Encouraging Your Young Musician

Seven Quick Takes

Even though we’re off school this month, some things continue like instrument practice. My kids have been steadily taking lessons and practicing their chosen instruments for about two and half years now. (Addie and Byron both took piano for a couple of years before that.)

Although I wouldn’t call them “enthusiastic” musicians, they’re all capable of performing  a recital type piece and they all toy with their instruments and try to figure out their favorite songs. I think it’s too soon to tell who will stick with music beyond any requirement my husband and I set (we consider it an essential part of their education on par with Latin, math, literature,etc.) but I have some inkling.

I know that motivating kids to practice can seem like a constant battle so I wanted to share some of the methods that work best for us, and that keep the kids on track. With a little “creative” motivation, your child could turn into a masterful Mozart in no time!

1. We keep a 17th century thumb screw on hand. Just the sight of Mama getting the thumb screw out of the closet usually sends everyone running to practice. It’s effectiveness lies in its ability to make music practice painful for up to seven days after a single application! Just try Suzuki with swollen thumbs!

2. If torture devices aren’t your thing, you still need to have a consequence in place do deter slacking. Some people like to “encourage” through rewards. Pfffft. You will never breed discipline through M&Ms!! It’s time to go tiger mom by withholding food and water until after music practice has been completed. This will usually knock out practice first thing in the morning, but should your children try to fast their way out of practice, all you need to do is eat those M&Ms in front of your kids. Now, they want to practice and you get candy! Win, win!

3. Make them sign a blood oath with a teacher. I’ve found it can be hard to find a music teacher who will enter into a sacred blood pact, but thankfully there are a few who are truly committed to the success of their students. I’ve found that by signing that contract with the blood of my children, there’s much more dedication on their parts, and fear, to live up to their end of the bargain. Sure, there’s been some nightmares, but really, it’s a small price to pay to watch them diligently practice everyday, sweat pouring down their twitching faces, without nagging .

4. Continually ask them, “Little Bobby, what do you want to be when you grow up?” “Oh, that’s nice, just remember a music scholarship is the only way your dreams are going to come true since we’ve spent your college fund on piano lessons. Failure is not an option honey. Now don’t you think you should practice a bit more? You’ve only got nine more years to become a virtuoso.”

5. Show them YouTube videos of children younger than them who play 100 times better. “I bet this child didn’t spend 30 minutes over the weekend playing Minecraft. I’ll bet this child loves his parents and the opportunities they provide for him!” Cue waterworks. Usually kids will do anything when a parent cries in front of them. Stick some freshly cut onions up your sleeve if you’re new at this.

6.It also helps to be an example to your child. I played the alto sax for many years and so, when my children are struggling with a piece, I will break out my sax, study and then play the piece they’re struggling with flawlessly, tacking on a motivating “IN YOUR FACE!” at the end. If being bested by their mother doesn’t work, I usually issue a ‘throw down’ type challenge; best of three musical pieces spanning a variety of genres, to which they usually just start practicing and ignore my end zone style dance from the top of the dining room table.

7. We wrap up the year with a music recital…TO THE DEATH. In this gladiator style meet up, a group of homeschoolers are invited to participate by performing one piece and then engage in hand to hand combat using only their instrument as a weapon or shield. The student who can still play their recital piece at the end of the battle lives another day.

Do your children practice instruments? How do you encourage a love of music in your home? Write it down then link it up below! Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!


  1. Okay, I cannot compete with you in the comedy department, so here’s my real technique. I tell them they have to have 5 school subjects done before lunch. They all immediately say, “Can piano count as one?” They’d rather practice than do, say, math.

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