I used to be a Nancy Neverpractice. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. I loved my piano lessons. I loved my piano teacher. Often I loved the pieces I was assigned. But I did not love to practice the piano.
In fact… I got pretty good at avoiding it at all costs. And while I ended up spending most of my later life on the piano bench, my early years in piano lessons were successful only because I happened to be smart, I knew how to cram, and my piano teacher liked me too much to give me the heave-ho. I can only imagine how much I would have accomplished if I had a) spent more time on the piano at home and b) used the time I did spend there more wisely. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Why?
Because as a former Nancy Neverpractice, I can now spot a fellow Nancy a mile away and know how to prevent her from becoming a Leslie Loses-interest and then a Kylie Quitter. Here’s how:
Piano Students Who Don’t Practice
Music lessons are one of the few extracurricular activities that require a daily commitment from a young child. Most activities (aside from ones that are geared towards extremely competitive sports) simply require the child to attend one or two times a week where their “practice” is completely supervised, structured and directed. When you think of it this way, we’re actually asking a lot of our young piano students to have enough self-discipline to practice on their own at home day in and day out. The thought process of “If I work hard at this then I will improve” requires a certain level of maturity that many children just don’t yet have. It’s so much easier to show up at dance class or hockey, surrounded by a group of friends, and be directed by your instructor.
Remember Your Audience
As a young piano student my practice was anything but fun. My assignment book was a plain piece of lined paper in a black binder. My assignments for the week were written in a difficult-to-deciper handwriting and were nothing more than “drill measure 18 hands separately” and other such uninspired directions. My pieces came from black and white (and slightly faded) repertoire books. My piano was in the coldest and darkest room of the house. It’s amazing that I lasted through 18 years of piano lessons. Most kids wouldn’t have. Most kids don’t.
When Practice Becomes Play
For piano practice to truly be something your students accept as a part of their daily life it needs to be fun. It is simply human nature to avoid that which is unpleasant. As adults, we’ve learned to accept that life is full of unpleasant “must-do’s”… but for a child this is a tough pill to swallow. And if you’re in the business of selling piano lessons to kids you’ll want to stay away from unpleasantness as much as possible. The key is in turning “Practice” into “Play”. It can be done, and it can be done in a way that produces results that are every bit (if not more) beneficial than the age-old “sit and practice your piano for 45 minutes a day” approach. All kids are proficient at one thing… and that is play. Tap into this natural inclination and watch their skills blossom.
Give Nancy the Equipment She Needs To Play
Nancy Neverpractice needs you. But she doesn’t need you to spend your time making up practice charts, offering reward systems and shopping at the dollar store for tempting trinkets. She needs your attention; but she doesn’t need reminders and reprimands. What she needs is fairly simple. She needs you to show her that piano practice can be enjoyable. Writing “drill measures 24-30” is pointless. Your student may or may not drill those measures. And you can bet they’re not having fun doing so. You need to able to create reasons behind the practice that needs to happen. Make practice into a game. Be inventive, innovative and exciting in your approach. Give your student the equipment she needs to play the piano.
I learned quickly that all piano students have the capacity to be a Nancy Neverpractice… they just vary in the degree of their “Nancy-ness”. As their piano teacher you should continually treat each and every one of your students as a potential member of the Neverpractice family. But if the thought of coming up with inventive, fun and motivating practice activities exhausts you… I hear ya! I spent the last 14 years of my life creating unique and fun ways for my students to practice the piano. And I spent the last 6 months putting them all into a resource that is available simply by clicking here “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice”.