How To Practice

Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent! Careless practice can actually make you worse.

Most students don’t like practicing for two reasons.

  1. They practice in a way that fails to produce improvement.
  2. Although they practice carefully and make improvements, they fail to practice in a way that ensures retention of what they’ve learned.

Playing straight through a piece from beginning to end is not practice. Doing this doesn’t result in any learning or improvement.

If you hear your child only playing from beginning to end here are ideas to  direct their practice and get the most out of every practice minute.

  • Read the practice notes from the previous lesson for what is to be addressed in each piece.
  • Set goals to work towards in each practice session even if they are small ones. Goals can be taken directly from the notes.
  • Work on the most challenging spots first.
  • Break the music down into small sections.
  • Practice slowly and strive for accuracy. The majority of students play too quickly, resulting in many mistakes.
  • Only practice a section 2 or 3 times then move onto the next section before you return to the first section
  • Repeat the passage several times after you get it right
  • Before you end each practice session play the entire piece and enjoy!

Daily practice is the cornerstone of steady progress. Leave your music open on your piano so that it’s ready for you to practice at any moment. Don’t skip days, thinking you will make up the time. This almost never happens. Practice can be spread out throughout the day if that works better.

It’s well known that students who aren’t prepared for their weekly lesson don’t enjoy them and eventually give up on their lessons.

Daily practice helps to keep you toned and strong, limber and relaxed. Music practice places many demands on your body, so it’s important to keep your body up to the task. If you warm up and prepare yourself before you practice rigorously, your body will benefit from the exercise. If not, you run the risk of developing bad habits and physical tension.

If you have trouble practicing every day, try alternating with days of light and heavy practice. That’s what tri-athletes do. You can break your practice into smaller morning and afternoon sessions if that works best for you.

Even a small improvement is an improvement and leads to a more fun and focused lesson. This in turn often results in a stronger desire to practice. It’s a win-win.

Don’t Skip Days:

There will come days when you really don’t have time for a full practice session – there are only so many hours in the day. There will be times something else will come up that you’ll choose to do instead. And some days you’ll honestly feel too tired to practice – or you just don’t feel like doing it.

On days like these go easy on yourself but don’t skip your practice entirely. Shorten it! Put in five or ten minutes, give yourself a pat on the back, and then call it a day. Do at least 5 minutes a day, just to keep the habit.

This may leave you feeling disappointed that you didn’t put in a significant effort. A few minutes of practice may not measure up to your idea of a rigorous practice session, but it goes a long way toward keeping you on track. It certainly maintains and strengthens your “daily commitment” which counts for a lot, and surprisingly it really makes a significant contribution toward your progress.

Remember that the “daily” aspect is more important than the amount of time. Especially at first! Slow and steady wins the race – we all know about the tortoise who won the race with the hare.