Effective Piano Practice Part 5 – Piano Piece Tests

How can you be sure that a piece is ready? It doesn’t matter what you’re preparing for, it’s always easier to play a piece in the comfort of your own home, on your piano.

In Philip Johnston’s book ‘The Practice Revolution’ (which you should definitely read if you haven’t already!) he talks about subjecting a piece to various “tests”.

These piano piece tests are designed to be much tougher than just performing a piece ever will be, no matter what the circumstances. When you’ve passed these piano piece tests, you can be confident that nothing will shake it.

Piano practice tests

Piano piece tests

For ease of use in lessons, I turned some of my favourite tests from ‘The Practice Revolution’ into cards which I can paperclip onto a piece my student is working on to remind them of the rules.

When the student comes to their next lesson, their challenge is to be able to pass the assigned test on whichever section I pick at random.

The Lap

In this test the student has to start from a random spot, and complete a “lap” back to that spot. This is a great remedy for those students who get completely unstuck if they make a mistake.

These students want to go back to the beginning every time. With ‘The Lap’ you build confidence in the complete piece, not just the first few bars.

the lap

(Click on the image to download the pdf.)

The Ledger Assessment

‘The Ledger Assesment’ is a great antidote for I-played-it-better-at-home-itis…I have many students with this affliction!

It’s always partly true since they are more nervous, someone is watching and it is a less familiar piano. But a very big part of I-played-it-better-at-home-itis is simply that they played it better at home a few times, and they’ve forgotten all the times they played it poorly.

I always tell my students that if they play something until they get it right, and it takes 10 times to get it right, they have a 10% chance of playing it right from now on. Your fingers don’t just remember the last attempt!

If you have a student who seems to struggle with this concept, ask them to run through ‘The Ledger Assessment’.

the ledger assessment

(Click on the image to download the pdf.)

The Great Race

If you have any students whose confidence level just doesn’t match their playing, ‘The Great Race’ might be just the ticket. You know the ones I’m talking about, you ask if they’re ready for the recital and you either get the answer “Not at all, I’m so nervous!!!” or “Yes of course…”. These students just do not have a good self-awareness, they can’t really hear their own playing.

If you play the great race and you are under-confident ‘The Great Race’ will gradually increase your confidence levels. If you do this test and you are over-confident, then your opponent will just win, very, very quickly.

the great race

(Click on the image to download the pdf.)

The Seven Stages

In ‘The Practice Revolution’, this game is called “The Seven Stage of Misery”. While I think this is a super fun name, for some of my students it would just tip them over into not practicing this way; so I just call it ‘The Seven Stages‘ (and let them discover the misery themselves!).the seven stages

To assemble this game, just cut around the game board and the smiley face and laminate if desired. You can then just use it lying flat, or you can do what I did and add little velcro tabs to each square so it can be used sitting on the music stand.

If you’re looking for more ways to make practice fun and engaging, you should take a look at Playful Practice cards. These cards give students creative tasks to keep their minds active at the piano.

Have you read ‘The Practice Revolution‘?

If you haven’t read it, do it! It really is a fantastic book, and these are just a few of the ideas I’ve implemented from it, there’s so much more to the book than this!

If you need more ways to get you students to practice smarter – you should definitely check out these free practice step stickers.

4 thoughts on “Effective Piano Practice Part 5 – Piano Piece Tests”

  1. I love “The Practice Revolution”! You have made some awesome printables and I would love permission to post them on my studio website. You may use the ones I have designed that are posted there… most ideas being adapted from the same book! 🙂

  2. I really love this series of posts you’ve been doing lately! I’m planning on using the practice strategies in my own practicing as well as my students’!
    I also appreciate the recommendation for “The Practice Revolution”. It’s been on my wishlist for a long time… I’ll have to get it now! 🙂


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