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For Parents

This page is devoted to advice for parents of young people learning to play a musical instrument. We hope you will find it useful.

Practise

In order to make progress playing an instrument it is important that your son/daughter attends their lesson on a regular basis; however, this alone will not guarantee progress. We support pupils in playing their instrument through the use of a practise diary which is issued to pupils when they start lessons and can be used as a way of tutors communicating with home.

How often should my son/daughter practise? We recommend that young people learning to play an instrumet practise regularly for at least 10mins a day (beginner) and 20 mins a day if they want to have a good chance of passing a grade a year. Practise time is dependent on the age and ability of the pupil and on the instrument itself - please seek your son/daughter's teacher for further advice.

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Many pupils practise far more than this (many wanting to pursue a musical career practise for at least an hour a day!) but you should discuss with your son/daughter what they want to get out of learning an instrument - whilst too little practise can lead to stagnation, too much can reduce a pupil's enthusiasm for their instrument.

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What if my son/daughter is not enjoying their instrument as much as they used to? Learning an instrument is a complex skill combining understanding of musical language and the development of complex motor skills. There will be moments of frustration and we would encourage parents to support their son/daughter through short periods of low motivation (we have all had them!).

If your son/daughter is not enjoying their lessons as  much as they used to, please talk to the tutor - they may be able to change the routine of the lesson or look at different types of pieces for a while. It is difficult to pick up an instrument again once you have stopped and so it is always better to explore other options first.

How else can I support my son/daughter? Participating in ensembles (music groups) are a really good way of young people developing their playing, meeting friends and, as many ensembles perform in the commnity, seeing new places and showing off what they can do.

What does good practise look like? Practise should be regular and often – 20 mins a day is a good guide (except for beginners who may need to start small and build up their stamina). Playing a piece is not the same as practising it. We would suggest the following as a good way of structuring practise:

  1. Play through some scales/arpeggios/technical exercises.
  2. Play through a piece you have been learning.
  3. Identify any difficult bits of the piece you've just played - play them repeatedly, starting slowly and getting faster as they become more familiar.
  4. Play the piece again to see the improvement.
  5. Repeat for any other pieces.

If practise is getting overly repetitive, encourage a break or a change of piece. It is useful for pupils to perform in public regularly, even if this is just in front of friends and relatives.

Buying an Instrument

Whilst you may wish to rent an instrument when first starting to play, most people want to buy their own instrument. These days, many good instruments are available at a reasonable price. It is always advised to talk to your tutor for advice on buying a new instrument as they will be able to give good advice on where to buy and what to buy.

Saving VAT on a new instrument

Students still at school can access VAT free instruments via the assissted purchase scheme. You will need to liaise with your son/daughter's school who will usually buy the instrument on your son/daughter's behalf saving the cost of VAT. Most major retailers support the assissted purchase scheme. 

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