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barbara

10 year olds and practicing - help

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I have a ten year old who has been studying violin for three years (at her request). She plays very well, and is in community and school orchestras. Recently, she has become very resistant to practicing - and I am very tired of fighting each day about this subject. She is unwilling to concede the connection between practicing and success at playing, although she likes the attention she gets for playing well. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? I am assuming that part of the problem is that she is 10 and a half and experiencing all of the hormonal changes that come with being a preteen. Her teacher is wonderful, very patient and gentle -- however, I know he gets frustrated with her because he thinks she has talent, and isnt giving everything she could. Thanks

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I had the same problem with my two daughters at that age. The short-term solution was to keep them at it, despite the grumbling. Try breaking practice into a couple of shorter sessions. If that just creates two sets of arguments, go back to one. See if you can get a slightly older, slightly better player to come over to practice once or twice a week, or to play some chamber music. That might help.

There's not really a whole lot you can do because you can't make them want to do it.

My oldest daughter, at 13, gave up lessons. She continued to play in her school orchestra, but not in the local youth orchestra. She did, and still does, display signs of extreme giftedness, but has not developed this as a violinist because she will not practice. But, at 14, my CD player and most of my CDs disappeared into her bedroom and she became obsessed with listening to classical music. She is now a very talented 17-year-old composer.

Her younger sister, now 16, was not as naturally gifted a violinist but persisted with practice every day, even when she didn't feel like it. She now plays in a top youth orchestra. She recently discovered the viola, loves it and has won a big school scholarship with that instrument. She still hates practising, but does it every day anyway and has even started working on scales and exercises, as well as slow playthroughs, without being told to! Miracles do happen! Good luck.

Lee

: I have a ten year old who has been studying violin for three years (at her request). She plays very well, and is in community and school orchestras. Recently, she has become very resistant to practicing - and I am very tired of fighting each day about this subject. She is unwilling to concede the connection between practicing and success at playing, although she likes the attention she gets for playing well. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? I am assuming that part of the problem is that she is 10 and a half and experiencing all of the hormonal changes that come with being a preteen. Her teacher is wonderful, very patient and gentle -- however, I know he gets frustrated with her because he thinks she has talent, and isnt giving everything she could. Thanks

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I have an eight year old whoplays well but resists practice as well-I try to structure practice time so that it preceeds another fun activity -like going to the park, playing on computer, etc. This way although she grumbles she will do it in order to do the next fun thing.This is a little like bribery but it works. We also keep a log of all practice time and if it meets the stated requirements weekly, in addition to other chores she will get her allowance.

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How wonderful to find this board! We've been struggling with just this problem for a year now (Jenny is now eleven). Nice to know we're not alone. We've had some small successes, which I'd like to share.

My daughter's primary instrument is the harp (her idea, from age 5 on), but she has recently added violin. She's always been willing to devote nearly infinite time to her own compositions, but resistance has grown to practicing the teacher-assigned pieces. No ideal solutions, but we have had some success with:

1. Requiring that she do a certain amount of practice of teacher-assigned pieces before working on her own compositions.

2. Reminding her that we won't (and she shouldn't) allow public performances of solo pieces not up to standard. At her last performance, her newer pieces were not performance-ready, so she had to "fall back" to earlier less demanding ones that she's a bit bored with. For a while, she was much less resistant to practice.

3. Arranging frequent family recitals, to get her into performance mode. This gives her frequent positive feedback for her efforts, and it takes away her excuse that she'll "do it better when it's for real", because it IS for real. I think it's hard at this age for them to work for long-term rewards.

4. A slightly older mentor. Her harp teacher introduced her to a talented high school violinist, and he has inspired and encouraged her violin efforts.

Every child is different, I know. For instance, Jenny seems driven to compose and to perform, so we can use these as rewards. Another child might respond to other rewards.

Dave

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Incidentally, 10-year-olds aren't the only ones that refuse to practice...For starters, don't ever resort to just telling her to practice all the time: she'll just get annoyed and hate the word. Try getting her to want to do it on her own: the ideas of a mentor are a good place to start. Does she listen to recordings of great artists? What about older, more advanced students of her teacher? They could make good musical mentors. Does her teacher have recitals of his students? Who knows...she may be impressed at one of them.

Maybe if an adult violinist such as her teacher were to talk to her and tell her that it's very easy to improve while you're young, but as an adult you see very little improvement over time (the legendary violin teacher Ivan Galamian knew that by age 25 it gets harder to learn new pieces). She may be too young to realize it and too young for the following: ask her what she wants to do with the violin when she grows up. Having a dream of being a great violinist should be good inspiration. Even if she wants to do other things, musical or not, violin can still open many doors: being a good instrumentalist would help a conductor, teacher, or composer; there are many scholarships and double major programs that would be worthwhile.

Another thing I can think of involves the teacher, but it would involve telling him how to do his job, and I don't know if it would be applicable here. When I got my first piece from my new teacher (Viotti #22, 1st mvmt) a few years ago, he assigned me the first two pages. I wasn't one to practice myself back then, and I only played it a night or two before my lesson. At the end of the lesson my teacher said he was impressed: I learned a lot of notes in a week (sight-reading works better for me than preparing a piece through practice). Now, the same level of familiarity with the music but not being able to play in tune and in time doesn't cut it anymore: he's used to my sight-reading inclination. I'm not suggesting the teacher should scold her or anything like that, but see what he can do.

If at first nothing seems to work, don't push or force anything: it's better that she continues on a plateau than if she quits altogether. Good luck to the three of you!

: I have a ten year old who has been studying violin for three years (at her request). She plays very well, and is in community and school orchestras. Recently, she has become very resistant to practicing - and I am very tired of fighting each day about this subject. She is unwilling to concede the connection between practicing and success at playing, although she likes the attention she gets for playing well. Any suggestions on how to deal with this? I am assuming that part of the problem is that she is 10 and a half and experiencing all of the hormonal changes that come with being a preteen. Her teacher is wonderful, very patient and gentle -- however, I know he gets frustrated with her because he thinks she has talent, and isnt giving everything she could. Thanks

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