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Now I Love Music Practice
Do rewards really work? Offering a reward or bribe to a piano student in an effort to persuade them to practise is very common, but really, it is not a good idea. It not only creates problems, it usually doesn’t work for very long. I have over 50 years experience as a performer, an arranger, a piano teacher, and I am the father of piano students. I don’t give rewards and I hardly ever have a student give up. My students are not specially selected in any way, because I accept every student who wants to learn from me provided I have a free space. I never give up on a student, and I have never, and will never, drop a student. My policy is to treat every problem a student brings, or even a problem student, as a challenge to be worked through and a way found to deal with the problem even if that means searching for an answer indefinitely. Long ago I stopped offering rewards and I recommend that parents don’t fall into that trap. Rewards are not just unnecessary, they are counter productive. Also, teaching, and parenting is so much simpler and straight forward without the constant hassle of rewards.  Offering piano students a reward is a bad idea because . . . A child will go through the motions to earn a reward but if their heart is not in it the quality of the practice will be poor, and not much will be achieved. There is little to be gained by rewarding a student for sitting unhappily at the piano for x  minutes watching the clock. Furthermore in an attempt to keep the reward working its value may have to be constantly raised. “If my parent wants to reward me for practicing, then practicing must be pretty bad.” Offering a reward sends a completely negative message. It implies that the parent thinks, or agrees, that practising is unpleasant, or boring, and if the child will do the unpleasant thing then they will be compensated or rewarded with a good thing. But piano practice should never be portrayed negatively, especially when there are so many positives. Apart from the obvious benefit of acquiring a fantastic skill, practising for its own sake has many inherent positives and rewards. Ideally it should be the student who takes responsibility for doing their practice. Rewarding the student can, in effect, lead to a situation where it becomes the parents responsibility to see that the child practises. Eventually, this can lead to conflict, frustration and unhappiness. Rewards can become the goal rather than being the means to an end. The reward has successfully motivated the student  -  to earn a reward. In this situation it is virtually impossible to stop giving the reward without the student almost immediately giving up. Parents can find it is a hassle supervising a rewards system and monitoring the students efforts. It can take a lot of time and energy and there is potential for arguments or disputes over, for example, the length of the practice session, or the material covered in that session. Tension can develop between the parent and student and that won’t help the student’s attitude to their music.    The child’s position can become so entrenched they find it difficult to practise on their own initiative because, in a way, they feel they will loose face. Also they may feel that if they practise spontaneously the offer of a reward will be withdrawn. Rewarding very young children should also be avoided. It may not seem to be much of an issue for small beginners, but it does establish a pattern, create an expectation, and imply the negativity mentioned above. Conscientious students don’t need extrinsic rewards. Students who do practice conscientiously and effectively do not need extrinsic rewards. These students will almost certainly be making good progress and the sense of achievement is all the reward they need. Success is the best and most satisfying reward of all.  As well as making good progress successful students will be enjoying learning and practising. After all, they are studying an art form that has engaged the human race throughout history. Researchers believe that humans learned to make music before they learned to talk, and music continues to be a fundamental and integralpart of our lives. Musicians play a vital role in society. Every community needs musicians, along with artists, poets and dancers.
So, how do we persuade a reluctant student to practise?  I believe it is the students’ attitude that ultimately determines whether or not they practise, whether or not they persevere with their music education, and whether or not they eventually succeed. Those with a good, positive ‘can do’ attitude to their music will be very richly rewarded. Those with a poor attitude to music lessons and practicing don’t think that music is very important. They won’t try very hard and they will soon quit. Good news. It is possible to change a student’s attitude. For a change in attitude to take place, we need to get the student feeling good about learning music. Learning to play a musical instrument has to be something they feel is of value, and something they feel is worth the effort. It also helps if they can see the big picture and have some understanding of the learning process. The most important role that parents play is to help our student to feel good about their music education in general, and the part that practising plays in particular. We need to relentlessly, but subtly, take every opportunity to positively influence our reluctant student’s attitude. It will be obvious that nagging won’t make them feel good about learning music. Nor will criticism. Threats won’t help. Telling them to wake up their ideas and improve their attitude will be counter productive. Offering rewards or bribes won’t get to the root of the problem. Some things that will help our student: We need to offer them support, encouragement and understanding.  Our attitude to their music will show through. We need to be interested,  enthusiastic, and involved with their music. We need to praise them for every effort they make but the praise has to be sincere and knowledgeable. “You seem to have mastered the tricky timing section in the middle of that piece. It is sounding really good.”  