Practice

Learning by the student is dependent upon the cooperative efforts of student, parents, and teacher.  The teacher’s role is to provide appropriate lesson material, teach proper technique, demonstrate proper practice procedures, encourage the student in his/her successes, correct the student in her/his errors, and provide for performance or competition opportunities. The student’s role is to practice using sufficient time and intelligence to progress. Parents are essential in helping their students get appropriate practice time free of distractions (television, computers, and the like). The combination is essential to outstanding success.

Practice amounts vary with the student. It is really best to practice not by amount of time but by the amount of success in the practice session. However, many parents like to have an idea of appropriate amounts, so the following guidelines are offered:

Suggested minimum practice times for students are:

Grade level Total minutes per week Minutes per day
K-1 50 10 to 15
2-3 100 20
4-5 125 25
6-8 150 30
9-12 150 to 200 30 to 40 or as schedule allows

These are suggested MINIMUM practices times. Students with serious ambitions in music should practice additional amounts. Consult with me concerning recommended practice times for specific students.

Students need to be encouraged to practice each piece 5 or more times each day. Playing one time is not sufficient. Each piece should have the right notes with the right counting. But practice time is only useful if students improve their playing during that practice.

PRACTICE COMPETITION

To encourage goal oriented practice, a sticker page will be placed in each student’s binder. Stickers can be earned through accomplishing specific lesson goals, written on the lesson plan for the week. Most students look forward to receiving stickers and can plan their practice time to result not only in receiving stickers, but receiving great musical rewards.

Sticker charts will be collected one month prior to recitals. Sticker totals will be tallied. Students who have met a pre-established number of stickers will be allowed to select one item from “the box” at the recital. To qualify students must maintain their sticker page and participate in the recital.

KEY SIGNATURE COMPETITION

To encourage students to know their keys, a Key Signature Competition is held every semester. Students who learn their key signatures at or above the level for their age will be able to select a composer bust at the recital. To qualify, students must be able to say all key signatures at their level in a lesson and they must participate in the recital.

Key signature levels are:

Age Level Key Signature Goal
Elementary 7 major keys (sharps plus F major) 7 minor keys
Middle School 12 major key signatures 7 minor keys
High School; Adults all major and minor key signatures

This challenge may be repeated each fall and spring semester enabling them to collect an entire series of composer busts.

Some thoughts on helping your student enjoy practicing…

Some of my students love to play and hate to practice. Come to think of it, I feel that way sometimes too. But I have learned that I love to play only when I practice well … so I have learned to love to practice.

You can help your student love to practice in several ways. The first is to PRAISE him or her regularly.  Find something in their music that you love to hear. Are they playing a piece about a star?  “I could hear those stars twinkling when you played.” While we all want to correct their mistakes when they practice, it is important to say many more positive things about their playing than negative things.

Have your student PERFORM. In my family the children performed regularly just for the family (which meant my mom and dad since our relatives all lived in other states). Sometimes we performed plays, with the three children playing several roles each … even the dog had to play parts. Sometimes we gave mini-recitals and everyone (dog included) sat to listen to us play our instruments. We also cultivated family friends who loved music so on occasion two families would gather and everyone would perform (adults included). In our household my dad and some friends played the ukulele (which dad learned when I was a child … probably to help encourage me), I was the pianist so I had to accompany, my brother played the trumpet and everybody else sang. Whatever form these gatherings might take, create events where your child can showcase his or her talents and have them perform amidst lavish praise. The praise and applause are the wonderful reward for practicing.  Your students will play better if they receive the praise often.