Imagine you walk into a music shop with oodles of beautiful refurbished grand pianos: Faziolis, Steinways, Kawais, Yamahas…you name it, they have it. You sit down at your chosen instrument to test it out – what do you play?
Chances are, you have a go-to piece that you like to play to settle in. It could be an old-favourite or whatever you’re currently working on for a gig, but you know what it would be, right?
Could your students say the same?
As piano teachers, the temptation is often to push forward, onward and upwards. We want to get to the next level and keep our students progressing.
That’s understandable, but it sometimes comes at the expense of giving our students the opportunity to gain true proficiency along the way. Students need to feel the sense of progress and, often, review is necessary to embed that feeling.
The challenge? For me, and for many teachers, it’s fitting this review in. We need to find a way to provide this review and mastery that fits sustainably in our lesson plans.
Enter the Warmup Set
I had the idea for building a “warmup set” with my students when I was thinking about piano tuners…
Have you ever known a tuner who only knows how to play 1 piece that they use for testing? There are quite a few out there! Even tuners who do play normally have a standard piece that they use for testing a freshly tuned piano when they’re finished.
While this idea of a go-to piece is covered somewhat by my Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime challenge, I wanted to go a little further. I wanted my students to have a few pieces that they could not just perform at the drop of a hat but could also play so automatically that they keep a conversation going, do mental arithmetic or balance a plate on their head while they played. (Ok, not quite, but you get my drift.)
This is especially important for those students who struggle with performance skills in general, or have battles with their nerves even when playing just for me. If every piece is prone to stumbles and stutters, then it feels extra amazing to have something you are sure you can play well.
How to Start a Warmup Set Habit
This is really a very simple concept; all it takes is consistency.
- Get your student to choose 1 piece that they either have memorised or want to memorise.
- If it’s not memorised yet, help them through the memorisation process.
- Ask to hear it at the start of every lesson. (That’s every single lesson – no exceptions!)
Once they have 1 piece successfully on-the-go you might consider adding another or starting to alternate between 2 pieces each week.
Eventually, they might want to swap out an old favourite for a new one. Just make sure they’re not changing on a monthly basis. Remember the goal is playing automatically, where they can really get into the flow of this piece whenever they want.
Do you have a warmup set tradition?
Perhaps you call it something else, or maybe the “rules” are a little different? In the comments below, share how you give the students in your studio that sense of proficiency.
For more tips and tricks to help your students with practice skills, including memorisation, visit my centralized page all about practice.