March 5, 2023

Practice Tips

A month of practice

First off, I was surprised by how difficult it was to incorporate experiments and new approaches on a weekly basis. So…...that was a bit ambitious on my part. Second, I was glad to hear that nearly everybody is happy with their practice routines and their progress.

I think everybody can benefit from examining their practice habits and thinking about ways to make the process easier and more rewarding. Please take a few minutes to read through the list below. Some of the ideas are from families in the studio and some are from the parent panel at the last PMTA meeting.

Before I get to the list of ideas, however, I want to make one point first. Some parents feel that asking a child to practice will "suck the fun" out of playing the piano. While I do agree that the way the message is communicated is impactful, I disagree with the thought itself.

Practicing and developing competency is the path to having fun at the piano. If you aren’t good at something, it is more likely to be frustrating, unsatisfying, and unrewarding. Fun is when you sense you’re getting better at something and when you can manifest an idea from your head into something real coming out of the piano. It’s almost magical. We, the adults, understand this. We know that effort leads to achievement. But our young learners need our encouragement - as well as guidance on structure and habits - to get them to experience that for themselves.

So once again, practice is actually the path to fun. Now, the ideas...

How to make practice less of a chore/argument:

  • Make it a part of the daily routine. The things we do every day are less likely to stand out as something to push back against.
  • As an extension to #1– change your demands. If your child is actually getting to the piano everyday, then give them the freedom to mess around sometimes. Not all practice sessions need to be 100% on point. Playing the piano is also a source of imagination and creation. Make sure the homework gets practiced at least 3 times per week; the rest of the time at the piano can be ‘player’s choice’. (Alter the ratio as needed.)
  • Reduce other enticing activities going on around the student who is trying to practice (e.g. a sibling watching TV or an open window with visible kids playing outside)
  • View piano like math and teeth brushing. Just because you’re not in the mood for math today, or you don’t want to brush your teeth, does not mean that you stop doing them.

How to fit practice into a busy day:

  • Try practicing before school so it can’t conflict with after-school sports and activities. (This is what I did for 6 years growing up. I practiced from 6:00-6:30am every morning except Sundays. The last person to wake woke up at 6am, so that's when the practice started. And no, this person - my little sister - did not especially love hearing the piano 30 seconds after her alarm went off. but we both survived.)
  • If possible, place the piano near the kitchen so the student can practice while dinner prep is underway.

Other ideas:

  • Talk about piano lessons as performance. ‘We practice during the week because we need to be ready to perform at our lesson.”
  • Ask your child to teach you. Kids love to show adults how to do things, and it’s a great way to spot gaps in their understanding.(Thanks Emma & Danielle for this great idea!)

I hope you found something helpful from the above lists. If you have any questions or feel like you could use more specific guidance, please don’t hesitate to reach out!