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#915947 - 02/27/03 10:46 AM Getting the kids to practice
ob1knabe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 141
Loc: New Jersey
I was just wondering if any parents or piano teachers had any methods which they used to encourage kids to practice. I know that "getting the kids to practice" when there are so many other pressures on them is not always easy.

Here is something we do--and it's been a lot of fun for all of us. My kids (age 6 and 10) have their lessons on Mondays. Every Sunday night becomes Concert Night at our house. Instead of preparing for their lesson, they prepare for Concert Night. (This way, I know they're prepared for their lesson \:D ). Since I take lessons as well, I am also a performer on Sunday evenings. Being a performer takes on a whole different meaning to my kids as opposed to getting ready for a lesson. They select the pieces they want to play, we drink hot chocolate (with marshmallows!),and applaud loudly for each other. They have such a sense of pride to "perform" just for their family--and they do love the applause!! Does it always work out perfectly? Of course not! Sometimes life gets crazy, but we do try and keep Concert Night as a sacred family time. THEY want to do Concert Night because it makes them feel special. When you feel special, you want to keep that feeling going \:\) .

Just wondering if anyone else had an idea to share.
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John Keats

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#915948 - 02/27/03 12:12 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Elaine617 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 364
Loc: North Carolina
You have a great way to motivate your children to practice. When I used to teach, I advised parents not to MAKE children practice. I suggested that they say something like, "You know, I'd really love to hear this song. Would you please play it for me?" Most children are thrilled to show their parents what they've been learning and it creates a very positive environment for piano practice. Your family's concert night sounds like a wonderful way to accomplish this. Good luck and enjoy your music!

Lyn B.

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#915949 - 02/27/03 12:18 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
I don't have any children, so I cannot share my own experiences, but ob1's way of motivating the kids is truly inspired \:\)

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#915950 - 02/27/03 12:21 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Cork Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 513
Loc: Dallas, TX
I'll have to try that; my cattle prod seems to have lost its effectiveness.

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#915951 - 02/27/03 01:14 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
I love concert night! All four of us are taking lessons, and what fun that would be! Thank you!

My son has improved so much these last four months or so because now, when it is time to practice, I sit with him and help him. He is definitely growing in confidence and ability. The only problem is, I'll often perform what he's working on, and then he'll play it more by ear than by reading, so his sightreading is suffering. So we're back to the flash cards!

My husband also sits with our daughter when it is her time to practice (she just started two weeks ago and is only 4). She didn't even question starting lessons or practice. It's just a fact of life now in this house. For my husband, who never in his wildest dreams thought he would learn to play -- though he always wanted to growing up in a third world country -- a piano-playing household is a dream come true.

penny

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#915952 - 02/27/03 01:30 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
katie_dup1 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 1838
Loc: Canada
I try to get my 8 year to "teach" his dad the piece he is supposed to be practicing. Dad is a non-player, but "plays" along with this. Inevitably, my son ends up playing the song 2 times or so, because dad just doesn't "get it". I do whatever works.

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#915953 - 02/27/03 01:31 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
mkesfahani Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 836
Loc: Irvine, CA
Great suggestion! As a teacher, the first thing I do with a new student is talk to the parents. I tell them that they have to make it clear to their child(ren) that lessons aren't cheap and practice makes the most of their money. You'd be surprised how this can motivate them. Also, I make it clear to the student that not doing the assignments I assign or not practicing is as bad as not doing homework in school. That works well too.

Mike

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#915954 - 02/27/03 04:35 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
gxprice Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/02
Posts: 225
Loc: Geneva
There are some great ideas here and I'm definitely going to try them all! My son has been learning for a couple of years (he's now 9) and has a good appreciation of music but has only started with a decent teacher last October. He's making progress but he definitely doesn't WANT to take piano. I was pushed a little bit as a "junior" but feel that if I hadn't been, I may have stopped learning and been content with Scott Joplins "The Entertainer" (first piece I learned as it happens - long story!).

