Can your piano students practice even when they don’t have a piano in front of them? Yes! In fact, practice that happens “away from the piano” is very important and will do nothing but improve their “at the piano” practice time in leaps and bounds.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on practicing away from the piano, we’ve covered how to teach your piano kids to study their score and how to mentally practice their piece. For our final post in this series we’re focusing on adding visualization and tap practice to your arsenal of strategies… and then how to combine all 3 of these strategies for maximum results.
Teaching Young Piano Students to Visualize
I used to think that my young students were too immature to do this effectively. But then I realized that it is actually adults that have difficulty effectively visualizing; children spend a great deal of time in an imaginary world… that part of their brain is well-exercised! As a piano teacher, if you can tap into that side of their abilities, then visualization can be a regular part of their at-home practice tasks.
Visualization is where your piano student closes their eyes (sitting away from the piano) yet imagines their hands are on the keys. While certainly imaginative, young children still need a little guidance, so I use a procedure like the one below (adjusting as needed for each particular student and situation) to help aid their visualization:
1. Have your student place his hands on the table top with his eyes closed, and imagine he is about to begin playing his current piece.
2. Ask “If your hands were on the keys, what is the black key that is closest to your left hand thumb?”
3. Ask “Can you tap out a broken triad with your right hand? What keys would you have just touched to do so?”
4. Ask “Can you think about the very first note(s) in your piece and wiggle the finger(s) you use to play it?”
5. Ask “Can you put your hands down in your lap and then bring them back up to the very same position?”
Now It All Comes Together…
Now that your student is effectively visualizing their hands on their imaginary keyboard, you can guide them through an away-from-the-piano practice session where score study, mental practice, visualization and Tap Practice combine (and greatness happens!)
If you’re wondering what I mean by “Tap Practice” it is where your student “plays” their current piece on a flat surface. We’ve blogged before about Tap Practice; and it’s still something that I encourage my students to do when they are away from the piano. Often, however, tap practice happens without concentrated visualization… students do this on their lap while they’re in the car, or on the table while they wait for dinner… it’s more of an absent-minded way of going through the motions.
Yet combining Tap Practice with the other away-from-the-piano techniques we’ve blogged about in this series is really effective. Once your students have learned to study the score (from Part 1), have the ability to hear their piece in their mind (from Part 2) and they can effectively visualize their hands being on the keyboard even when there isn’t one in sight… then Tap Practice can take on a whole new role in your piano students’ home practice routine.