Getting the most out of piano lessons.
|As a teacher, there is nothing more satisfying to me
than to see your child develop a love and appreciation for music and to enjoy
playing the piano. As a parent, I'm sure you want this too. I strongly believe
that we can accomplish this if we work together. Because I have only 30 or 40
minutes a week to work with your child, how much and how well your child
practices at home is critical. It is during this time of home practice that
most progress is made. This is where you, the parents, have a crucial role to
The following is a checklist of important things you can do to
make sure your child is getting the most out of piano lessons. Many of these
suggestions are simple, but can truly make all the difference.
- Make sure your child knows that you consider
music a serious commitment. Children are usually no more committed to piano
lessons than their parents are. They readily sense their parents' expectations
and will act accordingly.
- Daily practice is essential. Piano practice
is a physical and mental skill that requires daily repetition to be effective.
It is better to practice for shorter periods every day (20 minutes for example)
than it is to skip several days and then try to make up for lost time with one
or two extended practice sessions. The muscles tend to "forget" much faster
than the brain does, and therefore, it is necessary to have physical
reinforcement of piano skills every day.
- Practice at the same time each day. Students
who do this usually make better progress than those who don't. Practicing at
random or inconsistent times can easily make piano a low priority item placed
at the end of a busy day of school, homework and extracurricular activities.
The student is then too tired to accomplish much, if anything.
- Practice without distraction - a TV going, a
noisy room, or siblings running around can make productive practicing
impossible. If the student is to respect the daily practice time, so must the
rest of the family.
- Be sure practice is productive. Sloppy
practice brings sloppy results. The number one mistake of most piano students
is not practicing enough. This can be dangerous to the success of the student.
They can develop the attitude that they don't like playing the piano simply
because they aren't practicing enough to get good at it. How much and how well
your child is practicing is easily determined by the results: If your child
cannot play through their pieces at least slowly, they have not put in enough
practice and are not ready for their lesson. If they can play through, but
start and stop constantly or play lots of wrong notes, they are practicing too
fast and need to slow down. If they struggle to find where their hands go for
the piece, they probably didn't practice at all.
The important question: What exactly
should be happening during practice time? Learning a piece of music is like
building a house - it must be built in stages, with each stage secure before
proceeding or else the whole structure will collapse. More specifically,
practice sessions should go something like this:
- Follow the order on the assignment sheet. Do
the technique/scale work first as this warms up the brain, eyes, ears and
fingers. Then review and polish up previously assigned music before working on
new pieces. Theory and flashcards complete the assignment.
- For new music, learn the notes with the
correct fingers and rhythm by slowly playing hands separately about 3-5 times
or until there are no mistakes. Then practice hands together slowly until the
piece can be played through without stopping or mistakes. The metronome should
be used from the beginning and small sections of the piece worked thoroughly
before moving on to another section.
- Now, add all the details marked in the music
by the composer. These details turn the notes into music.
- Finally, get the piece up to tempo by
GRADUALLY increasing the speed. ***The number one way students waste
practice time is by practicing too fast too soon.*** Fast tempos come
gradually after all the elements of the piece have been mastered. As a rule,
when learning a new piece, the slower the practice, the faster learning takes
place. This is the most important practice suggestion I can make and it takes
the most discipline to follow.
- Encourage your child as much as possible and
give genuine praise for effort as well as accomplishment. Consider a weekly or
monthly in-home recital so that the family can show appreciation for the hard
To get the most out of the piano lesson,
the student should strive to come to each lesson having exhausted his own
personal means of mastering the music. Too much lesson time is wasted when the
teacher has to correct the mistakes of careless practicing at home. It is the
student's job to learn the notes and rhythm well enough so that the teacher can
help them make music. Set a standard at home and be consistent. A successful
piano student rarely exists without a parent's active involvement and
encouragement to practice each day.
The more you practice, the better you will
The better you become, the more you will enjoy
The more you enjoy playing, the more you
And the more you practice, the
better you will become.
(the opposite is also true)