Piano Teaching Q&A: Practicing

Each week we will be featuring questions asked by our readers, and will do our best to answer them and to give some ideas :)

This week's question is about practicing. Carrie asked:

How much do you ask your students to practice? As much as it takes to reach a certain goal? A certain number of minutes? Or a certain number of repetitions? How much is the right amount for a young student, and how do you communicate and enforce your expectations?

picture from here

Ah, the joy of getting your students to practice. What a topic. What music teacher has not struggled with this issue? We will most definitely be having a week or two all about practicing & motivation here on The Teaching Studio, but as a brief answer to this question:

I do feel that it is more important to complete/pass off assignments rather than practice a certain number of minutes. However, I still think it is helpful for students to keep track of minutes for various reasons, particularly so I have an idea how long they are actually practicing, and also so they don't just play through their pieces once and think they are done (more about teaching students to practice later!)

I have my students make their own practice goal, with my help (for example, a goal could be to practice for 30 minutes a day for 5 days out of the week). That way they have a little bit more ownership over their practicing than if I just told them they had to practice a certain amount. However, I also make sure they have a clear idea of what the assignments are for the week, and I stress passing those off. I use a point system, where they earn "points" for doing certain things - 2 points for reaching their weekly practice goal, 1 point for completing an assignment or passing off a piece, 1 point for performing a piece, etc.

Usually a good amount of practice, I have found, is about 30 minutes for young students (although for very young ones with short attention spans and very short pieces, 15 to 20 minutes might be fine), 45 minutes when they are more intermediate with longer/more challenging repertoire, and 60 minutes once they get more advanced. However these are just guidelines, and I think it totally depends on the student, their attention span and their assigned repertoire.

If you have a question you'd like to ask us, leave it in a comment or submit it here.

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