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Both my kids took piano and saxophone lessons and were pretty good at both, but practising became a chore which they increasingly wanted to avoid. Their mother took the brunt of the arguments while I took a pretty laid back approach because when I was a kid I had to struggle to be allowed to play music and I couldn't bear to see them doing it under duress.

Anyhow the time came when they were allowed to choose to drop music and they both jumped at the chance even though I know they would have been more than competent players had they persisted.

Now that they're 21 and 18 years old I've asked them if they regretted their decision. They SAY they don't regret it, but there seems to be an element of self justification there.

I've met SO many people on gigs over the years who have that old story of regret that they'd given up playing because they hated practising and because it was something their parents wanted and "made them do".

How do parents and teachers deal with that fine line beween coercion and leaving them to find their own motivation? I speak particularly of kids with obvious talent but no real commitment. I guess it's not just a problem for instrumentalists. My daughter, for instance, is enormously committed to competetive horse riding.
 

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Both my kids took piano and saxophone lessons and were pretty good at both, but practising became a chore which they increasingly wanted to avoid. Their mother took the brunt of the arguments while I took a pretty laid back approach because when I was a kid I had to struggle to be allowed to play music and I couldn't bear to see them doing it under duress.

Anyhow the time came when they were allowed to choose to drop music and they both jumped at the chance even though I know they would have been more than competent players had they persisted.

Now that they're 21 and 18 years old I've asked them if they regretted their decision. They SAY they don't regret it, but there seems to be an element of self justification there.

I've met SO many people on gigs over the years who have that old story of regret that they'd given up playing because they hated practising and because it was something their parents wanted and "made them do".

How do parents and teachers deal with that fine line beween coercion and leaving them to find their own motivation? I speak particularly of kids with obvious talent but no real commitment. I guess it's not just a problem for instrumentalists. My daughter, for instance, is enormously committed to competetive horse riding.
I have no idea what the secret is here. I've had two daughters play sax. Both would not practice at all. The first one I was always pushing to practice and she finally quit. The second one I just leave alone. She never practices but every once in awhile I'll ask her if she wants to play duets. She loves playing with me and going to band (although she is pretty bored with band) I give her stuff to practice and songs to work on but I'm really trying not to get too involved as far as pushing her. I figure if it catches her then it was meant to be. The truth is I hardly practiced at all in 7th and 8th grade. In 9th grade I became possessed for some reason..............
 

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Perhaps schools should have standardized tests for playing music? Kids would practice then even though they do not want to just like the kids who learn the distance formula in math. But seriously, sometimes I think that kids who don't want to practice just don't want to play music. But could it be that simple???
 

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I have a 6th grader and a 4th grader playing in the school band. The 6th grader will practise once a week at home, but has two band practices and a lesson in the week. She is competant and has taken up the baritone sax. In between dancing lessons, soccer and homework it is hard to find time. I have a 4th grade daughter playing the trumpet. Its a different kettle of fish here. The kid is motivated and practices. She also does soccer, dancing and gymnastics. This year she will sit her first exam which will be Grade 5, where her elder sister has completed Grade 2.

Mine get to play a few tunes in my band, (just the heads) and they get real enjoyment out of that.

I really think it boils down to the individual.
 

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Both my sons played in band in high school and both were quite accomplished. But neither has done anything much since then (they're 29 and 32 now). It seems to me all we can do is introduce our children to music and the joys and challenges of it, encourage them as much as possible, and let them find their own way. They both still have a great appreciation for music and may someday come back to playing. The truth is, they have their OWN interests and abilities and have done well in pursuing the things that capture their attention and passion. I would add that if I was buying an instrument then there had to be SOME kind of agreement about how much effort would be put into using it and acquiring the skills necessary to develop some facility on that instrument. Teaching responsibility is part of any endeavor, especially one that is costly.
One last note: I started piano lessons at age 6 and had a teacher who whacked me on the head with a rolled up music book when I made a mistake. Practice sessions were done "under the gun" at home with a timer set and dire consequences for not getting it done. I endured this for about 12 years along with lessons in voice and playing the trombone in band. Loved (and still love) the music, but HATED most of the practice and resented being always pushed/driven. When I left home for college and grad school I seldom came home and left a LOT of my music behind for many years (always did vocal but lost LOTS of the piano). I took up the sax at about 38 years old and that IN SPITE of my early experience. I'm 61 now. Can't imagine life without music but I don't consider it a good trade off for all the abuse.
It's TOUGH being a parent, isn't it?!
Peace.
 

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I'm only 19.

I hated to practice through junior high and high school. And my parents never forced me. I loved my sax though. My reason for avoiding practice I guess was the fear of being judged. By neighbors, my parents, siblings. I just didn't want to know that people can hear me.
 

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I started practicing in 7th grade up to 2 hours a day and moved up to 4 hours in 8th grade and kept a that for a long while. Since then I've mellowed down to 2-3 hours a day....and I'm finally starting to improvise.