The concert night sounds like a good idea particularly!

Gary.

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#915955 - 02/27/03 04:56 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Xerxes Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/17/02
Posts: 18
Loc: Texas
I'd say competition could be a good motivator. If they have friends who play you could pit them against each other and the winner gets a ???. Or if they have friends that play you could maybe get them to do duets. I guess what I'm saying is use their peers to help motivate them.

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#915956 - 02/27/03 05:28 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1503
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
I'm probably on my own but I don't believe in forcing kids to practise music of any sort. There are enough necessary things in life they have to work at with or without enjoyment. They should be exposed to an eclectic selection of its many varieties and any artistic interest should be immediately encouraged and encouraged generously. But if playing has to be forced on a kid - no, I think that's a complete waste of time.
_________________________
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#915957 - 02/27/03 05:31 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Sounds like some great ideas working well in here.

Xerxes, I think I take exception to the idea of competition; it is not in the interest of music to see who is "best".
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#915958 - 02/27/03 06:21 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
urbustmtriswa2hi Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/12/03
Posts: 51
Loc: Pennsylvania
I am 14 and in my early days of piano I did not like to practice. My parents made me and it was not fun. This went on for a couple of years but after that, as I advanced sugnificantly, I started to enjoy what I was playing more. I wish they had done some of your techniques so I could have appriciated the piano early on, but when I started to enjoy the music everything changed. I think that this applies with a lot of things; that in the beginning what you're doing may be not fun, but then when you pass a certain threshold of ability, you just practice because you like to.

p.s. My parents have changed and now they just like to hear me play.
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#915959 - 02/27/03 06:41 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
BeeLady Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/02
Posts: 2339
Loc: Massachusetts
Ted, I don't know if you have kids or not, but I have to disagree. Making kids do things they do not always want to do prepares them for life. How many of us really want to deal with bills, the trash etc.

I do battle to some degree with my kids over practice. My 13 year old has made peace. He practices enough, but not enough to excel at his teachers highest level. That is fine with me, I have told him I don't expect him to be a pianist for a living. He has finally relaxed and practices everyday to please only himself.

My 8 year old battles me on everything. I have to "force" him to do homework, take a bath, and practice. But as I write this he has put the stereo on throughout the house with his latest piano piece. He is pumping the Lord of the Rings soundtrack so he can listen to the piece I am "forcing" him to play.

My parents forced me, and when I resumed lessons at 40 years of age, I called my parents to thank them for making me do it. \:\)
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BeeLady

Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes!

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#915960 - 02/27/03 06:46 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
MichaelD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 69
Loc: USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by ob1knabe:
My parents forced me, and when I resumed lessons at 40 years of age, I called my parents to thank them for making me do it.[/b]
Dear BeeLady, excellent point. The same with me... I am so thankful to my parents for forcing me to play the piano when young, and now it's the best thing that ever happened to me! (almost!)

Michael
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#915961 - 02/27/03 06:48 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
MichaelD Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/27/03
Posts: 69
Loc: USA
P.S. something went wrong with the quote thing, it should say "originally posted by BeeLady..." why did it do that... and how do you "quote" someone?
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#915962 - 02/27/03 07:30 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Ted Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 1503
Loc: Auckland, New Zealand
Beelady:

Of course, you're so right, we do have to accustom children to work at things they don't want to - lack of self-discipline is probably the single most obvious problem in education (well, it is here in New Zealand, I can't speak for elsewhere)

However, the point I was trying to make is precisely that music isn't at all like putting out the rubbish, washing dishes and so on. I realise the analogy is well meant but I find it incorrect. Surely music ought to represent a fabulous liberated state, wherein we do precisely as we please - a condition of complete freedom, a means of embracing madness and passion without punishment. I don't achieve a transported state by carting out the rubbish bin.

I think the child must come to perceive this ecstasy before the regimes of rationality and discipline are brought into the picture. I am deeply grateful that my childhood piano teacher imparted this wonderful freedom to me instead of exercises and technique.

