Guiding Principles For Students And Parents
How to improve and optimize practice time
- Just like you warm up during sports practice or before the big game, piano warmups will loosen your fingers and increase flexibility. Many warmups are designed to strengthen fingers and explore new patterns that are universally found in music.
- Warmups will target weak points in your technique. When attempting to play a piece beyond your ability, it can be helpful to practice exercises which will help to overcome a complicated passage.
- Why Do I Have to Practice Scales?
- Scales are the first effective path to playing up and down the entire keyboard.
- The building blocks of music. Scales and scale fragments are incorporated into every genre of music in the world!
- Develop your ear. Being able to identify a scale while listening to a piece of music can help you learn more quickly.
- Scales develop hand coordination. Absolute coordination is paramount between both hands as they run up and down the keyboard.
- Strengthen your fingers. Every finger is used when playing scales, and they force every finger work equally.
- Scales are an effective way to learn articulation, dynamics, and rhythm.
- Many exams and auditions involve scales. If you ever practice enough to compete or audition, you may be asked to play scales to prove your knowledge of the keyboard.
Scales help you to develop keyboard familiarity and confidence. Master your scales and you will feel comfortable at the piano.
Scales can be fun! Once you learn them you'll be whizzing up and down the keyboard in no time!
- How To Practice
- Practice only on the days you eat.
- Structured practice is the most effective way to improve. Start with exercises, warmups, and theory. After you have warmed up your hands, move on to sight-reading and repertoire practice.
- Consistent practice is better than intermittent practice. Schedule your practice sessions at a time of the day where your mind will be alert and focused.
- Keep a practice journal. Track how long you practice different exercises and pieces of music. Timing can force the mind to focus and the clock doesn't lie.
- Do not allow yourself the "luxury" of mistakes. Mistakes cost far too much time to repair and create uncertainty. If you start making mistakes, you may be playing too fast or your brain is getting tired.
During The Lesson
- Bring a notebook to the lesson so that you can write down what is taught, and how it is taught.
- Stay attentive during the lesson. If you are distracted your child may feel what he is doing is not important enough for you. His attitude and musical progress will suffer. If you are not willing to play an active role during the lesson, then perhaps the program is not for you.
- Refrain from making musical corrections or comments about your child's playing during the lesson. This is the teacher's job during the lesson, and your job at home.
- Regarding discipline and behavior during the lesson: if the child's short attention span and restlessness is the cause of behavior problems, please leave the disciplinary task to the teacher during the lesson.
- If a reprimand is necessary, try to frame it in the positive, rather than the negative. Distraction can be more effective and it avoids a battle of wills.
- Practice Every Day - Lots of parents have a hard time with this, but I really do mean 365 days a year. Routines help children feel safe. Routines lead to predictability, which lead to stability and security.
- Make The Practice Space Inviting And Properly Equipped - You should have a good chair, proper lighting, metronome, boombox/ipod player, and a well maintained instrument.
- Learning By Ear - If your child is learning from a recording, It is your responsibility to see that your child listens to the recording every day. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. In the absence of written music, the recording is all the child has to go on.
- Practice Time - Limit your child's practice time to his attention span. As soon as his attention wavers, switch to another piece or a game, or stop entirely.
- One Thing At A Time - Pick one task such as the fingering/notes, breaths/phrasing, loud/soft, or hand position/weight.
- Posture and Technique - You can help your child in a very big way by helping them sit at the correct height and distance from the piano. Encourage them to sit up straight and keep their feet anchored.
- Weekly Assignments - It can be hard to remember all the details taught in a weekly lesson. Help your child by encouraging them to interpret and follow the weekly assignments in their notebook.
- That's My Favorite Piece - If your child is struggling with a piece, say, "That's my favorite piece. Can I hear it again?"
- Verbal Comments - Save positive or negative comments for when the practice is complete. Refrain from verbal explanation and criticism as much as possible. Silently moving the correct finger on the correct key or conducting for loud/soft or breaths/phrasing.
- Criticism - Give positive feedback first. "You sat up straight! "You played it all the way through!" Phrase negative criticism in an emotionally neutral tone of voice. You are giving the child information, not scolding him for bad behavior.
- Practice "up" not "down" - Instead of setting a timer for a specific amount of time for your child and having them watch for the time to go down, have them set a stopwatch timer that shows how much time they have practiced going up.
- Practice Before Homework - If students practice before doing homework, they will stay alert and stimulated when they move on to their next project. Many students will skip piano practice if it gets late.
- Everyone Remembers The Ending - End practice by asking your child to play a piece they can play well. This will help him to walk away from the piano thinking positive.
Practicing is a skill in itself. Supervised practice can create the right conditions for deliberate practice and proper technical development. Students who receive support and encouragement from their family learn at a rapid rate and grow to embrace the piano. High levels of support in the early stages of learning can inspire intrinsic motivation and replace imposed routine with voluntary commitment.