1. Schedule Practice into the Daily Routine
Routine is the most important factor for attaining success in any field, and music study is no exception! The most effective way to establish a routine is to set aside time for practice each day (or as many days as your teacher deems necessary). This time should be framed as one that cannot be replaced by any other activity. Additionally, it is not necessary for this time to be the same each day, as each day of the week is sure to be filled with different activities. But the parent and/or student should pick a time when the practicing can be focused and not interrupted.
2. Divide and Conquer
Sometimes a teacher assigns a difficult song for a student to play in their next lesson. When left to their own devices at home, a student can feel defeated by simply looking at the daunting work in front of them. Counter this by breaking up the song into smaller manageable sections. Then designate which ones are to be completed each practice day. Now the song does not look so impossible! Those small successes each day add up quickly. They also give students confidence and encouragement that will help them persevere through the coming week(s).
3. Practice Music They Enjoy
Getting better at something is rarely a process that comes about without a little bit of hard work and effort. But the journey is always so much more enjoyable when you know the end result is something you are going to be proud of and happy to share with others. Have your student try to practice music he/she enjoys listening to and will be eager to perform, for themselves or for others! Not only will it be enjoyable because it is music they like, but it will also motivate them to practice longer as well as more efficiently (to have more time to practice more music they like!).
4. Give Encouragement
It is easy to become frustrated when studying music. Some days you aren't progressing as much as you would like, your brain isn't cooperating, and you feel nothing is going as you planned. Most of the time, these feelings are fleeting and are temporary setbacks. But these feelings can become detrimental to some students if never addressed. Positive reinforcement provided by another student, a parent, or a colleague can be invaluable. This feedback should not be empty or insincere praise. Instead, it should be an honest and constructive response to a student's playing. "I love how you never gave up on that difficult section" or "You are going to have that part down in no time if you keep practicing like that!" are great motivators for a discouraged student.
5. Offer Opportunities to Perform
Music, at its very heart, is a performance art. Working towards the goal of performing a song will always motivate a student to put in the necessary practice. Keep in mind, however, that not all students have the desire to perform in the traditional recital or concert. Playing in front of a large audience is something that has to be introduced gradually for some students. And for others, it is something that will never be comfortable. Ask the student if they would like to play for a small family gathering or a short post-dinner performance. Sometimes it might be best to do away with the idea of an audience completely! Offer to make a personal recording for them to keep and listen to later. These performances will really feel like a culmination of all the hard work they put into learning their song.