Sunday, April 14, 2013

Piano Practice Tips

Hello all!

I am often asked about how parents (even if they do not know how to play the piano) can help their students with their piano practice at home and when traveling.  Here are a few (ok, a lot of) suggestions:
      - Ask your student when he or she plans to practice & complete the assignments.  Help him or her plan out a schedule.  (Rather than stating "You must go practice now".)  Sometimes the autonomy can help the student feel in control.
      - ALL parents can be piano coaches at home!  Sometimes all a coach has to do is be present.  If the child knows the information and what to do - the learning and growth will take place.
      - Encourage your student to set a routine that includes practice time before or after something else he or she does regularly.  For example, after his or her afternoon snack.
       - PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE!  But be sure it is genuine!  I like the way you practiced today without me asking you to.  I like how you fixed your own mistake.  I like how the end of your piece was convincing.  Learning to play an instrument is like learning a new language.  It takes practice.  Sometimes it is hard. 
       - Tell your student that it is ok if they make mistakes, but they should try to correct them.
       - Tell your student a story about something that you accomplished but was once very challenging for you.  Often times, children do not realize that adults  were not born knowing everything they already know.
      - Communicate to me when practice is not going well at home.  Communicate to me when practice is going well at home.
      - Encourage your student to put on mini recitals for you, friends, family members, neighbors, pets or even stuffed animals!
      - Play games with flashcards (answers are on the back).  I have some sets available to purchase.
      - Encourage students to write their own music on staff paper which I can provide, (they can create lyrics and pictures to go with them).
      - Practice saying the musical alphabet backwards (make it a contest to see who in your family can do it the fastest).
      - Encourage your student to play their songs along with a metronome (typically already on a keyboard) or (use a free app on a smart phone or tablet)
      - Encourage your student to play their songs up a few octaves or down a few octaves for fun
      - Encourage your student to play their pieces with the pedal (or a different pedal).
      - Encourage your student to sing a long to the song / make up words / make up new words.
      - Encourage children to draw pictures of how the songs make them feel.
      - Listen to as much music as possible. 
                - Listen to a variety of types of music.  Ask your student to pick out the various instruments.  Encourage them to clap along, tap their feet, snap, etc.  Ask them to find a repeated section.  Ask them to find different dynamics (loud and soft).  Ask them to find the short notes and long notes, etc.  As students become more advanced pianists, we will convert the previously stated words into more technical jargon.
      - Encourage your student to play the piano on a table or on their lap.  Visualizing the music even if they are not striking keys can help students remember and memorize their music.  Students can count out the rhythms without having a keyboard in front of them.
      - Encourage your student to sightread.  Give them music at their level or a level below and have them read it.  Sight reading increases students' confidence in their music reading skills.  There are countless free sheet music websites available.
      - Encourage your student to play fun music of his or her choice.  Again, try many of the music websites or the Faber fun books in the catalog on the coffee table in the grand piano room.
      - Encourage your student to go back to previous songs and "brush them up" by working on the counting, rhythms and or dynamics.  Students who perform a previous piece that has improved will be rewarded.
      - Encourage your student to memorize one of their previously favorite songs.
      - Encourage your student to explore the many music apps and games that are available for tablets, smart phones, etc.  Then, encourage your student to transfer what they have learned to their actual piano / keyboard.

Different students are motivate by different things.  Help your child figure out what motivates him or her.  For example, my son is motivated to practice and work by performances.  He practices on his own the most when we have a nursing home recital, or winter recital on the schedule.  My daughter is very motivated by songs she likes and moving forward to get to the next level in her lesson books.  I am motivated by new music.  Just ask my family - when I get new music I can't wait to get back to the piano to work on it again and again.  (In August, I bought myself the Annie songbook because Annie was my favorite movie/ musical as a child!  I even had an Annie hairdo!  I played the songs from Annie every single day for about 3 weeks straight.  I have only played from that book about twice since.)  I bought a Burgmuller book on Friday and guess what - my family is already annoyed with my renewed interested in Burgmuller (which was prompted by another student)!

Enjoy your child's musical journey along with him or her!

Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege to work with your child at the piano!

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