I'd say the best thing to do for younger kids is to let them have fun playing and have them listen to some good sax players occasionally, and hopefully, they'll start practicing on their own.
 

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Well as a young student myself (well 16) I find that there are to main reasons why people (at least in my band class) don't practice.
A. Don't have enough time
B. Just in band for an easy credit

90% of the people are in group B in my band classes, I myself would practice forever if I had the time.
For those in group b, most also don't enjoy playing music or their instrument in band so it comes as no surprise.
I personally really dislike them, because it's hard to make progress with those kind of people.
 

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My kids have told me about a negative experience with their piano teacher. She's a friend of the family and you couldn't find a more caring person. She also has had great success in my district as a teacher. The problem was that she wanted them to sing the notes as they played them, a technique she swears by. Neither of my kids gets any pleasure from singing, particularly in front of others. Even though I now know this was a major issue in their giving up piano, I haven't had the heart to tell my friend the teacher and hurt her feelings.
 

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When I was in band, we were supposed to fill out practice sheets. Mine were always a lie as were my friends'. Now that I'm a band director, I don't have required practice sheets though I daily address the need to take it home AND take it out of the box for any period of time. As I recall, once I went through the hassle of putting the horn together, I could easily see time slip by practicing. Imposing time expectations encourages kids to watch the clock and not the music, IMO. I'm reasonably happy with the results though I do see a gap in my band of those that have found the internal motivation and those that haven't. Some students would benefit from a token system of practice...practice for x amount of hours and you get a "star". But, I wasn't like that as a student and I don't want to train em young to expect a reward other than the pleasure of improving as a musician.
 

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Maybe I'm fabricating a pattern that isn't there, but it seems like for some of us at least, our attitude to our kids' practice is strongly influenced by our own childhood experiences.

In my case I did recorder as a child for a couple of years - not just twinkle twinkle little star, I did exams and got to a reasonable level for my age. Unfortunately, nobody told me the next step might be to take up another wind instrument, or really encouraged me beyond the age of 11. Then we moved continents and apart from a desultory attempt at piano in my teens and quite a lot of singing until my voice broke, that was it for me until a few years ago. So for me, looking back, the impression is of a lost opportunity. I wasn't particularly pushed to practise although my recorder teacher was pretty fierce so maybe I did some out of fear. I remember being a good sight reader which suggests I didn't practise much.

My response? All three kids do music lessons. None is especially talented, although I think the older two will be far better musicians than I ever will - if they keep it up. My daughter (10) likes her flute and practises spontaneously, maybe once a week. My eldest (11) quite likes his alto, dislikes practising and would never do it off his own bat. My youngest (7) has just taken up flute, is struggling with the embouchure but it's early days, and also would never practise without an incentive.

The incentive that gets both boys to practise? Bribery, flat out. Normal ration of computer games: 20 minutes/day, 30 in school holidays. Value of music practice: minute for minute. Do 20 minutes practice, you can play computer games for 40. And at least they are having the opportunity. If they don't want to go on with it when they are older, that's their lookout. For now, it's part of their education. They have to do an instrument, just like they have to learn maths and take swimming lessons.

Is this wrong? Dunno. I don't think so though. I'm not forcing them, I'm giving them an incentive. They are being given the opportunity to learn when their brains are most receptive to it. Up to them what they do with this opportunity in the long run.
 

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Vivace's post made me smile because I too quickly found that requiring practice cards to be turned in not only taught students to lie, but their parents as well. My solution was to assign an individual playing test either from a method book or a difficult section from a piece we were studying and have the student pass off the assignment in class at the end of the week. The upside of this is that it quickly revealed the students who were not taking their instruments home and practicing, and it made each band member accountable to learn his/her part. The parents of those who got behind got a phone call, plus the students learned that the OCD teacher (me) would keep after them until they passed off the music no matter what it took.

The downside, of course, is that it took an entire rehearsal period to hear playing tests. Those not playing their test worked on music theory worksheets. Occasionally there were complaints about the students being "forced" to play in front of the class. My response was that the only way to learn not to be nervous or self conscious playing in front of others was to do it.

The problem I see in the title of this thread is the use of the word "pushing". No one, even an adult likes to be pushed to do something. I would rather see teachers and parents MOTIVATE, ENCOURAGE, SUPPORT, REWARD, HELP or LEAD young players to practice rather than PUSHING them.

As an educator, I felt my job was to provide the opportunity for each student to have a positive musical experience through learning to play an instrument and to remove any barriers to achieving that goal that were within my ability to control. Beyond that, there was not much more I could do. Some students found they had an affinity for music and others did not. Some stayed in the program for the social interaction and to be with their friends, rather than for a real love of musical performance, but they too got a taste of performing good music and hopefully developed an appreciation that would last throughout their lifetime.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I used the word "pushing" on purpose because this is how it seems to the pushee.