I embraced the discipline later on, of course, assiduously and of my own volition. I guess perhaps I disagree with you solely as to the sequence of events.

I suppose an even simpler explanation is that I was as mad as a two-bob watch as a kid and I'm as mad as a two-bob watch now !
_________________________
"It is inadvisable to decline a dinner invitation from a plump woman." - Fred Hollows

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#915963 - 02/28/03 02:08 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
nancyww Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/02
Posts: 585
Loc: central oregon
 Quote:
Originally posted by Bernard:

Xerxes, I think I take exception to the idea of competition; it is not in the interest of music to see who is "best".[/b]
Bernard, Personally, I would agree with you that competition seems somehow inappropriate with regards to music, except something funny happened to my daughter when she entered her first competition. Suddently, she was motivated to practice...alot. The level of her playing improved tremendously and she enjoyed the experience, even tho she didn't "win". In fact, she can't wait to compete again next year. She thinks it is really fun!

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#915964 - 02/28/03 04:44 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
[coming from a kid]
The best way to motivate a kid to practise is...to buy him a new piano!!! hahaha... \:D

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#915965 - 02/28/03 08:43 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Gardener Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/26/02
Posts: 290
Loc: New Jersey
When children first learn to walk and talk how overwhelmed they must feel. These two important tasks are riddled with technical difficulties, require great effort for quite some time and huge amounts of persistence. I have never known a parent who, when faced with their child's frustration at first attempts who questioned their movtives at helping their children with mastering these tasks. We don't say, 'Oh, poor baby! I'm just going to carry you for the rest of your life, no matter how big you get because I just can't make you try again and risk falling.' What if your child decided all these words were just too hard to learn? Would you give up? No! It is a given that your child must learn to walk and talk. And they will. And what is the methodology of our teaching them these complicated tasks?

When they make mistakes with words we call it *cute* and laugh with them. We model the correct pronounciation and cheer unabashedly when they get it right. We encourage their steps with praise and other rewards and show empathy when they fall.

Regardless of what you've decided is worthy of your child's mastery, borrowing from this methodolgy is a good plan. Children can't choose for themselves initially things that will be wonderful assests for them later in their life. Parents pick for them and they need to decide between the many possibilities and then stick with it. Just as you wouldn't accept your child's lack of interest in learning to talk you shouldn't accept *no* on other priorities you have set.....be it education, healthy eating styles, or even music.

When your child went to their first birthday party, did you stand outside the door before entering and beg them to eat a piece of cake for the first time? promise them the world if they would just try the icing? No! Why? Because you know it is a treat and tastes good. If you had done that though, would they be wary of trying it? Of course! Giving your child music lessons isn't a horrible thing........it is a gift! And if it isn't, it is only because you the parent bring to that some baggage of your past that has an aura of discomfort. (And most of us do have some of this regarding our parents motivational techniques employed to our music lessons. I'm one of eight children......my Mom called the piano her second 'babysitter'. When an argument broke out between the children, at least one was sent to the piano to practice to break up the fight. Many of my siblings perceived the piano as a punishment and won't touch a keyboard to this day for anything. I'm not sure that Skinner meant his redirection to be used in exactly this fashion. \:D )

But my point is.....look at the incredibly hard things young children accomplish. How do they do it? How do they accomplish them with a positive attitude about it? If music is something you wan't to give your children, approach it with the same persistence you would their learning to talk/walk. Encourage, reward and kind correction as necessary.

Ob1--I LOVE your approach! Love of music is most profound in the sharing of it with others! You've not only come up with a wonderful way of accomplishing practice positively, you're giving them another true feature of music.....the sharing of it's wonderful experience with those we love! \:\)
_________________________
Gardener--
Two roads diverged in the woods and I ... I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.(R. Frost)

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#915966 - 02/28/03 08:53 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
ejks Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 175
Loc: Land of Lincoln
Really GREAT thread!!
ej
\:\) \:\)
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People will tell you they know what they like but what they really mean is they like what they know.

