Practice is an essential part of learning any musical instrument. Without regular practice the student is likely to become very bored and frustrated, which is silly, because learning music is supposed to be fun!
All students must have daily access to a piano. Without this, lessons are rendered somewhat pointless as the student will fail to progress without regular and consistent practice. A small, cheap keyboard is fine for absolute beginners, however it should be kept in mind that within a year all students should be practicing on either a “real” piano, or a digital piano with 88 fully weighted, hammer-action keys.
How to Practice
Practicing the piano isn’t just about sitting down at the piano for half an hour and playing through everything once. Successful practice should be structured and goal oriented.
Open your notebook and read what is required of you this week. This is important! No one should ever come to me with the excuse “I forgot to practice that.” If you check your notebook at the start of each practice you will never forget.
Exercises/Technical Work. Your fingers need to warm up, so you should always start out with your exercises. This may be your 5 Finger Exercise, A Dozen a Day, Scales etc.
Pieces. Here’s where your approach to practice becomes very important! Play through your song once, making a mental note (or a pencil note!) of all the problem areas (wrong notes, pausing etc.). Then, pick out those problem spots and practice each little section (probably only 1 or 2 bars, or a phrase) very slowly. Once you’ve mastered the section at a very slow speed, repeat it a few more times, slowly increasing the speed. Once all of the problem sections are mastered, play through the entire piece again, slowly. If that goes well, then you can try speeding it up a little! Use this method for all of your songs.
Important things to remember:
Go slowly! I know, I say this a lot, but that’s because it’s incredibly important! When you first start learning a piece, or if you’re having trouble on a section that is a little difficult, going very slowly allows you a lot more time to think without having to interrupt the timing. It also allows you more time to observe your technique – round fingers? no droopy wrists? Only once you’ve mastered something at a slow pace should you begin to speed it up.
How Much Practice
Asking how much should I practice is a little bit like asking “how long is a piece of string?” Honestly, it’s different for everyone. The length of each practice session depends on how long it takes you to go through the steps above with the number of exercises/pieces that you’ve been given. What is important is frequency of practice.
Students should aim for a minimum of:
Beginner: 4 days a week
Preliminary to Grade 5: 5 days a week
Grade 6 and above: 6 days a week
If you have theory homework, it’s important that you do this within the first day or two after your lesson. If you leave it as a mad rush just before your next lesson, it is likely that you will have forgotten anything new that was explained to you!
What you need:
A sharp pencil (and a sharpener)
A desk or table to sit at
It is important when doing theory that you take your time with every question and write as neatly and as clearly as you can. If you make a mistake, don’t scribble it out, rub it out! That way it will be nice and clear for me when I try to mark it.
Attention to detail is good! Are your stems straight up and down? Do your notes fill the entire space, or circle the line clearly? Paying attention to the little things the first time means you won’t have to do it again!
Have fun! 😀