Or, “ I realize that you played it quite slowly and the timing was uneven, but  you played nearly every note correctly and that is really good progress. Children, basically like to please the people in their lives. (I think this is also true for adults.) We should constantly let our student know how pleased we are that they are learning music and how much we are enjoying hearing them play. We need to help them see and understand the big picture regarding their music education. If they can only see ahead as far their next lesson it will be hard to make sense of it. We need to make sure the student understands how to practise effectively so they will achieve good results. Uncertainty about what to do or how to do it is a major turn off. It may be necessary to liaise with the student’s teacher. We need to provide suitable facilities, of course; a place to practice without distractions and an appropriate instrument. I think a regular practice time as a part of the students routine is a good idea and the earlier this is put in place the easier it will be to establish.  We need to take every opportunity we can to help them see the huge benefits that a music education will give them. We need to help them realize that musicians are valued in their communities. We need to instil and foster a love of music, and help them to appreciate how much making music will enhance, enrich and add a fantastic extra dimension to their lives. Learning to play an instrument is not easy. Seven from every eight who sit the ABRSM grade one piano exam give up before grade seven. Most teachers and schools experience a similar loss. The main reason these students give up is they don’t like practising. I believe that the approach I have promoted here is the way most likely to persuade our student to persevere with practising, but of course this approach will not work for every student. There is nothing that will turn every student into a perfect student and actually this is fortunate. If there were a magic spell that would remove all the problems, the pleasure and deep satisfaction that comes with success would also be removed.  Nevertheless many students give up far too easily. Some give up almost on a whim without thinking the decision through. Many who give up too soon or too easily regret it in later life. If our student is thinking about quitting we need to help them to think seriously about their music education and make a wise decision about it.
Can rewards motivate a reluctant music student to practice? by Ron Ottley. Author of Now I Love Music Practice
Now I Love Music Practice
Can rewards motivate a reluctant music student to practice? by Ron Ottley. Author of Now I Love Music Practice
Do rewards really work? Offering a reward or bribe to a piano student in an effort to persuade them to practise is very common, but really, it is not a good idea. It not only creates problems, it usually doesn’t work for very long. I have over 50 years experience as a performer, an arranger, a piano teacher, and I am the father of piano students. I don’t give rewards and I hardly ever have a student give up. My students are not specially selected in any way, because I accept every student who wants to learn from me provided I have a free space. I never give up on a student, and I have never, and will never, drop a student. My policy is to treat every problem a student brings, or even a problem student, as a challenge to be worked through and a way found to deal with the problem even if that means searching for an answer indefinitely. Long ago I stopped offering rewards and I recommend that parents don’t fall into that trap. Rewards are not just unnecessary, they are counter productive. Also, teaching, and parenting is so much simpler and straight forward without the constant hassle of rewards.  Offering piano students a reward is a bad idea because . . . A child will go through the motions to earn a reward but if their heart is not in it the quality of the practice will be poor, and not much will be achieved. There is little to be gained by rewarding a student for sitting unhappily at the piano for x  minutes watching the clock. Furthermore in an attempt to keep the reward working its value may have to be constantly raised. “If my parent wants to reward me for practicing, then practicing must be pretty bad.” Offering a reward sends a completely negative message. It implies that the parent thinks, or agrees, that practising is unpleasant, or boring, and if the child will do the unpleasant thing then they will be compensated or rewarded with a good thing. But piano practice should never be portrayed negatively, especially when there are so many positives. Apart from the obvious benefit of acquiring a fantastic skill, practising for its own sake has many inherent positives and rewards. Ideally it should be the student who takes responsibility for doing their practice. Rewarding the student can, in effect, lead to a situation where it becomes the parents responsibility to see that the child practises. Eventually, this can lead to conflict, frustration and unhappiness. Rewards can become the goal rather than being the means to an end. The reward has successfully motivated the student  -  to earn a reward. In this situation it is virtually impossible to stop giving the reward without the student almost immediately giving up. Parents can find it is a hassle supervising a rewards system and monitoring the students efforts. It can take a lot of time and energy and there is potential for arguments or disputes over, for example, the length of the practice session, or the material covered in that session. Tension can develop between the parent and student and that won’t help the student’s attitude to their music.    The child’s position can become so entrenched they find it difficult to practise on their own initiative because, in a way, they feel they will loose face. Also they may feel that if they practise spontaneously the offer of a reward will be withdrawn. Rewarding very young children should also be avoided. It may not seem to be much of an issue for small beginners, but it does establish a pattern, create an expectation, and imply the negativity mentioned above. Conscientious students don’t need extrinsic rewards. Students who do practice conscientiously and effectively do not need extrinsic rewards. These students will almost certainly be making good progress and the sense of achievement is all the reward they need. Success is the best and most satisfying reward of all.  As well as making good progress successful students will be enjoying learning and practising. After all, they are studying an art form that has engaged the human race throughout history. Researchers believe that humans learned to make music before they learned to talk, and music continues to be a fundamental and integralpart of our lives. Musicians play a vital role in society. Every community needs musicians, along with artists, poets and dancers.
