Partners in Practice
Regular practice is a key ingredient in a piano student's development and success. No one would argue with that, right? And yet, many students have a hard time establishing a regular home practice routine. While some children go to the piano without being prompted to practice, others often seem to be reluctant participants in the process. Here are some tips to help parents and students work together to make practice time a more enjoyable, productive, and "tear-free" time.
Schedule a good time for practice.
It's important to find a time that works well for your child. Sometimes the hardest part of practicing is just getting to the piano and sitting down. Some students find a time before school to be ideal; others find a practice time after school, before starting homework, to be a good break in their day. Whenever the time, be sure to schedule it and not just try to "get around to it"; otherwise, it's easy to forget.
Help your child establish a goal oriented approach to practicing.
In our lessons, we work on strategies for learning new pieces. We also work on helpful steps for figuring out puzzling rhythms or notes. Rather than setting a timer and just "putting in the time," I encourage students to set a goal for each piece during daily practice sessions. Younger students have a goal of playing through each piece and/or work zone five times correctly, doing something different each time. Some days, meeting their goals will take longer than other days. That's ok; the point is to see progress being made, not just sitting on the bench for 30 minutes.
Acknowledge that learning to play the piano can be hard sometimes.
Some things come easily to many students. However, everyone finds something they struggle with in learning to play the piano. It may be note reading, rhythm, or battling with unruly fingers that won't do what they're supposed to do! If your child is frustrated, remind them that no one is born knowing how to play - even teachers had to start at the beginning. Help them see the big picture, and recognize that every practice session will get them closer to their goal of making beautiful music.
Younger students need your help! Even if you don't know anything about music, or playing the piano, your presence during practice time can help the student stay on track. Your assistance will be required in varying degrees. Somedays, you may just be an appreciative audience. Other days, you may need to help your child think through the steps to help them untangle a problem spot. Whatever the situation, remind your child how to use their skills to solve a problem without becoming frustrated.
Know when to stop.
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we need to stop the practice session. Maybe a child is too tired, hungry, or distracted by other things going on in the household. It's better to stop and come back another time than to continue and risk a meltdown.
Be generous with words of encouragement.
We all like positive feedback. Words of encouragement from a parent can be a wonderful way to show your child that you're listening, and that you can see they are making progress. But, be honest! Saying, "You're the best pianist ever!" isn't the same as saying, "I love the last piece you were practicing today!" Find a way to complement something about your child's playing after every practice session.
Would you like to know more about how to be a helpful practice partner, and to maximize your investment in piano lessons? Sign up for our summer program, "Practically Perfect Practice." See summer registration information for details.