Learning music is exciting, wonderful, exuberating and difficult. Very, very difficult. But there is one thing that can make it less so–communication. Communicating with your teachers about what you like, dislike, find easy, find challenging. Talking to your friends about something exciting you learnt in music class. The most important of all though, is talking to your parents about it. There is always a feeling at the back of our mind that as a music student our parents won’t understand us.
But this isn’t just a one way street is it? As I have grown from a student to a teacher, I have spoken to as many parents as students. the Parents of these music students often tell me they cannot help their kids because it is not a language they understand. Or that their child won’t talk to them about their class. Or they don’t understand anything that their kid tells them so they are helpless. .
One must understand that playing music is as much mental as physical. The frame of mind, the confidence that a student has affects drastically on how well they can play. Sometimes you can help your child by simply listening. Not helping, not understanding, just simply listening.
To get your child to talk to you, here are a few questions you can start with:
1. How was your class?
Although the most vague question of all and one which is not going to get you a direct answer, it is also one of the most effective in the long run. If asked regularly, your child will realise that it isn;t just a courtesy question. You want to know, and if they talk to you, you’ll hear them out.
2. What pieces/songs did you learn this week?
This is a direct question, easy to answer and no reason for your child to evade. What they may say to you is that you won’t know the song or it is not well know. But for that we do have a follow up question below.
3. Will you show me what you learnt in class?
Music is a performing art. No matter how easy or difficult, urge your child to perform. Listen to them and appreciate them. If the moment is right, even critique them! Playing for others validates their learnings and provides the students with a sense of achievement.
4. Which is your favorite song?
You can ask them about their favorite piece/song from the ones they have learnt to perform, or from the ones they have been listening to. Absolutely anything. This just encourages them to critique more about music, think deeper and understand their taste in music. As for you? Being a parent of a music student, you don’t need to play or understand music, but it would be very helpful if you listen to a lot of music!
5. Did you learn anything new this week?
In some classes you learn to play the old material better, and in some classes you learn something new. New things come with their own set of excitement and challenges. Your kid will probably talk about what they are learning like they talk about their friends.
Chances are, if you have gotten into a routine of asking your little musician these questions, you can already maintain a sufficiently long conversation with them about their lessons. They rest will flow on its own. Over time, the more you listen, the better you will be able to understand them, whether you yourself know music or not.
You can also read here for more ways to help your musical child as a parent.