Consistent daily practice is essential to progressing quickly and experiencing the joy of playing the piano. Young beginners will need to practice their songs a minimum of 5 times each, 5 days a week. (about 10-15 minutes) After a few months, practice time lengthens to a minimum of 30 minutes and we move to a goal-based system. Although it is challenging to find time for daily practice in our busy schedules, the self-disclipline and work ethic that comes from consistent practicing can generalize to other areas of the student's life.
How Can I Help my Child Develop Good Practice Habits?
Some parents find it helpful to treat practice time like homework and require it to be completed before their child engages in free time. Setting aside the same time each school day: (right before school, right after dinner, etc.) can help the student develop consistent practice habits. Showing interest in your child's music and asking them to play mini concerts or teach you something they learned can help motivate them. Some parents offer their own incentive programs, allowing their child to earn something they desire by meeting their practice goals. See below for practice games you can play with your child.
Practice Incentive Programs
Although I try to choose music and pedagogy that are intrinsically motivating, I also find a bit of extrinsic motivation helpful to establishing good practice habits, especially for younger children. I offer the following three incentive programs:
I) Piano Belts: Students can progress through a colored “belt” system, inspired by the martial arts system. Certain songs throughout their lesson book are designated “belt songs.” I will tape a colored ribbon to their lesson book as they pass these songs and move their picture on my bulletin board to the appropriate belt section. If your child would like to participate, please provide me with a photo for display.
2) Prize Basket Students earn a point for every day they complete their practice goal. Additional points are awarded for completing written and listening assignments, practicing within 24 hours of the lesson, trimming nails, and coming prepared with all of their materials and practice record filled out. Students may choose a prize from my basket for points earned. For older children I offer $5 gift cards to local eateries.
3) Candy: Each week that a student completes their practice goals for 5 days, they will receive a small piece of candy.
Please let me know if you would prefer that your child not participate in any or all of the incentive programs
Can Practicing Be Fun?
Practice games, especially for young beginners, can help motivate students. Playing a difficult passage accurately over and over can be tedious, but is also the quickest way to master it. Here are some ideas that make this more fun:
1) Five Pennies: Put all five pennies on one side of the piano. Every time the passage is played correctly, one of the pennies slides across to the other side. If a mistake is made, the penny slides back. Continue until all five pennies have made it to the other side.
2) The Dice Game: Roll the dice, then play the target passage. If the passage is played correctly, the student gets the points on the dice. If not, the opponent (can be imaginary) gets the points. First person to 30 points wins. This can also be played with a partner.
3) The Pencil Game: Start with a pencil on one side of a piano. Every time the target passage is played correctly, the pencil moves across the piano one pencil length until it reaches the other side.
4) Jumping Toy Game: Choose a favorite toy and put in on the floor. Each time the passage is played correctly the toy jumps up one level: (the piano bench, the keyboard, the music stand, the top of the piano). To make it more challenging, the toy can hop back down when a mistake is made. If the toy makes a sound, the sound can be activated when the toy reaches the top of the piano.
5) ) Cards: Deal four number cards into a pile and count up the total points. This is the amount you are trying to "beat." Play a passage, then turn over a card. If the passage was played correctly, the student gets the point value of that card. If not, it adds to the original pile. Once the student's pile adds up to more points than the original pile, the game is over.
Games with a Partner:
1) Hangman: The parent chooses a word and sets up hangman. The child plays a passage. If it is played without mistakes, the parents tells them a letter. If a mistake is made, they have to guess.
2) Tic Tac Toe: The child plays a passage. If they play without mistakes, they get to take a turn. If not, the other player can take a turn.