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#915967 - 02/28/03 11:11 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
valarking Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/02
Posts: 2331
Loc: Dallas
This is all so funny. My Mom asked me a year and a half ago if I wanted to learn to play an instrument. I said yes, probobly a piano. So half a year later after forgetting/remembering to get a teacher she finally does and I have had no problem with motivation ever since. And I practice 1-3 hours a day. As a result I'm doing pretty good for a 1 year student, I could probobly pass a Grade 5 exam if what I hear is true.

PS Offtopic, but what grade would Maple Leaf Rag estimated to be?

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#915968 - 02/28/03 11:29 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
What do you think of teaching your own kids to play as opposed to sending them to a teacher? I haven't had luck teaching my son and I'm not sure whether it's a mother/son dynamic or it's usual to have trouble teaching one's own.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Ă•un (apple in Estonian)

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#915969 - 02/28/03 12:55 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Eileen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/02
Posts: 95
Loc: California
I love this thread. what a great idea to share ideas about motivating our children.

My mother was ahead of her time in many ways, and one was in the way she got us to continue taking lessons.

First: She waited until we expressed an interest in taking lessons. (All 3 of us girls did so at different ages. I was the oldest at start, didn't get interested until 8) When one of us expressed a desire to learn at 5, Mom took lessons too in order to help my youngest sister.

Second: Then she talked to us about what was involved with taking lessons. How much practice would be expected. How playing well takes time to learn, even years.

Third: She made a contract with us. Once we started, we would take lessons no questions asked for 1 year. At that point, She and the teacher would make an evaluation of whether we had talent for music (not to be a professional, just for making music) We would also be consulted about our desire, but the final decision would be with the adults. If at that point we continued, we couldn't quit until we were 16. Several times after that first year, one or more of us would state a desire to quit. My Mom would calmly answer,: "OK, when you are 16."

By the time 16 rolled around, each of us was playing so well, enjoying making music so much and getting so much recognition for our playing that we didn't want to quit.

My Mom showed amazing commitment to our lessons. My parents were missionaries and as such we were quite poor. She taught American cooking lessons to neighborhood women and took in sewing to pay for our lessons. Her commitment to us was another reason that we didn't want to quit.

I have done a version of this method with a few additions. I also add yearly goals to the contract. It could be a piece of music or a more long reaching goal. Two of my children have negotiated a switch to a different instrument, the guitar, but the method has stayed the same.

I also have family music night with 2 pianists, 2 guitarists and Daddy on trumpet. About 4 times a year we add 2 other families and have a grand music night.

The few times my children have voiced a desire to quit, I have talked to them about their reasons, reminded them of their goals and asked them if they still had that goal and was it worth working hard for. Sometimes I have used the OK, you can quit when you are 16 method with one of my children in particular. I think the combination of the Parental encouragement and their own goals strikes a balance between what we want to teach them and the joy of making music for it's own sake. My 2 boys are now adults and continue to play the guitar. My daughter is continuing on the piano.

I also take my children to concerts to inspire them, invite other children over to share their playing, play recordings of great artists and talk about their life and playing.

I have recently started taking lessons again to see if I can get these middle age fingers to an advanced level, just for fun. I so enjoy playing and am forever grateful to my mother for teaching me about making a commitment to a difficult goal and sticking with it.

Eileen

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#915970 - 02/28/03 01:10 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
ob1knabe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 141
Loc: New Jersey
Wow! I'm so glad that many of you like Concert Night! If you try it, I really hope it works well for you.

There have been so many great things written on this thread--so many thoughtful responses. Thank you.

