Piano teachers end up talking (or possibly nagging) about practise all the time. However, I don’t think it is explained often enough what we mean by practise. It doesn’t just mean play piano for x amount of time, or play a certain thing X number of times.
Practicing is about improving our playing skill in a conscious and methodical way. You should have a plan and be thinking about every movement, not letting your mind drift to other things.
When you or your child is just starting out with piano, the most important thing is to create a practise routine from the very start. Pick a time that you are generally at home at, every single day if possible.
This is different for everyone but it could be as soon as you finish dinner, after a kid’s school homework if you do this at the same time every day, or after breakfast in the morning before you leave for school/work.
Try to choose a time that you or your child focuses well, the first hour after a kid gets in from school is often a no no as they will be drained from sitting still all day and concentrating. Whatever time it is, try to make sure it is a specific time, not “in the afternoon” but say “3.05pm”.
This sounds a bit obsessive perhaps, but it really makes it so much more likely that it will happen regularly. Otherwise, the afternoon turns into the evening and before you know it you’ll be promising yourself you’ll do double tomorrow.
For young beginners, concentrate on making the habit for the first month or so. It doesn’t matter how long you get your kid to practice for, they just need to sit down and play something. Just get them used to the idea of practicing the piano every day, even if it’s only for 3 minutes.
As piano lessons progress their will be a number of different things that need to be worked on each week. Scales, exercises, and pieces need to find a place in the practice session.
Most people will do their scale/exercises first, for a few reasons. Firstly, they help to warm up the fingers and get you into the “zone”. Also, although scales and finger exercises are important, some just like to get them over with before getting into the pieces.
Once a routine is well established, you can begin to refine practicing techniques, to make sure it is as efficient as possible. Practicing a piece doesn’t just mean playing it through from beginning to end. You need to break the piece up into sections of 1-4 bars and concentrate on one section at a time.
For more information about the process of practicing a piece try these posts:
- Piano Practice Kits – This is one of the most popular posts on Colourful Keys, with step by step instructions for creating your own practice kits for your students.
- Effective Piano Practice Series – This series of five blog posts explores strategies for tackling common practice issues such as metronome work, score study and memorisation.
- Summer Practice Quest – If you want to keep practice going during the summer break check out this free printable.
- The Challenge Board – My wall of fame keeps piano practice going year round in my studio (even with technical work)