In a perfect world everyone would have 30 minutes of undivided time to sit in a quiet room with their child to devote their full attention to helping him or her practice. Every parent would have basic musical knowledge to help their child through any roadblocks that popped up during the week, and every parent would know what makes for an efficient practice routine.
But let’s look at reality. Most of our students likely practice alone while life goes on around them.
Dad’s making supper, the phone is ringing, mom’s at work, the dog needs out, and a younger sibling walks by every 5 minutes and pounds on the keys for good measure.
Most parents have never played the piano (maybe they played saxophone in school 24 years ago but that’s about it) and their idea of a “good” session of practice is determined by minutes on the oven timer. 30 minutes? Good. Go clean your room.
This is reality, but the three tips we’re sharing today (plus a free piano parent printable!) can help to improve the success of your piano student’s home practice.
1. Shout It Out From The Kitchen And Make A Difference
We’ve blogged before about how parents are an integral part of our piano students’ success. Without support and assistance from home, our student’s progress can really be affected.
When dealing with 7 year old students, they just don’t have the skills they need just yet to go it completely alone when it comes to home practice. They cope, but a bit of help goes a long way.
So, let’s accept reality and work with it.
Hand out our “Shout it From the Kitchen” sheet to your parents and ask them to follow it if they just don’t have a moment to sit down and help their child that day. It’s easy, it’s do-able (tape it to the fridge!) and this small bit of direction will make a difference to your piano students’ progress.
2. Stop Swimming Up Stream… Go With The Flow
One of the biggest changes I have made with my students is sending home an activity that involves the entire family (sometimes away from the piano, sometimes at the piano).
This way my students are learning theory concepts or practice strategies in conjunction with their busy life.
Just last week my daughter took on the practice task of inviting her sister to the piano for a mini practice session. Usually Halle is the younger sibling who walks by and pounds on the keys, but with Lexi’s undivided attention she was very attentive on the bench.
As Lexi explained the piece to Halle, I noticed that she suddenly made an important connection about a repeating pattern in her music. After Halle had drifted off to kick a ball, Lexi sat and played the piece through without hesitations. You can find these kinds of family-involved activities here (theory-based) and here (practice strategies).
3. Be Real, Be Successful
One of the many things I’ve learned while running a 320 student piano studio is that what we’d like to happen at home is not always feasible. And while piano lessons are front and center in our own minds (it’s our job after all!), for many families it’s just one more weekly activity. But we can change that. With a bit of flexibility, and a lot of realism and understanding we can work with families to make piano a priority.
Fighting against busy lives and expecting the impossible often results in the opposite of what we hoped to achieve. It is so tempting to say “If you don’t have 30 minutes to practice then your life is too busy. Surely you must have just 30 minutes?!” but it’s a tough row to hoe and it is what it is. In our studio we’ve chosen the flexibility route, and the payoffs have been huge, both in terms of the success of our business, but also in the success of our students.
Wanting an easy way for families to be involved in just 5-10 minutes of home practice? TEDDtales – our uber-popular technical exercise book – gives piano parents a chance to be involved without needing any musical knowledge. The story-based format means Mom or Dad can read while their child creates the “soundtrack” to the goofy tale. Articulation, fingering, sight-reading, expression, note-reading… it’s all here!