Regular practice at the piano is essential for any student who hopes to improve their playing. Thanks to daily practice, even novice students are able to explore important subjects like:
- Proper posture
- Good hand placement
- Fingering techniques
- Reading music and
Practice also is the key to being able to master a challenging piece of music. However, what happens when practice stops being fun and starts being a grind?
At that point, it's wise to keep these tips in mind for making practice fun again.
1. Keep It Short
This can be especially critical for new students who are just being introduced to the piano. All of that new information, not to mention the stress on the fingers, can quickly become a strain.
Accordingly, it makes sense to keep daily practice sessions down to a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes. Encourage your student to add a few more minutes to each practice session every couple of weeks. Before long, they'll be playing for half an hour to 45 minutes.
For most students, this is an optimal amount of practice time. In fact, studies show that people tend to get less productive after about 52 minutes of effort. This means that just under an hour of practice at a time also may be ideal for more advanced students. Break longer practice sessions down into 45 minute intervals with a solid 15-minute break in between. This may prevent lots of frustration and boredom.
2. Switch Tasks
Practice may make perfect, but it also can become tedious. It's great to encourage piano students to keep trying when they are struggling with a technique or a piece. However, there also is value in knowing when it's time to switch to something else.
If you notice that your child is struggling or making even more mistakes than usual, then perhaps it is time to suggest that they switch to something else. That might include playing a piece that's just for fun or doing some sight-reading exercises. The task to which the student switches isn't really all that important. What's vital is that they let whatever they are struggling with sit on the back burner for a while.
Sometimes, it is through walking away that we are able to make our most significant breakthroughs. In the next practice session, encourage your student to try that piece again. It's a new day, and it's possible that a new perspective will shed some light on why that piece is so difficult to play.
When the student's mind gets stuck in a rut or they got lost in self-defeating thoughts, all of the practice in the world is unlikely to make a difference. Switch gears, and your student may reap the rewards.
3. Make It Meaningful
One of the keys to making piano practice feel less like a chore and more like fun is to add some meaning to the effort. Perhaps that means learning how to play a favorite song or setting a small, specific goal.
Many kids love being able to play their favorite popular song on the piano. Alternatively or additionally, if you've got a really goal-oriented child, then it may make sense to ask him to set a goal for himself. Once that goal is achieved, seek out the next one. You might be surprised at what the piano student can accomplish when they have a specific goal to work toward.
4. Introduce Something New
If you are your child's piano teacher and you see them struggling with their practice routine, then perhaps it's time to throw something new into the mix.
For instance, you might try playing a simple melody on the piano, and then ask your student to play the same tune by ear. Alternatively, you might encourage your student to play their song on a different instrument like a recorder, bells or a xylophone. Some teachers have had great success by having their students create a listening map or draw a picture to go along with the song that they are learning.
5. Play a Game
Games are more than just fun. They also can be incredible learning opportunities. In fact, one of the best ways to encourage learning is to make it fun, and that's exactly what piano practice games do. Here is just a sample of the possibilities:
- Assemble a collection of erasers in fun shapes. Ask your kid to place a specific eraser on a certain key, such as the highest C. Kids will always want to press these keys to learn the sounds they make. Let your student keep one eraser at the end of each session.
- Have your students roll a dice to determine how many times they will play their challenging piece or that troublesome passage from their song.
- Create a practice chart for each session. Let your child decide which aspect of their playing they would like to track and improve. Marking the chart at the end of each session is fun, and kids love to be able to track their progress! Be sure to include a reward for all goals that are met.
- Many kids love to play the "Forbidden Key" game. To play, name one key on the piano that's forbidden. Then, ask your student to play their scales, avoiding the forbidden key. Each time the forbidden key is struck, the penalty is 10 finger pushups.
- Quarters is a fun game for improving hand position. Place a quarter on top of the student's hands. If your child can play their entire song without dropping the quarters, then let them keep the quarters.
6. Uncover More About the Music
Maybe the current piece that your piano student is learning just seems like a string of notes to them. If so, then it might be valuable to pique their interest by having them learn more about the music.
Numerous methods are available for achieving this. Try listening to various recordings of the piece on platforms like YouTube and Pandora or from your personal music collection. Have your student identify all of the differences between each version of the piece.
It's also a good idea to have your student learn more about the person who composed the music. This is a great way to introduce the history behind the music if your child is studying a classical piece. Older children may be interested in the social and political events surrounding the era in which the piece was composed. Similarly, the life of the composer may offer a fascinating avenue of inquiry.
Some students also may enjoy learning about the composers who influenced the composer of their current piece or about how the piece they are learning influenced the composers who came after.
7. Make up Lyrics
If your child seems to be a bit bored with piano practice, then consider encouraging them to make up their own lyrics for the piece of music. Tell them to make the words as silly and nonsensical as they like, as long as they let their imagination take flight.
In fact, this may be an ideal way to get a student past a really challenging passage because it will be so much fun.
8. Ask Them to Compose
To help your piano-playing student to break out of a practice rut, encourage them to write their own music. Get them their own blank sheet music or a music notebook, which will be incredibly exciting for them.
As they compose, they will not only explore the many sounds that the piano makes but also practice their ability to properly write down musical notes and symbols.
At Prodigies Music, we specialize in making music instruction fun. Whether your child is interested in piano, another instrument or is just curious about music, check out our fun, colorful and interactive lessons to learn more.