Mahatma Gaundi once said, "An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching."
While I’m sure he wasn’t referring to musical practice, his statement is no less true for musicians. A student may receive instruction from the best teachers and professors in the world, but if he doesn’t practice he won’t progress.
Part of being a good teacher is finding ways to encourage your students to practice and teaching them how to practice effectively. I will give specific tips on this in a later post. Until then, it is important that you determine what you expect from your students and to outline it clearly in your policy.The following is the text in my policy regarding practicing.
- Your piano must be in good working condition. All the keys and pedals must work. Ideally, a piano should be serviced (tuned) once a year. Please maintain your piano! It will make a big difference in how much your child enjoys piano. I can recommend a piano technician or you can look in the yellow pages. Electric keyboards or organs are only acceptable for beginning students. They are not an adequate substitute for students above Level 1.
- Your child must be able to practice in a place that is comfortable (clean and warm) and without distractions.If your piano is in the major "traffic" area of your home then either move it or encourage family members to stay clear during scheduled practice times.
- Students are expected to practice 5-6 days each week. I encourage each student to take one day off each week from practicing.
- Beginning students should practice 20 minutes each practice day. This can be done at one sitting or in two shorter sessions each day. Practice time should increase as music difficulty increases. Level 1 should practice 20 to 30 each day, Levels 2-3 should practice 30-45 minutes every day and Levels 4 and up should practice 60 minutes every day.
- Most students will also do theory (written) work, which is important to your child's musical development. It's a good idea to do this in pencil.
- Students are expected to work on their lessons and assignments during scheduled practice times. After lesson work is done students may improvise, "play around," or sight read new music on the piano. I encourage this type of creative exploration but I feel that it should be done within the discipline of learning their lesson material.
- It would be normal for advanced students to not play each assigned piece every day. Generally, a student might work on 1/2 to 1/3 of the work assigned on a given day. Or, if a student is working on scales he might do half of them each practice.
- Parents must remain involved in their students learning. Students will not succeed if they are not given support and encouragement to practice every day.
- I understand that many things come up in life and that piano isn’t the only activity some students are pursuing. However, in fairness to the many students on my waiting list, I will not allow a student to continue who is no longer practicing. After 2-3 weeks of coming to lessons unprepared, I will give the student a warning. If progress is not made, I will contact the parent and try to determine a solution to help the student succeed. A 1-month probation period will begin if progress is still not made. If after that month the student has not made an effort to come to lessons prepared, I will have to drop the student from my studio.