Practice Makes Progress
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 by Jacqueline Savage | Practice
Published: Sep 17, 2015 | Category: Practice
Practice Makes Progress
Practice for all ages
By Jacqueline Savage
I have been teaching my step son Alex how to play the piano since he was 5 years old. We have had many practice wars throughout his study and sometimes it leaves me wondering, are these battles worth it?
After thinking about my own study as a child, and doing countless hours of research on practice methods and seeing all the scientific studies that prove the benefits of learning to play an instrument, I decided last year to change Alex’s practice routine up because we weren’t going to give up! We went from 3 days of practice a week for 10 min. a day to 5 days of practice for 30 min. a day. This practice session happened routinely after Alex did his homework Monday-Friday. What I learned last year was that the battles stopped when Alex knew that piano practice was part of his homework and it was going to happen every day. The results were amazing. Alex has pushed into early intermediate music and enjoys performing his music for anyone that will listen. I’ve seen huge improvement in his theory and technique. He is proud of himself and shows confidence in front of a group. He talks about music history and different composers in every day conversation and has recently told me he would like to go to Berklee College of music one day! What a difference a year has made!
Do I think this will work for every kid? Absolutely not. But, it is worth trying a different approach if you are also dealing with practice wars this year. Thinking about how your child learns and what will motivate and encourage them to practice in a positive way is key. Once students see results, they want to keep practicing!
My practice Chart:
Kindermusik Practice: Listening to the class CD in the car and also looking at the digital @home materials once a week is how this age “practices”. Babies and toddlers learn through PLAY! After touching on the material during the week, babies and toddlers remember what they have heard in class and can imitate what they are learning faster!
Preschool Practice: Preschoolers should be looking at the materials we do in class twice a week with parents. Each time going over what they did in their book, and either practicing different fingers on the piano or doing free play on the piano. Loud playing is okay, banging is not.
Age 6-9: If this age practices 3 days a week for 10 min., you will see slow progress but progress nonetheless. If children are pushed too hard at this age to practice, they will hate playing and we want them to enjoy playing! If they can practice 5 days a week for 10-30 min., students will improve in their playing at a faster pace. For some kids, this might be beneficial. Seeing progress faster motivates students.
Age 10 and up: Students should be practicing 30 min. 5 days a week. At this rate they will be playing intermediate music when they graduate high school. If they are planning to attend college for music or want to perform as a career, they should be practicing 1-2 hours daily. This will put them in late intermediate-early advanced music towards the end of their high school career.
Adult Students: I also continue to take lessons as an adult, pianist, and teacher. It is for my professional development but also for my own personal enjoyment. Like many of you, I am very busy with my family, small children, and job. I try to practice Monday-Friday from 5:30am-7:00am. It is my “quiet” time. I would suggest finding a time that works for you and sticking to it!
Professional Pianists: 5-6 hours a day!
Music is comparable to learning another language. It is not easy but with faithful practice, it is very rewarding. Keep trying to motivate your child and if you are feeling like they want to give up, try something different! Keep constant communication with me so that I can try new things if they are in a slump. If learning to play the piano was easy, everyone would do it! #musicmatters
Tuesday, July 1, 2014 by Jacqueline Savage | Practice
Published: Jan 31, 2014 | Category: Practice
As a parent I am always questioning whether or not I am pushing too hard for my step son Alex to practice. He has definitely gone through his ups and downs with the piano as he goes into his 4th year of playing. The big question is, “Does he enjoy playing?” I sense the answer is yes when he is genuinely proud of himself as he performs for family and friends and during recitals. I can also tell he enjoys it as he sits down and plays when I don’t ask him to! The balancing act is how much to have him practice without making him hate “practice time”. With Alex we plan the days he is going to practice during his lesson (I do try this with some of my other students) which usually consists of 3-4 days depending on the week. We don’t talk about how long he is going to practice, only that he will play his technique first and each assigned song 2 times through. I also give him vacations off from practice when our family is on vacation and give him some time in the summer off. (Not the whole summer.) When on vacation I always bring his books so he has the opportunity to play the songs he enjoys! Not every child is going to benefit from a practice routine like this, but it is a good place to start.
I guess the question is how to keep your child motivated to practice? How do you keep them excited to play? I know in my heart that Alex will be thankful to have this skill, this outlet in life, and that is why sometimes I push him to practice when he doesn’t want to. Some motivational tools I use are always talking about music when it comes up in our daily lives. When we hear music on the radio I ask questions such as “What do you like about this song?” “What instruments do you hear?” “What time period do you think this is from?” We listen to many different radio stations and cds ranging from classical music to popular music. I take him to musical events and play for him often. He is also exposed to music by being in the youth choir at our church and hearing me play during the service and also is involved in music at school. It is a proven fact that music helps kids in other areas in school so events like these are great learning opportunities and a great way to spend time with the family!
The other important factor to practice is routine. This is going to be different for every child. With Alex I have to keep up with his weekly lessons (which can be a challenge). He also needs to be actively involved in group classes, recitals, playing for family and friends, practice, playing “fun” songs, learning about music theory and history, and just being as involved as possible! And also sticking to a practice schedule whether he likes it or not.
Usually not wanting to practice has nothing to do with disliking the piano. Learning to play is hard. There are ups and downs and highs and lows. That is why not everyone plays! But my job as a teacher is to not allow kids to give up until they have exhausted all other options!
Piano study for a child is as much a job for parents as it is for the kids. We have to keep them motivated to practice and keep them going even when they feel like they want to give up! We have to keep asking questions and pushing them to succeed! Please talk to me if you feel like your child wants to “give up” on the piano. Sometimes I have no idea they are feeling overwhelmed and if I don’t know I can’t make changes. Sometimes all a child needs is a different strategy, or a new song, maybe a new practice technique, to keep them going! Just remember that the kids need YOU in order to be successful! ?