Every time I begin a new student, parents generally will ask about practicing.
- How much should they practice?
- When should they practice?
- What are they supposed to practice?
- What am I supposed to do when they practice?
- I don't know anything about music, how can I help them practice?
- What happens if they don't practice?
I have strict practice requirements in my studio. I expect my students to progress and not waste their parents hard earned money (or my time) sitting at the piano pretending to practice for 45 minutes. I explain to parents that sitting at the piano hitting keys, does not constitute practice. Neither does playing a song from the beginning over and over again for 45 minutes.
Many students do just fine practicing. They just get it. Other students might come to the lesson now and then and fake their way through the assignment (as if I wouldn't know the difference). Some come in and can't play much of anything I assigned at all. Some do this often enough for me to raise an eyebrow.
These students (and parents) will benefit from a session on practicing. At least what I would call practicing. So this summer I am offering one "Guided Practice Session" for my students in the student's home for a discounted price- (factoring in gas there and back). This fall, I may make this a required "course" for all in-coming new students within their first year. Because effective practice from the get-go can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
Here's how the Guided Practice Session works:
1. Parents are REQUIRED to be present.
We sit in the room where the student practices.
2. I remind them to set a timer for the length of their lesson.(....Hold on, hear me out first....)
3. I walk the student through each and every assignment they were given that week in their lesson. Step by step.
I am very specific as to what they are to do with each item on their assignment sheet.
4. I discuss what to do if they forget how to do something or if they run into difficulty.
5. When the assignment is finished, they are instructed to get out a fun book and sight read what they like for the remaining balance of their time.
I don't care what they play and I don't care how well they play it. I just want them to play something fun (from a score)- something they must read, but can relate to.
It doesn't matter if the assignment only takes 10 minutes to complete. That's ok, they can spend the next 20-25 minutes doing fun music. (I'll guide them through that as well.) Thats why I have them set the timer.
Hopefully they will only need this once and it will reinforce a good balance of lesson assignment vs. fun playing.
Too much assignment and not enough fun and eventually, they won't want to do it anymore- and begin negotiation attempts over piano practice with their parents.
Too much fun and not enough assignment will present itself right away in their next lesson.