If you read my last blog post, you’ll know all about my approach to teaching younger students. In particular, you’ll know that I choose to set homework or practice tasks that my young students (those aged 5 to 9) should be able to achieve after three consecutive 10 minute practice sessions.
Many people have asked why I choose to approach my beginner students’ practice tasks in this way, so this blog post sets out my practice philosophy, and why I believe this approach teaches young beginner students (aged 5 to 9) how to learn and to practice the piano as effectively as possible.
The Key to Effective Practice
The key to effective piano practice (and to being successful at pretty much anything else) is simple:
- micro-manage tasks
- set short-term goals
- achieve short-term goals (and set new ones)
- practice with purpose
This process needs to be taught (implicitly) to beginners and young children. Otherwise, their learning progress will plateau when they begin to tackle more difficult pieces.
How I Apply This to Kids’ Piano Practice
I always teach my students so that what we learn in their piano lesson is something they will be able to practice at home. As mentioned before, I set homework for my young beginners that’s achievable with only three consecutive days of 10 minutes practice after their lesson day. This is the “golden period” – the most effective time to practice after a lesson.
While the volume of work I give is tailored to a child’s individual learning level and pace, I always give them enough work that they personally will be able to achieve within the three day, 10 minute schedule.
Three days of 10 minutes practice meets all four of the steps to effective practice I described above: micro-managing tasks, setting and achieving short-term goals, and practicing with purpose.
Why I Set Work for Young Beginners Based on Three Day, 10 Minute Achievability
The reason I set my young students work that can be achieved after three 10 minute practice sessions is that by the fourth day of their practice, they will be able to play their set homework easily, and by the fifth and sixth days, it will be even easier. Being able to play fluently is a reward in itself, and gives these kids a sense of achievement.
This also means that the occasional bad week of practice won’t set them back – even if they miss a couple of days of practice, what they learn on days one to three will be enough to get them through their next lesson.
When children find things easier, they enjoy them more. In addition to the sense of achievement they will feel when they are able to play fluently, they will also be having fun by day four, because playing well is fun. By making it fun, they will be more motivated to continue the process each week. And, of course, they will be further rewarded at their next lesson with stickers and chocolates. (Never underestimate the power of stickers!)
Best of all, by setting such an achievable workload for them to practice, when they come back for their next lesson, their pieces are learnt, and we can move on to new pieces and new short-term, achievable goals.
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Why I Don’t Set My Students More Work
Setting work that requires five or six days’ worth of 10 minutes practice sessions can be overwhelming for kids. (Remember, we’re talking five to nine year olds, here.) If practice is overwhelming, then the fun factor of playing correctly is gone. Children can do it, but not for long. Eventually, they burn out.
I also believe very strongly in quality practice over quantity practice. If your six year old practices with purpose for 10 minutes a day, they will achieve much more than they would if they practices for 20 minutes a day without purpose.
Finally, I believe that setting this volume of homework allows for steady, weekly improvement with solid foundations. My methods aren’t a short-cut fix or accelerated program that will become a problem in the long term. Slow and steady always wins the race when teaching young kids, and so that is what I do.
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A Long-Term Approach
When my younger students are able to do three days of 10 minutes practice easily, I slowly increase the set time to 12 minutes, then 15, then 20, etc. After taking lessons for a year, most of my young students will be practicing at least three days for 30 minutes at a time every week.
Tried and True
My approach to effective piano practice for young beginners might not be the most common approach, but in my many years’ of teaching, I have found time and again that is the most powerful, and that it brings the greatest long-term results.
Has your child been following my practice program? If so, have you noticed the results they begin to enjoy on days four, five, and six? Share your answers in the comments below.
For the other piano teachers: how do you set work for your students to practice? Do you follow a similar methodology to mine, or do you have a different philosophy? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Supporting Your Child’s Piano Practice
If you would like to learn how you, as a parent, can support and encourage your child to practice effectively, then read this blog post.
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