Helps and Suggestions for Piano Tutors

HELPS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR PIANO TUTORS

A piano tutor is anyone who practices with your child on a regular basis. This can include parents, older siblings, other caretakers, or even an advanced student hired specifically to help with piano practice. Each child’s needs will be different, but an informed piano parent can help their child achieve quality practice at any age and level!

Before the Practice Session Begins

Setting up an environment conducive to good practice is essential! Here are some things you can do before the practice session begins to make sure that practice goes smoothly:

  • Set expectations. Help your child to understand that you (and their teachers) expect them to practice 5-6 days per week.
  • Turn off distractions such as TV, phones, games, etc. When possible, put your piano in a place where your child can practice uninterrupted and keep it free of clutter.
  • Gather the necessary supplies. This includes all piano books, a metronome, flashcards, and anything you might use as a reward system (pennies, beans, Skittles, etc.)
  • Make sure your child’s physical needs are met. Children won’t focus well if they are hungry, have to go to the bathroom, or need a few minutes to unwind after school.

Structuring Practice Time – For Beginners

Beginning students should practice each item on their lesson sheet 3x/day unless otherwise specified. *An exception to the 3x/day is on the first day that they practice after their lesson. During this practice session, assignments may seem a little longer and harder because they are new. 1-2 repetitions of these new assignments on the first day is usually sufficient. The goal of this practice session is to help the child feel confident in their ability to learn the new piece. Be extra encouraging at this practice session!*

Besides simply helping your child to practice each item 3x, here are some things you can do to make practice time most effective:

  • Focus on playing with correct notes, fingering, and rhythm. Practice makes permanent, and only perfect practice makes perfect.
  • Sing or count out loud with your student as they play. Verbalizing the rhythm, counting, fingering, notes, or even words to the song will help them learn it better.
  • Use the metronome often! When a student is first learning a piece, they may not be able to play it with the metronome, but once they know notes, use the metronome to help them achieve a steady beat. Beginning students can play most assignments between 60-80 bpm (unless otherwise noted).
  • Constantly remind your child to curve their fingers. Developing good technique from the very beginning will affect their playing for years to come.
  • If your child has a hard time sitting for the entire practice session, break it up! Have them practice for one minute for each year they are old (i.e. a 7-year-old would practice for 7 minutes at a time, a 10-year-old for 10, etc.). When those minutes are up, take a short break and then return to the piano. Repeat as many times as necessary to complete all assignments.
  • When the practice session ends, take two minutes to practice note flashcards.
    • Pull out a flashcard, and have the child identify 1) treble or bass clef 2) line or space, 3) the correct saying (see “instructions” tab in binder) and 4) the note.

Practice Suggestions for Parents of All Ages

  • Students like to play what they are good at; the more you encourage them and praise their progress and work, the more they’ll want to do it!
    • Try to praise the process rather than an innate ability; for example, saying “You are trying so hard!” or “I love how you didn’t give up until you got it!” is often more effective than simply saying “You’re so good at that!” or “You are so talented!”
    • Find things to praise often, not just at the end of the practice session. You may not always see it, but your encouragement and support are huge in helping your child want to play the piano.
  • Quality practice includes practicing slowly, correctly, and using the metronome often.
    • If a student is struggling with something, have them work on a smaller section. Divide pieces horizontally (hands separate) and vertically (one phrase or measure at a time)
    • Other practice tools can be found at the top of the lesson sheet!
  • If your child is practicing on their own, you can still be a support by listening nearby. Older students will still benefit from you “checking in” to make sure that they are practicing well and completing all their assignments.

Goal-Oriented Practice

While it’s tempting to set a timer and expect a student to just keep playing until time is up, a more effective method is goal-oriented practice. Piano Academy students receive a detailed lesson sheet each week that includes what they should practice at home. The basic structure of practice should include going through each item on the lesson sheet, with the following guidelines:

  • Young children/beginners should play each item 3x per day, unless otherwise specified
  • Other goals may be included on the lesson sheet, such as “learn one measure per day” or “perform 5 times during the week”
  • As students get older, a specific number of repetitions may not be included on the lesson sheet. As a practice tutor, you can then help them identify goals to achieve before their next lesson and make daily progress to meet that goal within the week.

With the idea of goal-oriented practice in mind, following is a chart outlining about how much time your child’s assignments should take, if they are practicing correctly and assuming a starting age of 6-7.

Age/Experience Average Daily Practice Time
6-7/beginner 15-25 min
8-9/2-3 years 25-40 min
10-12/4-6 years 40-50 min
13+/6+ years 60 min+

 

Using Rewards Effectively

 

Reward systems can be helpful for piano students of all ages! Students set weekly goals with their teachers during their lessons and receive music bucks for completing the previous week’s goals; however, you can also set long- and short-term goals with your child. A few examples:

  • Short-term goals
    • Learn 3 measures today
    • Practice 5 days this week
    • Practice for 2 hours total this week
  • Long-term goals
    • Learn 3 hymns this month
    • Learn a solo piece by the next recital
    • Finish a level of pass-off books by the end of the summer

All goals should adhere to the SMART goals acronym: S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Reasonable, T – Time-bound

You and your child can then decide on appropriate rewards for reaching each goal. For example:

  • Learning 3 measures in a day = a big hug from Mom
  • Practicing 5 days in a week = a bag of M&Ms
  • Practicing every day for a month straight = dinner at a favorite restaurant or a trip to play laser tag with the family

Cumulative rewards can also be helpful! For example, you could have a jar on the piano to which your child can add a bean or penny each time they practice. They can then “cash in” their jar for a different sized reward based on how full it is.  There are lots of ways to use rewards – so find what works for your family.

 

Happy Practicing!

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