Learning a new instrument is exciting and fun. Practicing regularly and carefully in the proper way leads to successful learning, enjoyment and the pride of accomplishment. Keeping a routine is very important. The brain works on problems and absorbs new material during the night when you are sleeping. If you tackle a difficult piece, then “sleep on it”, you often find that it is easier the next day when you attempt it. Irregular practice, over the course of the week defeats this valuable learning process.
- Preparatory – One: 30 minutes, 5 times per week minimum (preschool: 20 minutes)
- Level 2-3: 40 minutes per day, 5 days per week minimum
- Level 4-5: 50 minutes per day, 5 days per week minimum
- Level 6-8: 60 minutes per day, 5 days per week minimum
- Level 9-Advanced: 90 minutes per day, 5 days per week minimum
Before you begin to learn a piece it is important to examine it to determine the clef signs, key signature, time signature, and tempo. Look for phrases that are alike, somewhat alike, or different. Tap out the rhythm, while counting. Write the counting in if necessary. Study the fingering. Write in additional fingering where needed. Divide the piece into large sections, then into smaller sections and approach each section, repeating it 5 times or until mastered. Add one measure at a time until you complete the section. For difficult measures separate the hands initially. Analyze the chords being used. Begin your practice where work is needed. Try beginning near the end of the piece and work backward. Dynamics are best practiced from the beginning of the learning process since they affect the weight and speed used to strike the keys. The metronome is a crucial help in achieving the proper tempo. It can be used by playing a section at a slow pace, gradually increasing the tempo, and by working small sections at a rapid pace, hands separate and together. Above all, if you are having trouble SLOW DOWN. Some difficult sections need memorization in order to achieve fluency. Learning a musical score is most enjoyable when it is approached as a journey of discovery. Listening, and questioning are essential skills.
How do I encourage my child to practice?
Hopefully your child has a love for music, and will enjoy playing. Parents can help their children most by praising their work on a day to day basis. In addition, discipline is a valuable skill that can help a child to achieve their future dreams in life.
How do you get a child to practice? The same way you get your child to brush his/her teeth or do homework. Help them to understand that it is a priority, and that it is not negotiable. Sit down with the child and make a decision with them about what time of day will work best. Some students do well getting up early and practicing before school. Others prefer to practice right after school or before dinner. I don’t recommend waiting until evening when tired. If a student has a great deal of homework and is concerned about getting it done, I recommend short periods of practice 15 minutes in length after each 30 minute session of homework. Practice does not have to be done all at once. It can be broken into 10, 20 or 30 minute increments. What is important is that the student practice with a focus and purpose. Small children may need the presence of an adult a few times a week during practice time. When parents are assisting it is best to ask questions rather than give orders. Example: “Are there any dynamics you think are important in this piece?”
Rewards work well as a temporary motivation with young students, offering encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough. Self motivation is the ideal, reinforced with accountability and rewards. Punishment, or threats to quit lessons should not be a regular experience for students, since they promote a negative view of piano study.