10 ideas to motivate your students to practice their orchestra pieces

You’ve got the perfect repertoire lined up for the year. You’ve recruited a fantastic orchestra group. But, your students just don’t seem to be practicing! 

Yes, we all know that this is the expression you pull when you are explaining this conundrum to your colleagues! ?

Here are my top 10 ideas to help motivate your orchestra members to practice:

1. Have concerts planned

It's amazing how important the motivation of a concert schedule can be. I’ve had terms where we haven’t had concerts planned (especially during the pandemic!) and it becomes so much harder to motivate students to practice. During your rehearsals, constantly remind your students that you are working towards your upcoming concert. This gives the rehearsal and practice expectations much more meaning.

2. Utilise play-along tracks and videos

Playing in an orchestra can be an abstract concept for a young person. They are playing a part that fits into a larger musical context, yet it can be a while before they hear the whole piece come together. Giving your students play-along tracks/videos helps speed up this process. Check out our range of FREE play-along tracks here on YouTube to see what I mean.

3. Ensure that your students take their music home

Always give your students a copy of the music to take home. Sure, keeping music at school can help you stay organised, but your beginners need to have music to work on at home too. If you don’t want your students to forget their music for rehearsal each week, make take-home copies for them. Of course, Beginner Orchestra pieces can be downloaded and printed as many times as you like! No need to worry about printing limits ??.

Our 10 ideas will help you say: "Wow, you've been practicing so much!"

4. Encourage students to take their pieces to their music tutor

Encourage your students to ask their tutor to spend at least 5 minutes of their lesson checking over their orchestra pieces. It might not always be possible, but trust me, young people might not even think about asking their tutor to spend time on this. They often just need to be prompted by you!

5. Set specific practice targets

Don’t be afraid to spend time during the last 10 minutes setting specific practice targets. Address each individual or section of your orchestra to make sure they know exactly what they should work on before your next rehearsal.

6. Have students share their practice routines

Rather than banging on about how/why students should be practicing, ask your students to share their ideas. Speak to individuals that you know are practicing and give them a chance to outline their practice routines to the group. Student voice is powerful!

7. Have a pencil on every stand during rehearsal

I choose a student do this for me at the beginning of each session. That way, students can easily make notes about what to practice during your sessions. They have no excuse that they’ve forgotten what to practice when you’ve instructed them to write it down at the end of each session.

8. Create a practice diary for your students

>> Or download our FREE one to give to them! <<

This ensures your students have a specific place that is purposely formatted for organising practice priorities. You’ll need to print off the practice diary and fold/staple it together. This could be a great job for a volunteer or student leader to help organise.

9. Make practice goals into a competition between sections

Set a practice goal and decide which group or section has made the most improvement each week. It’s amazing how the power of the collective effort of a group can be a motivating force.

10. Always ‘follow up’ on your practice expectations

It’s incredible how often we forget this simple aspect of teaching. If you set a practice goal for your students, for goodness sake, please make sure you follow up on it! There is nothing less motivating for your students than to know that you are not going to check up on their practice.

Have some other great ideas for getting your orchestra students to practice? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

Want some perfect pieces for your beginner group? Check out our catalogue here.

~ Chris

Founder of Beginner Orchestra

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