Updated: Jan 17
Very often, at the end of a piano lesson, teachers come across worried parents asking: "my son doesn't practise enough! He can't stay focus for more then half an hour! How much should my child need to practise?"
The answer depends on the child's age, personality, ability to sight-reading, level and difficulty of repertoire.
Children need to stick on routine and piano practice has to take part in their daily habits. I think this applies to adults too. Pianists like athletes need to train their mind and body daily!
I don't want to sound pretentious, but here are some tips to help your daily piano practise routine. They might not work but one can always try.
Many times, I hear from my students: "Sabrina, I am so busy that I don't have time to practise!" My answer is: "Well, playing piano is your choice and if you want to do it well there are not shortcuts. So, find sometimes for yourself and piano! Take it or leave it!"
Nowadays, technology is helping us. There are many apps about music notation, theory and one can listen to repertoire is learning on the phone without mentioning millions of video tutorials on how to play pop songs or classical masterpieces! There are not excuses! We can even practice on the tube.
We are all swamped and that's why practice's quality is more important than quantity. A good way to start our practise session is playing Scales, Arpeggios or doing some technique to warm up. It could be useful to practise scales in the keys of pieces one is currently learning and then, playing the relative major or minor.
The same work could be done for Arpeggios as well. This way of practising increase the awareness of how keys work and their harmonic relationships.
Some tips on practicing Scales and Arpeggios for kids and adults:
1) Practise a Major Scale with its relative minor (harmonic and/or melodic);
2) Practise 3 times hands separately and 3 times hands together everyday;
3) Apply different rhythm, dynamics to have a bit of fun (one day, practise a scale in staccato, another day in legato, the following day in Forte etc...);
4) Scales and Arpeggios can be beautifully played as pieces so sing them and shape them!
5) Make sure that points 1-2-3-4 have been followed before saying to the teacher that this technique doesn't work!
After a good warm-up, the fun starts working on pieces. It is very important to set up a daily goal in order to get a sense of achievement after each practises session. Keep high our level of concentration in order to reach our goal. For example: "today, I want to get this piece faster or today I want to work on phrasing and dynamics or I want to learn by heart the exposition of this Sonata".
Some tips on practising Pieces for kids and adults:
1) Setup your daily goal;
2) Practise phrases by phrases hands separately making sure that all notes are correctly and fluently played (choose a comfortable speed when learning to avoid changing speed according to the difficulty of the section; that can lead to bad habits which can be difficult to solve after a while!).
3) Same as point 2 but hands together;
4) Metronome helps discipline. Practise a phrase slowly and gradually increase the pace to get up to the performance speed.
5) Even if at an early stage, trying to work out the piece's character and applying dynamics could add a bit of fun. While our heart and brain is focusing in the sound we are producing, our fingers are getting used to the technical difficulties at the same time;
6) Repeat for the following phrases and sections;
7) Do some research about piece's style and composer with your teacher. Composers are human being like us. Genius but human with emotions and feelings. Their music reflect their state of mind. It is worth discovering if a piece of music has been written when Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms were in love, were crossed with someone, or were happy in a certain period of their life.
8) When a piece is completed, it is time to show off our hard work. Playing in public can be scary and nerve racking but the more we perform in public the better we become. Before exams or public performances, I suggest that my students perform in front of their friends and parents to become more confident. At
WKMT there are many piano teachers and we are all willing to listen our students progresses!
This process can be time-consuming but it is very important to be prepared for the following piano lesson in order to improve and dedicate time to Aural skills and nurture musicality. It is important not to transform piano lessons in practise time as that would slow down process. It is a waste of time for the student, teachers and a waste of money for parents who are investing in their children's musical education.
Notation can be a very painful learning process at an early stage, especially for children, but unfortunately, there are no easy or "fun" ways. It takes lots of efforts and practises but the hard work will pay off in a long term. I always compare the process of reading music as reading a new language. When I am learning a new piece with my students, they sometimes want me to play it slowly to copy me after. I am afraid this is not a good way to learn, and I always want them to read music by themselves. It takes longer, and a bit of moaning from my little students but the benefits show in their sight-reading skills later. I believe in building strong music foundations which includes notations, time signature, key signature, rhythm. It might be a slow process but after a while this boring process becomes fun as children will be able to read their music by themselves and play their favourite songs.
There is no right amount of practice for everybody but there is only good quality practice time depending on everyone's abilities and time and the secret is slowing down! Slowing down and not rushing. Our body and mind need time to digest all the new pieces of information!
I hope this was useful and I am looking forward to my second month at WKMT in the new venue! Keep playing music and Festina lente! (more haste, less speed!)
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