On Practicing

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Girls at the Piano, 1892 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Good friend, colleague, excellent teacher, and director of Musical Beginnings (where I teach most of my students), Linda, has a blog where she has posts on why to practice and tips on how to get students to practice.

Getting students to practice regularly is one of the biggest challenges of teaching music. It generally boils down to making it a priority. Here are a few Practicing Tips from Linda:

·      Stack the deck with loaded choices such as “Can you help me with these dishes or were you about to go practice?” or  “I’d like you to fold the laundry, unless you were on your way to practice…?”

·      A sticker chart, that old stand-by, works well with younger children. The concept of sitting down to practice 5 Steps Up today so they can know how to play a Mozart sonata in many tomorrows may be too abstract to motivate them. The knowledge that they’ll get to pick a sparkly sticker and that five stickers equals a trip to the park isn’t.

·      A no-screen-time rule until practicing has been done.

Part of getting students to practice is understanding why it is necessary. From Linda's Why to Practice post:

…rarely does a child stop music lessons because they just couldn’t abide their 20-minute-a-day practice regimen. Mostly they stop because they so seldom sit down to practice that they’re not learning to play, and so it gradually becomes less important to both them and their parents. And, the vast majority of our advanced students throughout the years have had a practice routine dictated to them, at least at the beginning...

For more excellent advice and insight, visit Teacher Linda Talks.