Quick Tips

How To Use Hoffman Academy's Practice Chart

By Hannah Kendall
How to use Hoffman Academy's piano practice chart.

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It can be difficult to know exactly how to practice piano! With new notes to learn and new scales to practice, many students struggle with where to begin. While there is no “right” way to practice piano, it’s helpful to have structure and routine when practicing. That’s why we’ve created a free piano practice chart! This piano practice sheet has 5 different sections to guide you through your practicing: posture, finger power, practicing new songs, reviewing old songs, and fun time. Following up from last week’s post, here are some more ideas for using Hoffman Academy’s free Piano Practice Chart:

Make a Practice Journal

Print out several copies of the practice chart and put them together in a small three-ring binder or folder. Be sure to also include blank staff paper for composing songs. This will come in handy during piano fun time when students can create songs of their own. Check in with your piano practice chart at the start of every piano practice and think about what you want to do within each section. 

Start Each Session with Good Piano Posture Review

At the start of every practice session, be sure to check in with your posture.Check out Lesson 5 for help with piano posture.  This is one of the most important aspects of learning piano because piano posture will affect a student for their rest of their time playing. It’s important to spend time on good piano posture in the beginning so that it doesn’t need to be corrected later down the road. Parents can read Developing Good Piano Postureand Top Ten Tips for Good Piano Posture for more ideas.

Feel the Finger Power

Just like you do stretching exercises to warm up at the start of a workout or before playing a sport, piano players need to get their fingers moving at the start of a practice session. Finger power exercises, like pentascales and hand-over-hand chords, build strength, agility, and coordination. Several lessons in each unit teach these exercises like this. One of the first finger power exercises is taught in Lesson 28 where students learn how to step, skip, and play the I chord in a pentascale. This is something we encourage all students to play in every pentascale they learn so choose your favorite pentascale and practice stepping and skipping!  

Finger power also includes reviewing chords. While practicing pentascales, review where to find the I chord in your pentascale. Practice each hand separately, and once you feel confident with playing the pentascales in either hand, challenge yourself to play hands together! If you’ve learned about V7 chords, practice that chord in your chosen pentascale. Practice playing your pentascale in several different places on the piano. When you’ve finished finger power, be sure to check it off on your piano practice chart. 

Practice a New Song

When learning a new song on the piano, first sing the song without playing. Move your fingers up and down with the melody as you sing. Next, play the song while singing at least four times. I sometimes like to ask my students to “play their age,” playing the song once for each year of their age. Or, for more fun, try a practice game. Practicing a new song could also include focusing on one difficult section of the song. When playing a song like “Wild Horses,” students often struggle with playing hands together for the third line of the song. So, to begin your practice, focus on playing the third line 5x slowly. Then, slowly play through the whole song. Break new songs into smaller sections to make learning easier. 

Many students wonder how long they should be practicing the piano and truthfully it varies depending on the student! For most beginner students in units 1-8, 15-20 minutes at the piano is a good amount of time to practice. Some days students may need more time than that to learn their pieces and some days they may spend less time. The most important part is building the habit of practicing every day!

Review Previous Songs

Play each of the songs you’ve already learned in your current unit. Here’s a list of the songs from each unit:

  • Unit 1: Hot Cross Buns, Five Woodpeckers, Frog in the Middle, Chocolate, Listen for Bells
  • Unit 2: Mouse in the House, Rain Come Wet Me, Let Us Chase the Squirrel, Who’s That?, Dinah, The Wild Horses
  • Unit 3: Love Somebody, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Silver Birch Tree, I Have a Dog, Oranges & Lemons

This is a great time to use the Practice CD tracks from the Lesson Materials. You can also try a “Super Challenge,” like playing with your eyes closed, singing solfege or letter names of notes as you play, or switching the hands’ jobs. 

Piano Fun Time

At the end of practice, have a little fun. Make up your own song or finger power exercise. See if you can write down the melody of the song you composed. Play your favorite song from the lessons a few extra times and experiment with changing octaves or adding a new part. Or maybe even transpose the song to the most recent pentascale you learned. This is also a good time to do an activity page from the Lesson Materials.

Consistency and Incentives

Some children find it rewarding enough just to be able to cross off boxes on a checklist when they’re done with each item. Others like to earn a favorite activity or a treat. Whatever else you choose as incentives for consistent practice, help your child realize that as they complete each day, each week, and each two-week practice chart, their skills are growing. Let them know how pleased you are with how hard they’re working and how much they’ve learned. That’s what practice is for!

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