Your new piano student arrives for the first time like a ball of passionate energy. Big smiles and keen interest give all indications that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship! And then the second lesson arrives…
Everything you introduced in the first lesson is forgotten, homework sheets have been ignored, and your new student struggles with the simplest concepts. You encourage your new student to practice every day and hope for the best next week.
But nothing changes, and here’s why…
Piano is unique to almost any after-school activity because students must take it upon themselves to actually practice. Soccer, baseball, dance, and even art classes include practice time as part of the schedule. Kids aren’t required to practice soccer by themselves at home… it is simply a given that they attend a practice several times a week. If piano students were required to attend a practice session even just twice a week with their teacher, most of our practice woes would be behind us!
But this is simply not an option for most piano teachers and their students. And so, students are left to their own devices to not only learn how to practice but to also learn how to commit to practice.
This is not an easy task. Learning to commit to daily piano practice is no different then developing any other positive habit. And for anyone who has ever decided to start running… or flossing… or eating more green vegetables, they know that forming a new habit is not an easy task.
So instead of getting frustrated with new piano students who don’t practice, we instead need to help them develop a new habit for piano practice… and this takes time.
21 Days To Consistent Piano Practice
There is a misconception that creating a positive habit, or kicking a bad habit takes 21 days. In truth, it may take more, it may take less… but we think 21 straight days of piano practice for a brand new student is a pretty good start.
To kick off this habit-building exercise with a new student, invite the parent in to the last 10 minutes of the very first piano lesson. During this time you’ll want to do the following to help encourage the Piano Practice Habit:
1. Explain the importance of daily practice.
2. Have them commit to a consistent daily routine (before school, after dinner… it doesn’t really matter when, but it is paramount that practice happens at the same time each and every day for the next 21 days.)
3. Encourage them to practice for just 5 minutes a day for the first week, and then 7 minutes for the second week, and 10 minutes for the third week. At this point it is important to make building the habit the priority and not practice quantity.
4. At the end of your practice chat, send your new student home with a practice log that must be initialled daily by her mom or dad. Be sure to have a weekly reward for each full week of practice.
5. After the second piano lesson with your new student, invite her mom or dad in for the last 5 minutes. Use this time to simply check in with how the daily practice is making out and reinforce the importance of piano practice.
6. Repeat Step 5 after the third lesson. At this point a new habit is probably well on its way to being formed, and you and your new student are off to the races!
What To Do After 21 Days
If you want to keep the motivational ball rolling consider introducing your piano students to our practice resource, Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. This fantastic book provides an additional 88 home practice activities that are absolutely, positively, most definitely, NOT BORING!