Gulp. I have a confession to make. I live and breathe piano education… but my own daughter has her piano lesson on Thursdays… and her books didn’t emerge from her piano bag until Monday.
Do I have a good excuse? Not really. We had a busy weekend, yes.. but I can’t rightfully say that every single second of her days was occupied.
Trevor and I looked at each other in horror on Monday night as we realized her piano books were sitting still in her music bag on top of our piano. Yikes. Had we become exactly what we work so hard day and night to prevent?
Our “Oops” Is Another’s Gain
Did we immediately skip bedtime reading and hit the piano instead? Uh huh. Did we gain some seriously valuable insight into how to help piano practice become more regular in the homes of other busy families? Absolutely. If we (double yikes) fell victim to a serious lapse in piano practice then families who are not as involved in piano as are we definitely will. So… here are some helpful tips for your piano families (from two very sheepish piano bloggers).
1. Promote Regularity Over Time Length
We’ve blogged about this here. For busy families, suggesting 30 minutes of practice may result in no practice at all being accomplished. Sometimes 30 minutes just doesn’t seem like it will fit into a busy day. However, suggesting that their child visit the piano at least twice a day usually then adds up to those 30 minutes you were hoping for. In our daughter Lexi’s case, she’s quite happy to play solo in short amounts of time, but extended practice sessions require parental involvement even if just for the sake of the company.
2. Send Home a Back-Up Plan
Our daughter, Lexi, had 2 brand new pieces to practice this week. This required some parental help as she’s only 6. I knew that she would need me… and so finding a time when we were both free (and her sister wasn’t hanging off of me) became the hurdle that resulted in no practice. Had she had some assignments that could be done solo then this barrier would have disappeared and she would have hit the keys on her own. Be sure to send home multi-leveled repertoire. At least one piece should be about 2 levels below where your student plays currently. Playing something easy is much better than playing nothing at all (and all kinds of skills are strengthened in the process).
3. Provide a “hook”
The week before, Lexi had a practice incentive that she was working hard to complete (wait for it on our blog… we’ll be giving it away for free!). There was absolutely no way she was going to miss a single day of practice, and her hounding and reminding broke through anything we had to accomplish and resulted in some real quality time on the piano. You don’t always need a practice incentive running… but even just a super-fun activity that your student can’t wait to complete will get those books opened. Piano practice needs to be front and center in your students’ mind (not the parents’) for regular practice to actually occur.
Here’s To Honesty And Learning From Mistakes
I’m sure you’ve all been in the position Trevor and I found ourselves in this week, either with your own children or even with your own personal practice time. And we’ve certainly all seen the fall-out from practice lapses with our students. Life takes over… but there is something you can do about it. Keep “life” at bay with these 3 strategies and watch your piano students’ progress become more regular (and therefore more rapid).