“Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. In fact, life itself is nothing more than one long practice session, an endless effort of refining our motions. When the proper mechanics of practice are understood, the task of learning something new becomes a stress-free experience of joy and calmness, a process which settles all areas in your life and promotes proper perspective on all of life’s difficulties.”
― Thomas M. Sterner, The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life
Try some of these tips with yourself or your child when practicing:
- Do. Observe. Correct. - Give your full attention as you play. Ask yourself - How did that feel? How did it sound? How accurate were the notes, rhythms, articulation? Was the sound representative of the character of the piece? What could I do to make it easier for my hands to play? What can I improve to make this sound closer to my ideal performance? Notice here how there is NO JUDGEMENT of "good" or "bad." There is simply a flow toward your best interpretation of the written score. Each time you play, you observe what happened and find one small thing you'd like to try to correct in your next play. Experienced practicers find that this happens very quickly and within just a minute or two you could replay a short passage a dozen times - each time trying to correct something from the time before.
- Decide upon one or two short, manageable goals every time you sit down to practice. Something like "I will play this 5-note passage with the correct fingering 3 times in a row" or "I will clap the rhythm to this section correctly while counting out loud" or "I will do a wrist float-off at the end of each of these three phrases so my hand is completely relaxed." This prevents the temptation to just sit down and play through the entire song a couple times and call it a day! Keep your focus to a single goal and don't stop until you feel satisfied that you have accomplished your goal. If it is taking you more than a few minutes, your goal is too broad and needs to be more specific! If you can reach your goal on the first try, it's too easy!
- Practice slowly. I don't mean play slowly, I mean try to take your time and do your best. Try not to look at the clock or feel rushed that you have to accomplish a million things. Take your time to lay out your books neatly, read through your assignment and listen to the sound as you play. Wait until you feel you've really accomplished your goal before trying to move onto the next piece or section of music.
- Play Games with yourself as you practice. Find a few little toys that can move across the music stand with each repetition of a phrase. Make a sticker chart or keep a notebook to count your practice sessions. Challenge yourself to play with one eye closed, while balancing a stuffed animal on your head, with your left knee touching the underside of the keyboard. Play your new melody notes to the rhythm of Yankee Doodle. Play the last note with your nose. Be silly while still getting work done!
- Make "deadlines" for yourself by enrolling a friend or family member to watch a performance of your newest piece. Or tell a long distance relative that you will send them a video of your polished piece in 3 days. Take it seriously and try to have your piece or section of music "performance ready" for your performance!
- Watch other kids perform your piece on Youtube, or listen to the real orchestra version of a classical melody in your lesson book. Listen to piano music while you are in the car or doing chores around the house. Incorporate music into your daily life and not just that thing you do at your piano teacher's house once a week!
- Feeling frusterated, overwhelmed, or bored? Take a break. Go to the bathroom, eat a granola bar, then come back refreshed and ready to work!