Last September we wrote a post about why piano students “forget” to practice. Well, we’re going to touch on the topic again, but from a much more personal point of view.
But first, it requires a bit of history….
As many of you know, our much-loved dog of nine years, Mollie, passed away in January. After a “possibly-too-brief” period of mourning we welcomed a new four-legged member to our family… Marley.
Our last dog had her short-comings that we did not want to replicate, so Marley headed to dog obedience almost as soon as we got him. Marley was a star! He whizzed (in the best sense of the term) through the basic skills program in 5 weeks and graduated “With Distinction”. We were so pleased with his progress that we signed him up for the Advanced Skills Program.
And then things went south… Promises of riding a skateboard, fetching bottled water, and ringing a bell to go out went unfulfilled, and instead Marley reverted back to lunging, chewing, and barking.
What happened to Super Marley? Marley hit a wall. A big wall built from lack of practice. A big wall that is not unlike the same wall piano students hit when they don’t practice.
But Why Did Marley Hit The Wall?
Marley can blame us. In the basic skills training we practiced daily, but during the advanced skills training we raced around 1 hour before class trying to get him to ride that darn skateboard (we’re still working on it). And while the motivation to practice should technically be easy for grown adults like Andrea and I, it was the difference in structure between two training courses that had a lot to do with the practice… or lack thereof.
What Made The Difference?:
Difference Number One: The basic skills course came with a handbook that had a neat outline of skill progressions. We could see what Marley needed to do each and every week and what was coming next. The advanced course was self-paced, self-directed learning.
Lesson to be learned: Your piano students and their parents need to know, in writing, what they have learned, what they are learning, and what they are about to learn. Organization and visual goal setting is important.
Difference Number Two: In the Basic Skills Course, the instructors made it very clear that while the dogs have 10 weeks to pass, only 4 dogs in the history of the business were ever able to pass the course with distinction in just 5 weeks. Also, 80% was required for a pass and “graduating with honors” required over 90%. The Advanced Course did not have achievement indicators or clear goals.
Lesson to be learned: Your piano students need clear goals. The goals don’t need to be strict percentage-based goals, but they need something to work towards in order to motivate them to practice. In the case of Marley… we were going after the 5-week record!
Difference Number Three: This difference has nothing to do with the courses, but instead with our behaviour. During the Basic Skills Course (which took place during the spring) it was our daughter’s job to work with Marley for 15 minutes before leaving for school. Unfortunately, the advanced course was scheduled for summer; which means our routines were tossed out the window and puppy practice got completely ignored.
Lesson to be learned: Make sure piano parents are very aware of the importance of scheduled practice time… willy-nilly just doesn’t cut it. Piano practice needs to happen at the same time every single day until it becomes as routine as brushing one’s teeth.
Difference Number Four: The basic skills course was FULL! Dogs were literally everywhere. Over the course of “the course” we got to know other dog owners, we got to meet their dogs, and we got to watch their dogs have success and graduate. In comparison, the advanced course usually has only one other dog in attendance and the sense of community faltered.
Lesson to be learned: Involve your piano students in studio-wide practice challenges. Your piano kids will love to watch the progress of their peers and will enjoy having something in common… something to talk about.
Away from Dogs and Back to Piano Kids!
So, while your piano students may not be lunging at the end of the leash and chewing shoes to bits (although some may seem capable of doing so!!) they can still benefit from these 4 tips to ensure longevity and progress in your piano studio.
Want to get your piano kids really excited about practice?… Then check-out our book Shhhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This Is Practice. It contains 88 practice exercises that are absolutely, positively, most definitely, NOT BORING!