Reading “Helping Parents Practice”

said: Apr 1, 2009
 48 posts

I’m currently halfway through Ed Sprunger’s book “Helping Parents Practice”, a resource which is frequently recommended by teachers but many parents still might not be aware of.

For me, the best part of the book (so far) has been the insight into how and why children respond the way they do, and why they respond so differently to parents vs. teachers. It’s also reinforced a lot of ideas about what makes for ineffective vs effective ways of interacting with children during practice. (I say “reinforced” because I think on some level I was aware of many of these points before, but in a vague and unformed way—but it’s very helpful to see it all written down).

I have a few minor complaints about the book. It relies very heavily on argument from analogy—one moment, the child is being compared to a surgeon getting ready to perform an operation, the next moment he’s an Olympic athlete, and so on. As a writer myself I know that analogies can be helpful, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for other lines of reasoning or evidence (arguments from analogy can be fundamentally misleading while still sounding quite convincing).

I’ve seen other books about developing children’s musical skills that base their discussions and recommendations on a mixture of the author’s experience plus research findings. The latter don’t have to be overwhelming or too high-level, but it’s nice to see some additional support beyond just “hey, this is how it seems to me”. One example that I think does this well is Robert Cutietta’s book “Raising Musical Kids: A Guide for Parents”. It’s obviously different in focus than Sprunger’s book, but Cutietta manages to balance anecdotal commentary from his own experience with occasional references to contemporary research on children’s musical development, child psychology, etc., written in an accessible, layperson-friendly style.

Obviously, though, Sprunger is a very experienced teacher with a lot of helpful advice and insight into ways to help children practice well … and to avoid the kinds of conflicts that turn a good practice session into a mess. I’m looking forward to reading the second half of the book, but so far I’d highly recommend it.

said: Apr 26, 2009
 4 posts

Sounds like a very interesting book—I am always looking for help in the “practicing with my child” department. How to keep it upbeat and positive, and at the same time effective. A book that my children’s teacher recommends is “Teaching From the Balance Point”, a guide for teachers, parents and students.
I have been reading a new book, The Talent Code, that is all about the neurology behind successful practice. Deep Practice is what this author, Daniel Coyle, calls it. He visited talent hotbeds around the world, in music (including Meadowmount School of Music), sports, education, etc, and met with a number of neurologists researching myelin, a substance that the brain produces when you practice. It has changed so much the way I look at practice with my two Suzuki violinists. The website is

Lynn said: Apr 28, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

GREAT book recommendation…
I followed the link to the talentcode website and read the available excerpts…can’t wait to read the whole book.
Thanks for posting it.

Laurel said: May 9, 2009
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

Wow! I checked out “The Talent Code” website too—that is fascinating! I’ll have to find it for myself… just the exerpts are giving me a couple of ideas for my more advanced students, as well as for my own kids.


Irene said: Sep 16, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts


I’ve ordered the copy of the “Helping Parents Practice” and reading it. It is really good book and I receive it just in time.. having a hard time practising now. The “honeymoon” period is over..

thank you very much for recommending this book.

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