So, how do we get a reluctant student to practise? I believe it is the students’ attitude that ultimately determines whether or not they practise, whether or not they persevere with their music education, and whether or not they eventually succeed. Those with a good, positive ‘can do’ attitude to their music will be very richly rewarded. Those with a poor attitude to music lessons and practicing don’t think that music is very important. They won’t try very hard and they will soon quit. Good news. A student’s attitude can be changed. For a change in attitude to take place, we need to get the student feeling good about learning music. Learning to play a musical instrument has to be something they feel is of value, and something they feel is worth the effort. It also helps if they can see the big picture and have some understanding of the learning process. The most important role that parents play is to help our student to feel good about their music education in general, and the part that practising plays in particular. We need to relentlessly, but subtly, take every opportunity to positively influence our reluctant student’s attitude. It will be obvious that nagging won’t make them feel good about learning music. Nor will criticism. Threats won’t help. Telling them to wake up their ideas and improve their attitude will be counter productive. Offering rewards or bribes won’t get to the root of the problem. Some things that will help our student: We need to offer them support, encouragement and understanding.  Our attitude to their music will show through. We need to be interested,  enthusiastic, and involved with their music. We need to praise them for every effort they make but the praise has to be sincere and knowledgeable. “You seem to have mastered the tricky timing section in the middle of that piece. It is sounding really good.”  Or, “ I realize that you played it quite slowly and the timing was uneven, but you played nearly every note correctly and that is really good progress. Children, basically like to please the people in their lives. (I think this is also true for adults.) We should constantly let our student know how pleased we are that they are learning music and how much we are enjoying hearing them play. We need to help them see and understand the big picture regarding their music education. If they can only see ahead as far their next lesson it will be hard to make sense of it. We need to make sure the student understands how to practise effectively so they will achieve good results. Uncertainty about what to do or how to do it is a major turn off. It may be necessary to liaise with the student’s teacher. We need to provide suitable facilities, of course; a place to practice without distractions and an appropriate instrument. I think a regular practice time as a part of the students routine is a good idea and the earlier this is put in place the easier it will be to establish.  We need to take every opportunity we can to help them see the huge benefits that a music education will give them. We need to help them realize that musicians are valued in their communities. We need to instil and foster a love of music, and help them to appreciate how much making music will enhance, enrich and add a fantastic extra dimension to their lives. Learning to play an instrument is not easy. Seven from every eight who sit the ABRSM grade one piano exam give up before grade seven. Most teachers and schools experience a similar loss. The main reason these students give up is they don’t like practising. I believe that the approach I have promoted here is the way most likely to persuade our student to persevere with practising, but of course this approach will not work for every student. There is nothing that will turn every student into a perfect student and actually this is fortunate. If there were a magic spell that would remove all the problems, the pleasure and deep satisfaction that comes with success would also be removed.  Nevertheless many students give up far too easily. Some give up almost on a whim without thinking the decision through. Many who give up too soon or too easily regret it in later life. If our student is thinking about quitting we need to help them to think seriously about their music education and make a wise decision about it.
Now I Love Music Practice
Can rewards motivate a reluctant music student to practice? by Ron Ottley. Author of Now I Love Music Practice
So, how do we persuade a reluctant student to practise? I believe it is the students’ attitude that ultimately determines whether or not they practise, whether or not they persevere with their music education, and whether or not they eventually succeed. Those with a good, positive ‘can do’ attitude to their music will be very richly rewarded. Those with a poor attitude to music lessons and practicing don’t think that music is very important. They won’t try very hard and they will soon quit. Good news. It is possible to change a student’s attitude. For a change in attitude to take place, we need to get the student feeling good about learning music. Learning to play a musical instrument has to be something they feel is of value, and something they feel is worth the effort. It also helps if they can see the big picture and have some understanding of the learning process. The most important role that parents play is to help our student to feel good about their music education in general, and the part that practising plays in particular. We need to relentlessly, but subtly, take every opportunity to positively influence our reluctant student’s attitude. It will be obvious that nagging won’t make them feel good about learning music. Nor will criticism. Threats won’t help. Telling them to wake up their ideas and improve their attitude will be counter productive. Offering rewards or bribes won’t get to the root of the problem. Some things that will help our student: We need to offer them support, encouragement and understanding.  Our attitude to their music will show through. We need to be interested,  enthusiastic, and involved with their music. We need to praise them for every effort they make but the praise has to be sincere and knowledgeable. “You seem to have mastered the tricky timing section in the middle of that piece. It is sounding really good.”  