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From an article by Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D
“The most important part of music study takes place at home, not at the lesson. At home the student tries out new ideas, plays his assignment as specified, and has fun experimenting.
“Research shows that maximum retention occurs if repetition - that is, practice - takes place within 24 hours or less. The retention is approximately 90%. If repetition does not occur until 48 hours later (skip a day), the retention drops drastically. By 72 hours the retention is virtually zero.
“Your child will be very frustrated with his inability to carry out the lesson assignment at home the longer he waits between practice sessions. Daily practice will net your child the most progress for his effort and keep frustration to a minimum.
“Practicing seven days a week may not be practical. However, the day after or before the lesson is not a good day to skip. You should have a post lesson review - after you return home sit down with your child and play through the lesson assignment one time. Ask your child to describe what he is supposed to do and why. This will acquaint you with what you should be hearing, and your child will know that you are aware of the goals the teacher has set. If you don’t know what the teacher wants, call and find out the first day so you practice correctly. This is a tangible reminder that you support his efforts and are vitally interested in the content of what he’s doing. Another benefit is that the immediate repetition of the assigned material ensures almost 100% retention of what the teacher said at the lesson.
“With young children you may have to be involved directly for the entire practice session at first. Do not expect your child to carry out his practice entirely by himself until he is about 10 years old. Even if your child doesn’t need your sustained participation, he may crave your presence because he is lonely in the piano room all by himself. Don’t imply by words or body language that you’d rather be (or should be) somewhere else. That attitude is an eloquent negative.
“The main reason children want to quit piano study is that the parent assumes the child can carry out the assignment by himself and he can’t. Frustration, confusion, and despair set in. Who’d want to prolong a situation like this? Don’t expect the child to practice on his own! Learning how to practice is a different skill altogether from actually playing. Be directly involved. On the bench, if the child is young, the secret weapon is you!”