The missing link in piano practise at home

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If you’re the piano student who listens, follows instructions and basically does what your teacher asks you to, and are getting nowhere, then this post is for you.

A student like this came to his piano lesson the other day. He’d been practising at home, but it really didn’t sound like it, as not much had been accomplished during that time.

Just one practise session at class and there was a difference in the quality of his practise. In terms of his posture, hand shape, playing gently rather than banging on the keys, and playing smoothly. A section with mistakes that had been corrected in the last piano lesson was still troubling him and we worked on it slowly and carefully and he played it correctly in pretty much one go.

So what happened differently at piano lessons?

Continue reading The missing link in piano practise at home

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Minimising Piano Practise Disturbances

The set-up and placement of the piano at home may be the cause of disturbances during practise, or the cause of infrequent practise.

In most Indian homes, the piano is placed in the hall-cum-living room. Unlike with the violin or guitar, the pianist cannot just take his/her instrument to another room when there are guests. So learning to get quality practise done often means learning to manage disturbances.

Read on, to learn how to work minimise practise disturbances and work around them. Continue reading Minimising Piano Practise Disturbances

The biggest practise mistake piano students make

Your piano teacher says you’re not doing well

This is a student who wants progress. He/she is an older student, teen or adult, who is not content to learn lots of beginner level repertoire. Who comes to class having put a lot of effort into what is currently being worked on. But this student isn’t doing well at all.

Because, daily practise of anything other than the latest new piece or concept is sketchy, this student hasn’t actually mastered any of what has been taught in earlier lessons. Continue reading The biggest practise mistake piano students make

Practise is, a reminder for piano students

Here’s a reminder for beginner piano students. A list of all the things they need to keep in mind, so they get the most out of their practise time.

Because effective piano practise is fun. It’s a challenge. It’s working smart and pushing boundaries. And a time to relax. All these seemingly contradictory things, all the same time.

Continue reading Practise is, a reminder for piano students

7 Scheduling Tips for Relaxed Piano Practise

The piano practise conflict.

Many diligent students who practise daily get stuck and don’t do well. Here’s what often happens to them.

Practising daily = Discipline,

Discipline = Rigid practise routines = Practise as a duty rather than a joy,

Practise without joy = Stress and tension which causes tight hands and shoulders, leading to bad playing technique.

It’s the exact opposite of the piano teachers goal, which is for the student to be relaxed and creative during piano practise time.

 

Scheduling for creative practise

The way piano practise is scheduled matters. My years of teaching and talking about how good practise scheduling  helps students practise creatively, has taught me that parents & students of all ages often just don’t realise this.

  • Cultural attitudes here in India that value hard work can often make parents praise piano students who slog unnecessarily. Even when this slogging creates stress and bad technique and the student bangs on the piano keys, sometimes leading to pain and injury.
  • Many new to piano playing can’t hear the difference between banging and playing the right way.
  • Many are ignorant about repetitive stress injury and why good playing technique is important. And I’ve seen a few foolish students who felt playing through injury was a sign of passion for music and was a badge of honour.

The truth is, relaxed piano students do better, learn faster & often just ‘get’ things that other students struggle to achieve. And the way practise is scheduled is important as it has a huge impact on whether a piano student plays out of duty or for joy.

Here’s 7 Scheduling Tips that make daily piano practise relaxed, creative and effective

  1. 2 or 3 small practise slots are better than a single slot  because students are more attentive after a break.
  2. Schedule longer slots than required. Students need time to relax between activities and may come to the piano late, then get so involved that they want to stay and play longer.
  3. Schedule an extra slot, so piano students have a choice when they’re not in the mood at the same time each day
  4. Creativity grows from having time and mental space, and piano students sometimes need to sit around, idle before and after practise time. This time helps their mind absorb any innovative or creative moments during their practise, and retain it for the next session.
  5. Piano students need to explore their instrument on their own, outside of what is taught in class. It’s not wasting time, but rather, it’s a student using knowledge gained in piano class & piano practise, to explore his/her innate ability. It’s wonderful when this happens!
  6. Schedule practise holidays : One or two days each week (not consecutive days). Plus  3 consecutive days each month.
  7. On busy days, a little is better than nothing. Play, rather than practise, if there’s no time. Even 2 minutes with a section of a piece you enjoy.
  8. Don’t just schedule practise, make time to PLAY. Play your favourite pieces at the end of the day. Or play a line of music you like – just a minute in between some other activity. Play to relax, because that’s what learning the piano is about.

 

The importance of the practise holiday

Practise holidays are essential and diligent students often come back from practise breaks, playing better. Scheduling the break tells the student that there’s some leeway in their routine. And gives students days when they can just ‘BE’ and use practise time to do  something different without guilt. These breaks in the practise routine are very important for creativity.

Piano practise is a very solitary occupation and practise holidays let the student have a little leeway and choose their routine. As do the scheduling suggestions in points above.

It’s that element of choice that brings freedom, creativity and passion to discipline of daily practise.

 

Parent support in piano class

The need for parent support

Parent support for piano practise with young piano students is a huge issue. With teachers, because they know the likelihood of any student actually progressing beyond the beginner level depends on this. Even the musically talented student.

For piano parents it’s time and commitment and something more for them to add to their already busy schedules.

As I write this post, I’ve been teaching the piano for roughly 15 years. During all of these years, I’ve had less than a handful of students who practised without parent support.

Learning the piano is very challenging for children of any age and my experience has been that the child who sticks almost always is the child who has parent support.

Continue reading Parent support in piano class