Piano Lessons · Piano Practice

How to Plan for Successful Piano Practice (2)

In the last post, I wrote about the basics of planning for successful piano practice at home.

Today in this post, I want to dive deeper into the planning of a piano practice session.

Obviously, everyone has one same goal when it comes to practice: to be better at the piano. But at the same time everyone might get there a little differently. I can only provide a very general plan here, and I am going to focus on a plan for beginners.

First thing first: practice is not about playing through a song from beginning to end many times, and if you can do that already, you don’t need to practice! So, it’s very important to work on small sections and short phrases.

Always practice with a plan, because without a plan, that’s merely doodling around and progress is made by chance.

I have this “five-time rule” for young beginners. This rule means that they have to practice the same phrase/pattern five times in a role, best being able to play through that phrase/pattern consecutively without fail (rhythm and pitch all correct). It can also start with just the right hand, just the left hand, then hands together. That would mean 5 times for right hand, 5 for left, and 5 for hands together, which means 15 times altogether.

If this is too much for you/your kid, you can always start with “3-time rule”, then gradually proceed to 5-time. The most important takeaway here is to be focus and aware of what you/they are working on. Also, work on smaller segments, e.g. every 2-4 bar is a good start, instead of trying to play through 8-16 bars.

It is important to know the practice objectives rather than mindlessly repeating same thing over and over again. Are we working on the rhythm, speed, or maybe the patterns, sharps/flats, fluency, coordination? And so on. Focus on one thing at a time instead of fixing 5 things in a go. Work through problems one by one.

I don’t like to force a plan or practice on my students, young or adult, rather, I like to help them build their self-discipline, by guiding them on how to establish a regular practice schedule, and a successful practice routine. In my opinion, it’s never a good thing to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do (that’s why sometimes I tell parents/students reconsider starting/continuing their lessons if that’s not right for them). When one desires to work on something out of their own will, chances are, progress and improvement can be seen eventually. Of course, it doesn’t mean I don’t care that they practice or not! I still work on guiding them to successful practice by giving them pointers as I mentioned earlier.

Piano practice requires a lot of lone time, discipline, hard work, concentration, and contrary to many’s wrong beliefs, critical thinking and problem solving. Again, mindless practice is not going to get anyone anywhere. It requires the students to always think about how to play and practice better, and solve their own problems. Instead of having me the teacher telling them what’s going on, I often ask them why it went wrong to see if they could find out the problem and the solution.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

I am all about teaching someone for a lifetime of music enjoyment and appreciation.

Until the next post,

Teresa Wong