Many parent’s have similar ideas about what it means to practice music, the words for most bring to mind being in a room and working through music, having to try again and again to make it work and experiencing a mixture of some joy in playing combined with moments of frustration and a lot of hard work.The word “practice” for most conjures up ideas of a dry, challenging experience that requires self discipline and will power to have success and create effective improvement.At the Eliason School of Music in their Piano Lessons Portland program (https://www.eliasonmusic.com/piano-lessons-portland/), teachers are using a different approach to make lessons more fun and effective and to change “practice time” into “play time”.
When kids think about the word “play” they will think about things that make them very happy, such as playing with toys, playing games, being at recess at school.The teachers at Eliason start by replacing the words “practice” with “play” and they avoid using the word practice due to the negativity that can come along with it.When young students think about “play time” and they start to think about all of the things that go into that category, such as games, playing in the room with their toys, recess, ect. they will also include the idea into that group “playing” their instrument.This sets the tone for fun in learning music and gets them to think about playing music as a fun act that is a wonderful and joyful experience.It is amazing but just changing one word can have a powerful effect on how students approach learning music and how it changes their attitude towards it.
Another way that the Piano Lessons Portland program at the Eliason School of Music creates fun when learning is by using games and other items and integrating them into the play time with their instrument.A good example of this is a teacher might take a dozen stuffed animals and place them around the room.Each animal represents a specific task to be done, such as playing certain scales, exercises or pieces.After each task is complete the student can then go and pick up the animal, collect it and put it into a chair or a place that they would like to collect them.Another example involves using toys such as a Mr. Potato Head.After each musical task is complete the student can then place another item on the Potato until it is complete.The teachers at Eliason have also found that using the game Jenga is a great game for playing, each time after a student plays a song or exercise you then put another piece on the Jenga tower.This actually can take a while and the student will likely play for 20 to 30 minutes until enough pieces are placed and the tower falls over.
There are dozens of other games and props that the teachers at the Eliason School of Music can use to turn practice time into play time.This creates a positive association in the mind of students, because when they think about playing their instrument they associate it with having fun, like playing a game and having play time.With this new approach to the way students think about the learning of music it is possible that we will see more students keeping with their music long term and into adulthood.