.

Her teacher needed viola players for orchestra and she volunteered to switch from violin on her own.

It continues to be an issue, on and off. But we just bought her her own instrument, so I hope she sticks with it.
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