Piano teachers agree: musical practice is the key to musical progress! However, pianists sometimes feel like practice is an unpleasant chore that creates feelings of self-doubt or boredom. By keeping practice sessions positive and efficient, you can transform piano practice into a positive and exciting experience. In this article, we will share some strategies to make piano practice that creates musical progress and a sense of motivation for pianists of all ages. We’ll also share tips for effective music practice and strategies tailored for beginners by our Hoffman Academy teachers.
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What is effective music practice?
Effective piano practice is goal oriented, targeted and focused. Goals in music can be related to note accuracy or rhythm, or about improving the musicality of the piece. An example might be setting the goal of playing Debka Hora 6x with no missed notes, or correcting the rhythm your right hand plays in Kye Kye Kule. Or, you might want to practice making the melody line in “Black Snake” more musical and connected, while bringing out the staccatos in the left hand! By reviewing a lesson video, you can set your goal for the practice session and find strategies to achieve it.
To stay focused while practicing piano, the duration of your practice session is key. For a beginner student, 10-15 minutes of focused practice a day provides the right amount of time before the mind starts to wander! For a more advanced player with a goal of practicing 1 hour a day, practice sessions can be broken up into 20-minute segments, with “brain breaks to refresh”. You can learn more strategies for practicing in our article Learning How To Practice.
How can a beginner practice music?
As a beginner, you can start practicing music by playing a piece you have already learned and enjoy! By practicing a favorite song when you begin, you can associate the piano with something exciting. Next, try introducing the most recent song from your lesson. You might set a goal to play the left hand, the right hand, both hands together, and then eyes closed for a fun challenge!
You can also build the habit of practicing your scales into your schedule. Once the first pentascale is introduced in Unit 1, you can revisit it each time you sit down at the piano. Once you are more advanced, you can add chord progressions and arpeggios to your warm up. To conclude your music practice time, a theory worksheet or activity page from our Learning and Teaching Resources provides a great review of musical concepts.
Each video lesson comes with a practice session for our Hoffman Academy Premium members. These music practice sessions provide goals and opportunities to review old songs and include games and worksheets to improve your skills.
Four Strategies to Encourage Your Beginner Pianist’s Music Practice
Reframing practice in a positive light makes a difference for pianists of all ages! The list below offers four starting points to make practicing an exciting experience that is fulfilling. Above all, music practice is a time to experiment, make mistakes, and learn how to fix them in a positive way. By focusing on the good, encouraging self-correction, and providing positive feedback, any student of the piano will feel motivated to practice!
See the Good
Try to give your child feedback on the good stuff that’s happening rather than on the mistakes. For instance, if your child is missing the same note every time, don’t start out by saying, “You keep missing that note!” Instead, say, “You’re doing really well! You played it almost perfect. Let’s listen to that song again together.” You can build this skill by asking the pianist to name two musical elements that they thought they did well on. Even if that’s playing only the left hand, having a student recognize that they completed the task well creates a sense of progress!
After listening to the song on the lesson video or on our Piano Listening Album (which is part of our Lesson Materials for Premium Members), ask, “Does it sound the same when you play it?” If you guide your child to realize the mistake on their own, he or she will be much more likely to want to correct it. Then, when your child plays it right, celebrate with a cheer and a big hug.
Musicians of all ages can also train their musical ear by listening to a performance or practice track and comparing this to a self-recording. It helps pianists at all levels identify musical details that could be corrected or improved, and also teaches musicians to identify and name positive elements of their playing, like dynamics and musicality.
Instant Positive Feedback
If you want your child to work on something like posture or hand position, try this game. Tell your child that you’re watching their hand position and will clap when they’re keeping their fingers curved and relaxed. As they play, keep up a steady clapping so long as they’re using a good hand position. Slow down or stop clapping if their hand position isn’t so good. Most children will work hard to keep the claps coming.
Keep It Positive, Keep It Motivated
It seems like a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference in any pianist’s attitude if they get feedback for doing something right rather than for doing something wrong. One excellent way to provide feedback or evaluate your own playing is with a “compliment sandwich.” Identify two things that were well done, and one area that could use work. Remember, staying motivated to spend time at the piano is more important than correcting mistakes. When you offer a suggestion, doing so in a positive way makes music practice time more enjoyable for everyone.
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