My own experience, coming from a largely unmusical family, was that I played recorder when I was at one particular school for a term. I carried on with recorder completely untutored for 5 years from the age of 10 to 15 and I convinced myself that clarinet might be very similar. My parents were very sceptical about paying for an expensive instrument and lessons. In the 1960s, apart from recorder at one school, there was no instrumental music taught in any of the 5 schools I attended.

I had to beg, cajole and make promises to get that clarinet so not only did I have the motivation, but I also had the fear of "I told you so" if I gave up. The next important thing was joining a jazz band. We were pretty bad. What am I saying? We were terrible! But we stuck at it because we were mates. We did everything together and we got better. We're still firm friends over 40 years later. Playing jazz music was also a great vehicle for connecting with a special type of girl. Not the shallow type that like pop music, but the more unconventional and to me exciting ones.

For me the successful combination that kept me playing during the crucial formative years was a natural desire and motivation, parental DISapproval, peer group bonding and sex (well, at least the possibility of it).
 

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How do parents and teachers deal with that fine line beween coercion and leaving them to find their own motivation? I speak particularly of kids with obvious talent but no real commitment.
As a parent, I struggle with this one pretty constantly, even though my two daughters are very different in almost every regard. Looks like others have the same struggle, but few have magic bullets...
 

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Im 17 and in year 12- i practise alot, so much my neighbours are telling my sister to tell me to shut up. mainly on improv practise though. i practise cos i like experimenting setup and altering my tone and doing that sort of stuff- i think if you set a kid up with a good horn and a few different mouthpieces and reeds they can sort of choose what they like and not be frustrated with a tone they hate- i played my yamaha 4c against another of my mouthpieces (vandoren perfecta) both of which cost me the same amount and the perfecta was much better sounding, giving student new things will encourage them to play more but overspending will force the kid to play knowing how much was spent and they'll feel bad if they dont
 

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In the end, you have to let kids have there own goals and desires. From what I've seen, poor dirty un-kept folks that live their own lives are usually happier than successful wealthy folks that spend their lives doing what others want them to do. With my kids, I always say, hey there's this thing, let's go do it together. Sometimes they enjoy it and keep on doing it. Other times they don't and they never do it again. As a parent, I've done my job by introducing it them. I try to show them everything I know. But in the end, they have to pick and chose what to leave in and what to leave out.

I don't know if you can force a child to do something like playing music and expect them to continue to do it once your power over them is gone. In my house growing up, I had to be real careful never to break any dishes and was punished if one got broke. Today, I often buy several boxes of identical dishes. We use them and break them until we need another box. Life's too short to worry about glasses and plates. I can easily imagine someone growing up to passionately hate playing music if they were forced practice too much as a child.
 

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I don't really get the concept of pushing kids to play music when they're rather be doing something else. In the process of pushing, you may be keeping the child from their true gifts which will probably be outside of music. Of course, it's good to make sure that the kid isn't quitting music just because it's hard and they require instant results due to their own impatience.

Ultimately, it's always better to inspire rather than force. Maybe find a way for them to practice the music that they're listening to on their iPods. I mean, who doesn't want to hear a Justin Bieber tune honked out on a Selmer Bundy??

Then again, I don't have any kids, so my advice is to be taken with a small grain of salt.
 

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Well this is only my third year playing a sax, and I'm kinda like koj. Every now and then somebody in my family is telling me to give it a break, or something similar but not as kind. Haven't really gotten to the heavy experimentation stuff yet, I like jazzing up my school stuff a lot. You know, like putting notes where they ain't suppose to be, or where I'd like to think they should be. Or monkeying around with rhythm stuff. Last time I heard a discussion like this was at a parent meeting. Conclusion? Make music more fun than other stuff goin' on around the student, and re-enforcing routine vs expectation. By now, I know I ain't playing baseball until my homework is done, so I don't expect to. No expectation, no disappointment, and ain't no sense in protesting about it. As strange as it may seem, for us, half the time we don't wanna practice ain't because we don't wanna practice, it's because it's exactly what you want us to do,... practice. Personally, I can't imagine a day where I can't pick my horn up for whatever reason. And don't keep telling me I'm playing something wrong,... let me figure it out sometimes. Now that's one of my demons. My Dad keeps yelling from a distant room in the house, "That didn't sound right, play it again!". That's why I like practicing when they leave the house. Sometimes I like to play as soon as I get home from school so I won't forget the new stuff, and sometimes I'll subtract some of that time from my structured hour.
 

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My best pupil is a boy of about 17/18 who came to me at about 13/14. I think for about the first 2 years of coming to lessons he did hardly any practice at all. I imagine he didn't do any homework at school either. But he enjoyed having lessons and playing. He's now going to university (medicine) and he's Grade 8 on sax.

Myself I didn't do any practice at all for maybe 3/4 years as a teenager. I always tell parents not to nag. People come to music or come back to it at different times. Lessons without practice are not necessarily wasted money in the long term, in my opinion.
 
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