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Striking the right note in encouraging your child to practice

"Wrong note, play it over." The mother was decisive. "You've got to practice that piece at least three times more," said the father.

"I'm not playing any more, I'm never going to play the piano again!" Tim shouted, letting his hands crash down on the keys. the jarring dissonance perfectly expressed everybody's mood.

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The boy waited, his head on the music rest, his eyes brimming with tears. His father left the room. his mother waited. No good going on now.

"OK, Timmy." Her voice dropped its commanding edge. "Why don't you go on up and do your homework? We'll talk about this later."

Later was when Tim had gone to bed. He had done his homework. He had had a hot bath. The air of defeat had left him. His mother was also composed.

"Well, what do you think" she said, sitting on the bed, leaving the subject open.

"What do I think about what?" Tim responded, knowing perfectly what she meant. He wriggled up and down a bit, but his eyes were bright and cofident.

"Do you really want to give up the piano?"

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"No," he said slowly.

"Well, what shall we do? You know I don't like all that screaming and yelling."

"Well, I don't like you telling me what to do all the time."

"All right. But what if you're playing something wrong?"

"Well, perhaps when I first start a piece you could help me."


"But most days I can be on my own."

"And how many days are you going to practice?"

"I'll take one day off a week, and the day of my lesson," Tim answered quickly.

And that is how things stand now. Tim practices an average of four or five times a week. Right after supper, fresh and refueled, he goes to the piano. His mother calls out favorable comments from the kitchen. (They encourage repeat performances much more than the old nagging.)

If a new piece is difficult, they go over it together. What key is it in? What chords would you expect? Where are the repeats? And so on. When Tim has mastered the right hand, his mother fills in with the left. She is no expert, so he has to wait and correct and encourage her. Then they switch places. This duet technique has the real feel of making music together. It is humorous, noncritical.

Tim's music has much more flair and confidence these days. Even his teacher has noticed.

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