6 Top Tips for Giving Feedback during Instrument Practice

6 Top Tips for Giving Feedback during Instrument Practice

Providing feedback is one of the most valuable aspects of the parent-teacher role for a child’s progress and enjoyment during instrument practice. Providing feedback is probably the MOST important role during the actual instrument practice session (once you are at the instrument and have planned the practice out).

Without a parent-teacher, many young children would simply not be aware of what they are doing right and what areas they need to work on. This would make progress slow and frustrating, and hence boring. This in turn would lead to the desire in the child to give up their instrument.

Asking a young child to practice their instrument on their own, is like asking a beginner reader to read their ‘reader’ alone and silently. The beginner reader needs feedback on what words they got right as well as to have their comprehension of the story checked. And almost importantly, a story shared is so much more ENJOYABLE!

TIP 1: HOW TO GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK DURING INSTRUMENT PRACTICE

Be specific in your positive feedback and be warm and loving. After every repetition find SOMETHING good that they did and comment on it!

Comment on technical correctness, musicality, rhythm, perseverance, attitude, posture, speed, having a go, getting through to the end, asking for help, not getting frustrated, or anything they did well at all!

General praise is not effective at all and has actually been shown to reduce intrinsic motivation.

TIP 2: HOW TO GIVE IMPROVEMENT FEEDBACK DURING INSTRUMENT PRACTICE

Ask questions in your improvement feedback rather than being directly critical.  Ask questions that make the child think about the answer and either answer you in their playing or verbally. You may have to ask a few questions around the subject.

(For examples of these questions, please download my free, more detailed guide to giving feedback by clicking the button below.
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Direct instruction and direct improvement feedback is not as effective as empowering the child to work out the answer on her own.

Also – beware the loaded question which is really a direct negative feedback in disguise!  “Why did you play that with a straight thumb?”

The problem with giving improvement feedback in a questioning way is that it can feel ……inefficient.  However, it is not really inefficient in the long run! In fact, it is way more efficient as the child ‘owns’ her response and is much more likely to make the corrections required, and progress more quickly.

And most importantly, even from a very young age, children learn of their ability and their role in effecting improvements in their learning. You are teaching them now how they can be responsible for their progress and their achievement.

TIP 3: DON”T CAVEAT PRAISE

Don’t caveat praise – the research has shown it is actually better to not praise a child at all if you do it.

TIP 4: LET GO OF (SOME) CONTROL DURING INSTRUMENT PRACTICE

Adlerian psychology talks about children having two buckets that need filling – an attention bucket and a power bucket. If either of these two buckets are not filled, a child will ‘act out’ to fill them up. I am of a controlling nature (*understatement*) so whilst I am very good at filling my children’s attention bucket, I can sometimes neglect the power bucket. And this results in power struggles. Especially if I am too controlling with instrument practice.

I have learnt to fill the child’s power bucket wherever possible and be less controlling. I may set the practice plans, but they can choose which pieces they play when during the practice.  Using the questioning method of providing critical feedback is also a less controlling method of instruction, and just changes the whole dynamic of the practice.

TIP 5: LOVE INSTRUMENT PRACTICE YOURSELF

Research has shown that the more intrinsically motivated the teacher/instructor, the more intrinsically motivated the student, and the better outcomes. There are many implications for this research in the education field generally, but for parent-teachers it is also very relevant.

Set your practice plans and your regular practice sessions up so that they are enjoyable for you!  Even if your kids could do a big session, if you can’t (tired, just over it, etc) – then make it easy on yourself and do an easy/short session.

Also, I remind myself that while I am doing instrument practice, my husband has the unenviable task of cleaning the kitchen and putting the other kids to bed. Instrument practice looks more appealing so I am more motivated to be there!

TIP 6: HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS

The research has shown time and time again, that the expectations of parents are highly correlated with the success of children, even more so than the child’s own expectations. This also applies to teachers’ expectations of students.

So no matter what the child’s abilities now – set your expectations high and hold them loosely. The high expectations you have will help with the process of building self-esteem, grit, determination, perseverance IRRESPECTIVE of the actual musical level achieved.

How does the adage go? “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”

Would you like to more detail on this post?  In this free download, I provide heaps of examples of specific praise you can give for piano and string instruments instruction.  Click the button below to request your free copy.

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