Apple--as an educator (I have worked in both high schools and middle schools), I have found there to be minimal success when a parent tries to tutor a child compared to someone outside the family structure. It's not for one minute that the parent doesn't have the ability to help the child with the work--it just puts that whole parent/child relationship on a different footing. I'm not saying that we would never recommend it or that it never works. I have just seen children typically reach a much greater level of success with someone other than a parent. Somehow it can also get in the way of that parent/child relationship. When we teach a child something, we often have to be "critical" of what they have or have not accomplished. We become the "bad guys." There are so many things in life we have to teach our kids and have to tell them "No" to. If teaching your child can be a joy for both of you, then it is a gift. If it is going to cause tension between the two of you, I would find a teacher ASAP. There's lots of quality time you both can share in support of a lesson. It's very important to my son that I am with him while he practices (he like to hear me say the good things!) I did this for my daughter as well, and I am confident it helped her. She's 10 now and a lot more independent. Besides, there are probably some wonderful teachers out there who could really help your daughter. There's only one person who can be her mom ;\) .

Penny--my little guy started when he was 4 as well. I think he wanted to start so badly because he saw me spend so much time with my daughter. I was skeptical about starting him that young, but he has proved me wrong! He's really into boogie and blues, and has already decided he's going to be a "blues man" when he's older. Who knows--maybe he could be in demand some day for Mardi Gras parties \:D .

Magnezium--how right you are!! We've been piano shopping the last few months. The kids come home inspired!!! Just taking them to the piano stores and letting them try gorgeous pianos has results. We've decided on an old grand piano and are having it redone--should get it in a few months. How long do you think the magic can possibly last?

Gardener--beautifully written.

Ob1
_________________________
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"
John Keats

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#915971 - 02/28/03 01:59 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
T2 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/18/01
Posts: 341
My twins are about 2 years old, and I have had success having fun with music with them enough that they like music. We sing and dance and get goofy to all kinds of music. We have invented a couple of games that turn them on and don't seem to stress them out:

1) When mama or dada hides for a game of hide and seek, which they love, they have to play piano until they're hidden.

2) Dada plays "Pop, Goes the Weasel" and the kids are in charge of the rhythm hit for 'pop'.

3) Dada takes advantage of their interest in high tech gadgets and plays with the metronome with them such that they match 1 for 1 rhythm (any note) to the metronome.

4) Dada plays a pitch and they sing it back. (They're getting prett good at it.)

5) The kids play anything and the parents praise them wildly and act very proud. Very 20th century stuff, but it gets them excited about playing.

I'd love to hear other ideas for early childhood.

T2

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#915972 - 02/28/03 02:10 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
ob1knabe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 141
Loc: New Jersey
Apple--please accept my apologies-- I didn't remember correctly--let me revise:

"There is only one person who can be his mom!" \:\)

Maybe someone who has had experience with homeschooling might have something to add to this thought as well. I am just passing on my own humble opinion.

Ob1
_________________________
"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"
John Keats

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#915973 - 02/28/03 03:15 PM Re: Getting the kids to practice
apple* Offline


Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
OB 1 Knabe - no apologies needed. I actually agree with what you say about a parent not being a particularly effective teacher 100%, especially with a son who is so like his know it all mother.
_________________________
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Ă•un (apple in Estonian)

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#915974 - 03/01/03 06:22 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
 Quote:
Originally posted by ob1knabe:
Magnezium--how right you are!! We've been piano shopping the last few months. The kids come home inspired!!! Just taking them to the piano stores and letting them try gorgeous pianos has results. We've decided on an old grand piano and are having it redone--should get it in a few months. How long do you think the magic can possibly last?[/b]
It'll probably last long enough to get them addicted, but after that the discovery of true music takes place and then an altogether different kind of magic comes into play...do I make sense?

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#915975 - 03/01/03 08:42 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19218
Loc: New York City
I can only speak from personal experience. If classical piano music recordings are played at home, at least some kids will be inpsired by the music to practice.

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#915976 - 03/01/03 10:53 AM Re: Getting the kids to practice
Palindrome Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 3914
Loc: Chicago, IL USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by ob1knabe:
... We've decided on an old grand piano and are having it redone--should get it in a few months. How long do you think the magic can possibly last?[/b]
You might (if it doesn't bother the refinisher) take them by the refinisher's shop, so they can see "their piano" progress.
_________________________
There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

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