The key to getting the most from your weekly lesson

A really great private piano teacher knows that structured learning is the key to measuring your progress and ensuring that you are on track. This does not imply the teacher is inflexible and disinclined to consider your musical preferences but a good piano teacher will not lose sight of the real goal, which is to help you develop the skills needed to play well. As you develop these skills you will be able to play the songs you personally prefer.

Children and adults learn very differently. Children learn generally by association, so if the connection with piano lessons is mostly positive they will probably continue to pursue music in some way for the rest of their life. You want your child to be successful.

What’s the secret to this success?
The secret to your child’s success on piano, of course, is practice. This comes from your support and guidance. If your child has recently begun lessons or seems to be losing interest try sitting with them when they practice and help them work through the challenges.

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The parent’s role…
As parent or caregiver your challenge is to a build this positive connection into the experience of learning piano. Parents who work with their children, especially in the first year of lessons, will generally have far greater success because the attention you give builds that positive association. And the benefits of working with your child go way beyond just the ability of your child to play piano. You’ll be learning too. And, in most cases, your relationship with your child will grow and strengthen as a result.

Practice… promises, promises…
You only think you are practicing everyday. But ‘life’ gets in the way without you even realizing. To avoid getting too far off track, keep a practice log or chart, or find an app that will graphically show your child’s progress.

Count minutes, not days…
Rather than trying to commit to a set number of days to practice (reality check: most people rarely practice EVERY day), set a minutes goal for the week. Now you have some flexibility.

With younger children – under 8 years old – aim for 15 minute practice sessions at first. Increase the practice time gradually, according to the attention span of the child and the material. Older kids should be able to start with a minimum of 20 minutes per day and increase practice time as needed. A realistic goal would be 180 minutes of practice per week for the beginning player.

The most important practice time is right after your lesson, and the following day, while new material is still fresh in your mind. Aim for 30 minutes sessions on these days. Use the rest of the week to attain the balance of your practice time goal.

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Who doesn’t want to top their last score?
Most of us like to see if we can do better, whether it be a test score, or video game ranking, or how many hoops we can shoot.… We are compelled to try again, to try and do better. It’s the same reasoning behind the practice log.

But even if you don’t meet your goal each week, use it to challenge yourself to meet or exceed your practice time. Keep it front and center so it’s the last thing you do when you end your practice, and the first thing you see each day. With today’s technology you can remind yourself about nearly everything.

If at the end of every practice session you honestly log your practice times you will not be able to mislead yourself. It’s a daily reality check. It’s a record of your efforts, and by acknowledging your efforts you will have confidence in your abilities.

Practice Tips…. Help yourself …
Stay organized. Keep everything you need in one place so you can get started quickly when it is practice time. You want to be able to get into a rhythm with your practice. Take a minute or two at the end to put your materials away so they are easily ready for the next session.

Prioritize. You probably can think of tons of songs you want to play but will they make you a better player? Remember to keep the weekly goals at the top of your list. It’s these stepping stone skills that will increase your playing ability, and soon enough you’ll be playing the tunes you dreamed of playing. Your teacher is there to help guide you with this.

Set time limits. Work on a skill for no more than 10 minutes or so and then move on to something else so your practice time doesn’t become a drudge. You can do this for scales, or sections of a song, or running through old material to keep it fresh.

Track and log your practice. When you keep track of your practice you will become more aware of your progress. It’s this organic awareness that will make you feel more confident about achieving your goals and keep you moving forward.

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