Practicing: Parents’ role

Organizing daily piano practice

To build muscle strength and coordination, piano students “train” by practicing every day.  I ask parents to assist them in these ways:

  1. Scheduling: In October of each school year, sit down with your child and make a daily practice schedule together. Write down specific times for each day’s session. Divide the practicing into sections if you like. Morning practice gets the best results, so schedule some practice before school if at all possible. Post this schedule near the piano.
  2. Environment: During practice time, keep the room quiet. Do not allow phone calls, friends, siblings, TV or other distractions.
  3. Supervision: Parents who do not actually sit with the student during practice time should listen to the lesson recordings and read the practice assignment each week. If you don’t understand what I expect for a lesson, ask your child to explain it to you. If the student doesn’t understand it, call me. Make sure each item on the assignment sheet is covered.

How much time is required for practicing?

Minimum daily practice per day / per week

Grades 1-3. 60 minutes daily (6 hours per week)
Grades 4-6. 75 minutes daily (7 hours per week)
Grades 7-8. 90 minutes daily (9 hours per week)
Grades 9-12. minimum 90 minutes, preferably 2 hours, daily (12 hours per week)

Those are minimal times for students who hope to make satisfactory progress. Breth Studio students actually practice considerably more — especially the younger ones, who tend to practice as much or more than older students.

If you think of and talk about practicing simply as a part of your family’s daily routine (like brushing teeth, doing homework, eating breakfast), you will find that your children see it that way, too. This cuts down on a lot of needless discussion.

We all have occasional bad days, but anyone who loves music and is practicing correctly will usually find satisfaction and pleasure in his daily work. If your child isn’t experiencing that, it’s time for a discussion with me.

Students should sightread at home for at least 5 minutes a day when practicing.

How can you tell if your child is practicing well?

Compare the recorded lesson to the practicing you hear. Each piano lesson is a demonstration of how to practice, so in the home you should hear a daily rendition of the drills and routines from the previous lesson.

Practicing does not sound like a concert. It sounds like the solving of a musical puzzle. Like a jigsaw puzzle, practice for each assigned piece of music takes time to complete.  The student perfects one piece of the puzzle at a time until the whole fits together.

Listen to your child’s practicing. Whether you play piano or not, you’ll be able to tell the difference between good practicing and recreational playing.

How can you help your child on a bad day?

Suggest (and perhaps assist with) using the Piano Student’s Guide to Effective Practicing.

Suggest a temporary change of routine—more sightreading or “playing through” or practicing only a favorite piece.

Ask questions — not quiz questions — but things you really want to know.

Ask to be taught a piece or one part of a piece.

Praise something you hear; criticism tends to make a bad day worse.

See more tips in the Parent’s Guide to Effective Practicing.

Remember that the habits you help to instill in your children are priceless attributes that will serve them well not only in music but in all areas of their lives.

Related Links

How to read a musical score

How to find the right fingering

How to become a good sightreader

How to sightread at home

More sightreading tips