How to Help Your Child Develop Effective Practice Habits

Effective, daily practice is crucial for your child to make progress. Children aren't born with practice skills, nor are they developed overnight. Excellent practice skills take years to develop and must be taught. Parental involvement is necessary for children 10 years and younger, especially in the first few years of study. Parental involvement is helpful from time to time after this.
  • Choose the same time of day for practice, a time when your child has the most energy and focus. Try practicing first thing in the morning after breakfast, and either right before or after dinner. Practice has to become as habitual as brushing your teeth or getting out of bed. It has been said that "a half-hour of practice in the morning is almost equivalent to an hour in the evening"

 

  • Make daily practice a priority, an appointment that cannot be broken.

 

  • Once a week ask for your child to give you a concert of his assignment.  This will help you know how he is coming along with his lesson material and give him/her an incentive to focus more during practicing. Many professional and fine musicians were asked to perform for their parents on a weekly basis and unknowingly had their piano playing encouraged.

 

  • Ask your child to teach you. There is no better way to enforce a concept than to teach it to someone else. The kids love it.

 

  • Provide an environment with enough lighting and as few distractions as possible and a well-tuned instrument. Learning to play the piano takes concentration. An acoustic piano should be tuned at least once a year in order to keep it in tune and good working order (just like a car needs regular maintenance).

 

 

  • Allow your child to practice in short sessions, 10-15 min at a time, 2-3 times a day, if that is helpful. Often more focused attention is given if practice is in short allotments. Thought I'd rather your child focus on goals than time spent at the piano I realize that total time is still an important guideline for many students.

 

  • Though needs and capability can vary greatly from child to child, my recommended minimum practice time for minimum progress is as follows; 1-2 hours/week for kids in kinder keyboard. Level 1 students should do 30-40 min daily for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours a week. Level 2 students should do 35-45 min daily for 3-4 hours weekly. Level 3 students should do 40-50 minutes daily for 4-5 1/2 hours weekly. There is plenty of things for your child to do if they way they've already practiced everything. There is repetition of sections or whole pieces. There are many scales and chords that they probably have not mastered yet. Student should be focusing on assignment for the majority of the practice time.

 

  • Help your child set a goal for each practice session. I usually give each student several things to work on. I don't expect everything to be mastered during the week but would like to see several things completed.  It is best to spend the majority of the practice session working on small sections of each piece rather than the whole piece. After mastering sections then play the whole piece once mastering.

 

  • Praise your child when he/she practices regularly and passing material off regularly.

 

  • Provide performance opportunities for your child. Line up his favorite stuffed animals as an audience. Ask friends, relatives or family members. Most months I have Chehalis West available for your student to perform at. They LOVE to hear your child play.

 

  • As needed gently remind your child to practice every day. Stress the importance of daily practice. Just like soccer, football or any other kind of sport, you must practice the piano to improve. Playing an instrument involves fine motor skills that aren't required in other activities, so daily practice is essential. If your child wants to improve as a pianist, then he or she must practice regularly, just like school work is essential on a regular basis.

 

  • Remember that music training, especially, piano playing, is such a boost on the brain development and skills useful in life.

 

  • The following things do not work: Yelling at your child, using practice as punishment, comparing your child's progress to someone else's, criticizing your child without also praising his strengths, telling them they don't like the piece they are playing, complaining that they aren't learning something fast enough or playing a passage too many times.
 
The typical life of piano interest among students if they don't have encouragement and guidance from parents that starts early
(this can vary depending on how busy your child is)
 
The first year of piano lessons is the honeymoon. They love it!
 
The second year of piano lessons you will often find the interest waning. It's not a new activity anymore and the routine is getting a bit monotonous. Often the skill hasn't developed yet to a point where the child can play much that they really want to play and they still need a lot of direction. This is also when many parents find themselves not thinking they need to encourage or guide as much and get busier with other things.
 
The next couple of years can be a roller coaster.
 
During the Jr High years you will find your child at their all-time low in interest and energy. They are going through many changes with their body and are feeling awkward, embarassed. They are tired almost all the time which makes focusing at the piano even harder. Peer pressure unfortunately doesn't encourage piano at this age but rather encourages the sports. They are trying to seek independence from mom and dad which may lead to more resistance.
 
If they can make it to the high school years (with some resemblence of progress during the Jr High years) they will be ready to take off and embrace piano with a whole new appreciation. Their ability to play will take some leaps and jumps. A new world with the piano will begin to emerge. Until this point many have difficulty seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and wonder why piano is so invaluable.
 
 
The number of students that will get through Jr. High years with very minimal challenge or no challenge is a very small minority. Musician after musician (professional or near professional levels) have expressed their gratefulness that their parents didn't let them quit when they wanted to quit during Jr. High years.