PRACTICE "TIPS" ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS
1.KEEP IT FUN Always try to keep it fun. Music is a wonderful activity. Try to avoid any negative feelings on what the young pianist is working on as this will directly effect his/her progress and in many cases lose ones interest in studying the instrument. So be sure the student is always working within their ability in the daily time that is allowed for practice. At young ages I find that short exposures at a time work best. In fact even stop the practice session early, with the student wanting more. This will work wonders for the next session of practice. Look for those signs within your child. Wandering eyes, inability to focus, he or she clearly knows the answer, but answers incorrectly repetitively. These are just a few of the signs that will indicate it is time to take a break... Do not push your young learner to practice through these signs as it will eventually become an activity they will not want to partake in. So keep it short and they’ll have fun.
2.REGULAR DAILY PRACTICE Kids, as do adults, learn best with consistent exposure. By setting up a daily routine a child will soon see the piano become part of the knowledge they take in each day. Even minimal exposure (5 minutes a day) will prove to be very beneficial. Most important is for the child to see the information on a regular basis. This works best. Many students will practice long sessions and then not practice for a few days. Sure, if family activities don’t allow practice time from time to time this is fine but in order to develop a strong practice structure that will last a lifetime try to make it part of your daily life. Something that works great is small practice sessions. Practice 5 minutes at a time, several times a day and you will see the child focus better and learn to enjoy practicing more as it will feel less involved. The old saying practice makes perfect. HOW TRUE!
3.BEST TIME OF THE DAY Find the time of day that best fits into your day. Most young learners are able to focus and maximize their learning if done early in the day. Whatever time you should pick that is best for you, schedule it in so it becomes part of your family routine. Some popular times that have worked for many. Before school... If possible. I know this has worked well for me. You must schedule your time very carefully to have this work but I find it a nice way to start the day, and the kids are usually very attentive and enjoy the few minutes of special time before they head out the door. You may find after school fits best or before or after dinner. Maybe before bed? Each situation will differ depending on the family's activity level and the particular child. In most cases the parent will know which time will work best for their child. So before you begin practicing try to make a schedule which will set guidelines for you and your child. In time, your child will know when to expect to have their piano time. What a nice feeling to see them looking forward to stepping up to the piano.
4.SPECIAL TIME WITH PARENT In nearly all cases where the parents are involved children tend to progress more quickly than students left on their own to practice. A parent sharing their interest and giving encouragement goes far in the development of the young pianist. The special one on one time you can achieve with the piano will carry into other aspects of your family life. So enjoy some quality time with your child as they learn to play the piano.
5.USE A TIMER This is a tool that I have used for many years . Back when I was practicing as much as 8 hours a day I had to manage my time carefully in order to cover all the lesson material I was preparing for my teachers. I recommend using this tool for all the students I teach, both young and old. The timer will help you not overwork one specific area and make sure that you cover all the material on your lesson plan. All the lesson materials reinforce each other, so even though you may feel like not moving off a topic when your timer goes off, do so because the next topic will in some way directly effect and connect to the previous in a way that is most valuable. Remember you always have the next practice session to continue the work in any particular area. It actually gives you something to look forward to. By using a timer, young students will develop a strong practice structure, a technique that they can hold on to as they grow on their instrument, a technique that will help them in later years... not only on their instrument but in other things like school work and other activities. It really teaches effective time managment. I feel we all could benefit from such a skill. So why not start at a young age.
6.RECORD YOURSELF This is fun and very beneficial. Take an audiocassette recorder and record yourself playing your various pieces and listen carefully to what you have done. Do you like what you hear??? A lot of times you may find by listening to yourself that it clearly needs more work. It is so worth it when you can sit back and actually enjoy what you have recorded. This is valuable advice for beginners to professional level players.
7.PRACTICE MEANS PLAY WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW This is the most valuable advice I can give any musician young or old . Most piano students who practice will always sit and play those familiar things that sound GOOD. Remember, to get the most out of your time, practice material that presents a challenge, this will help you learn most effectively and quickly. So, when you sit at the piano and have NO MISTAKES... it is time to do something new and more difficult.
8.TRACK YOUR PROGRESS A great motivational tool. By keeping track of your daily practice students will clearly see that when they practice for a stretch of days that this will be why their piano playing is getting better. Also when a student skips practice for some days they will be able to see just why a piece is giving them difficulty. For young learners, families may decide on a reward if a pre-determined amount of time for the week was reached. A little reward for their efforts may be all it takes as they learn to develop practice structure. So write down your times daily and pay extra attention to those weeks where you have put in more time.... LISTEN TO THE RESULTS.
9. USE YOUR EARS This will eventually be the most important of tools for playing the piano. Your ear will tell you a lot. So listen to it. If something sounds wrong, chances are it is. Ear training is another important area to begin at an early age. I believe that in addition to the structure of piano lesson material that ear training should always be a part of everyday playing. By developing ear training tools you will find students more connected to the instrument and able to interpret music more expressively and creatively. A lifelong process that anyone can develop with time put in. Often thought as a gift or the phrase playing by ear. Surely some people have an easier time with this but practicing even the simplest exercises like picking out your favorite tune on the piano, or singing a note and finding it on the piano will have you soon applying ideas using your ears more and more all the time. After all, music is to listen to, so use your ears , you’ll be glad you did.
10.SET SMALL GOALS This is one of my most important tips for true success. This tip will prove to be helpful for the youngest of students to players up to professional level. Whatever material you are working on be sure to break it down into small levels. For example: do the right hand perfectly first before adding the left hand or do the first 2 bars perfectly before adding the 3rd bar. This type of practice is used by the best of us and will give students the feeling of accomplishment many times while they are working on a piece. Don’t wait until the tune is complete to feel good about it, this takes too long and will tend to pull ones interest away. So if a piece will take you a week to complete why not feel good about it each day you work on it.
11.DON’T RUSH AHEAD Kids and adult learners will always want to be looking ahead. It is part of human nature... Curiousity? I think it is fun to peek ahead to see where you are going but it is best to be patient and you will find that the harder material you once looked at and feared will be well within your reach. By moving slowly one level at a time you will have the time to learn basic underlying levels which will help more difficult playing to come. By moving ahead too soon students will get frustrated and lose interest quickly. So don’t put the cart in front of the horse and enjoy seeing your accomplishments day to day at your level.
12.USE A METRONOME It is so important to have using a metronome an important part of everyday practice. Parents can set metronome guidelines which will enable the parent to leave the child to practice on their own and can check in regularly to see if the metronome guidelines were met.