One of my students is away for three weeks this summer. “I won’t be able to practice!” he grinned at me in his typical mischevious way. Oh little man… do I have a surprise for you….
We’re into writing series posts lately, so here’s Part 1 of “Practicing Away From The Piano”. You’ll be happy to know that I sent that little guy packing with all 3 of my Practice Away From the Piano Strategies that we’ll be sharing with you in the coming weeks.
It’s All In the Details… That We’ve Forgotten
I had a prof in University once who asked us to write out the first two lines of the current piece we were practicing; both hands, all articulation markings (including slurs) and all of the dynamics. This was one pop quiz that caught my entire class off guard completely. Our attempts were, at best, dismal. Had he asked us to play the first line… no problem; but the ability to take what we could play and actually write it out in detail was incredibly difficult.
I never forgot this little exercise… mostly because I hated getting a poor mark… but also because it reminded me of how much we rely on muscle memory and “auto-pilot” when we play and how many small (yet important) details we are missing by not being fully aware of what is on our score.
Obviously this process may be quite a bit simpler for your beginning piano students, but teaching your students the good habit of “score study” right from the get-go will have them thanking you much later in life.
Score Study Scavenger Hunt
Score study doesn’t have to be boring – in fact, it can be really fun. Creating a simple “scavenger hunt” for your student using his current piece is a great practice habit to create. Send home a sheet with questions such as “How many dynamic markings do you see? What kinds of articulation markings are found and how many of each? On what note does your piece start? Finish?”… All of these questions seem simple, but they help to create important connections in your student’s brain that will transfer nicely once he’s back at the keys.
Just One More Way Your Piano Kids Can Rock it
Even if your piano students aren’t heading out into the wilderness where the prospect of finding a piano for practice is as likely as finding a unicorn… learning to study their score away from the piano will have measurable benefits to both their progress and skills. So, tell your students to forget about playing “find the license plate” in the back seat of the car on road trips this summer… instead let’s make it all about back-seat score study!
And I know you’re all saying “But Andrea…. where’s our free printable? I don’t have time to make a scavenger hunt!”… voila! Here’s a template you can print and use to guide effective score study – use it in lessons, send it home… or on vacation!