I can’t emphasize enough how much the progress of a young piano student depends on having an adult’s encouragement and support in their daily piano practice. Here are ten ways that you can be a great piano partner:
1. Wanted! Your Undivided Attention
Make some time every day to sit down with your child and practice the piano together. For young beginners, plan on spending the whole practice time together. As your child gets older and more advanced at the piano, you can gradually allow them to practice more on their own.
2. Communicate Positively
No one wants someone pointing out every little thing they’re doing wrong. As your child practices, keep suggestions to a minimum, and always state them positively. Look for the good, and encourage it to grow. Instead of saying things like, “Your left-hand fingers are too straight,” say, “I like how your right-hand fingers are nice and curved, can your left-hand fingers do the same?”
3. Encourage Self-Correction
Your ultimate goal is to teach your child how to practice independently, and that involves helping them learn to detect and correct when they are missing notes or rhythms. If you hear a mistake as your child plays, instead of pointing out the mistake, have them listen to the song, then listen to themselves carefully as they play to see if they are doing it right or not.
4. Practice Begins When It’s Perfect
Once your child has learned something correctly, that’s when practice really begins. Up until then, they are just figuring out the notes. Repetition is essential to developing confidence and skill. I like to have students “play their age” in a practice session, playing a song they’ve learned as many times as their age in years.
5. Practice Games
Practice games are a great way to help your child enjoy perfecting and polishing their piano songs. Choose a goal, such as playing a few measures without making a mistake, and then find a fun way to keep score. You can add or subtract things like coins or small candies, or move a small toy or other object back and forth along the keyboard.
6. Use a Checklist
Rather than practicing for a set amount of time every day, have a practice checklist. It could include things like doing a few finger power exercises, working on a new song, reviewing an old song, and listening to songs on the listening CD.
It’s been said that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, however, this method only works if you keep taking bites! As a practice partner, one of your most important jobs is to make sure piano practice happens every day.
8. Keep It Short and Sweet
Some parents try to keep their child at the piano bench as long as possible, but is your child going to want to come back tomorrow if they feel like they’re going to get stuck there? On the other hand, if you end practice before your child is tired of it, they’ll be eager to come back for more.
9. Use Rewards
Of course the ultimate reward for your child is the ability that they will have to play the piano when they’re older, but that’s a little hard for them to see right now. You may want to set up a system to reward consistent piano practice, like going out for ice cream if they can practice five days a week for a month.
10. Celebrate Success
Let your child know how much you enjoy hearing them practice the piano. Praise them for working hard and being consistent in their practice. Point out how much they are improving. Shower them with hugs and cheers when they get things right.
Thanks for doing your part as a practice partner to give your child the gift of music. Your involvement makes all the difference.