Or, “ I realize that you played it quite slowly and the timing was uneven, but you played nearly every note correctly and that is really good progress. Children, basically like to please the people in their lives. (I think this is also true for adults.) We should constantly let our student know how pleased we are that they are learning music and how much we are enjoying hearing them play. We need to help them see and understand the big picture regarding their music education. If they can only see ahead as far their next lesson it will be hard to make sense of it. We need to make sure the student understands how to practise effectively so they will achieve good results. Uncertainty about what to do or how to do it is a major turn off. It may be necessary to liaise with the student’s teacher. We need to provide suitable facilities, of course; a place to practice without distractions and an appropriate instrument. I think a regular practice time as a part of the students routine is a good idea and the earlier this is put in place the easier it will be to establish.  We need to take every opportunity we can to help them see the huge benefits that a music education will give them. We need to help them realize that musicians are valued in their communities. We need to instil and foster a love of music, and help them to appreciate how much making music will enhance, enrich and add a fantastic extra dimension to their lives. Learning to play an instrument is not easy. Seven from every eight who sit the ABRSM grade one piano exam give up before grade seven. Most teachers and schools experience a similar loss. The main reason these students give up is they don’t like practising. I believe that the approach I have promoted here is the way most likely to persuade our student to persevere with practising, but of course this approach will not work for every student. There is nothing that will turn every student into a perfect student and actually this is fortunate. If there were a magic spell that would remove all the problems, the pleasure and deep satisfaction that comes with success would also be removed.  Nevertheless many students give up far too easily. Some give up almost on a whim without thinking the decision through. Many who give up too soon or too easily regret it in later life. If our student is thinking about quitting we need to help them to think seriously about their music education and make a wise decision about it.
Do rewards really work? Offering a reward or bribe to a piano student in an effort to persuade them to practise is very common, but really, it is not a good idea. It not only creates problems, it usually doesn’t work for very long. I have over 50 years experience as a performer, an arranger, a piano teacher, and I am the father of piano students. I don’t give rewards and I hardly ever have a student give up. My students are not specially selected in any way, because I accept every student who wants to learn from me provided I have a free space. I never give up on a student, and I have never, and will never, drop a student. My policy is to treat every problem a student brings, or even a problem student, as a challenge to be worked through and a way found to deal with the problem even if that means searching for an answer indefinitely. Long ago I stopped offering rewards and I recommend that parents don’t fall into that trap. Rewards are not just unnecessary, they are counter productive. Also, teaching, and parenting is so much simpler and straight forward without the constant hassle of rewards.  Offering piano students a reward is a bad idea because . . . A child will go through the motions to earn a reward but if their heart is not in it the quality of the practice will be poor, and not much will be achieved. There is little to be gained by rewarding a student for sitting unhappily at the piano for x minutes watching the clock. Furthermore in an attempt to keep the reward working its value may have to be constantly raised. “If my parent wants to reward me for practicing, then practicing must be pretty bad.” Offering a reward sends a completely negative message. It implies that the parent thinks, or agrees, that practising is unpleasant, or boring, and if the child will do the unpleasant thing then they will be compensated or rewarded with a good thing. But piano practice should never be portrayed negatively, especially when there are so many positives. Apart from the obvious benefit of acquiring a fantastic skill, practising for its own sake has many inherent positives and rewards. Ideally it should be the student who takes responsibility for doing their practice. Rewarding the student can, in effect, lead to a situation where it becomes the parents responsibility to see that the child practises. Eventually, this can lead to conflict, frustration and unhappiness. Rewards can become the goal rather than being the means to an end. The reward has successfully motivated the student  -  to earn a reward. In this situation it is virtually impossible to stop giving the reward without the student almost immediately giving up. Parents can find it is a hassle supervising a rewards system and monitoring the students efforts. It can take a lot of time and energy and there is potential for arguments or disputes over, for example, the length of the practice session, or the material covered in that session. Tension can develop between the parent and student and that won’t help the student’s attitude to their music.    The child’s position can become so entrenched they find it difficult to practise on their own initiative because, in a way, they feel they will loose face. Also they may feel that if they practise spontaneously the offer of a reward will be withdrawn. Rewarding very young children should also be avoided. It may not seem to be much of an issue for small beginners, but it does establish a pattern, create an expectation, and imply the negativity mentioned above. Conscientious piano students do not need extrinsic rewards. Students who do practice conscientiously and effectively do not need extrinsic rewards. These students will almost certainly be making good progress and the sense of achievement is all the reward they need. Success is the best and most satisfying reward of all.  As well as making good progress successful students will be enjoying learning and practising. After all, they are studying an art form that has engaged the human race throughout history. Researchers believe that humans learned to make music before they learned to talk, and music continues to be a fundamental and integral part of our lives. Musicians play a vital role in society. Every community needs musicians, along with artists, poets and dancers.