10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Music Practice

This is a great article from Deceptive Cadence, an NPR program—a wonderful, brief 10-item list of ways to get the most out of practice, good advice for kids and for adults. There was also had a link to an article—“Getting Kids to Practice Music – Without Tears or Tantrums”—which I found very helpful.

All 10 tips are wonderful, and contain advice and direction I give the students, but I really like No. 4 and use it in my own daily practice:

Begin with the end in mind: Have a goal for each practice session before you start playing. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practicing.Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today? If you’re not sure what you need to focus on, ask your teacher for a few concrete goals to work toward before the next lesson — and write them down so that you can refer to them during your practice sessions.

Another item talks about how a good, “working” practice involves analysis of and then solving problems, which is most of what music practice is! Spills over into other areas of life really nicely, great for developing these skills in children!

Recently I did No. 9 on the list; I took my music that I was going to play on the street pianos in Boston with me on the train and reviewed it while riding in. 🙂

10 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Music Practice
The Young Person’s Guide to Making Music


Adult Students (and kids!): How Much Should I Practice Each Day?

A question I get a lot, from both my young students, and  from my adult students as well, is “How much should I practice each day?”

My answer: “As much as possible!” 🙂 But not mindlessly, but mindfully.

Truly, there isn’t enough time in the day to practice, or to do everything we want to do. I guess it boils down to priorities.

Especially for working adults.

Whatever you can do, do it. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a day, make it 30 minutes every day to start (and try to work up to 45–60 minutes, if you can). Establishing a routine is critical for success.

How much do I practice? My goal is an hour in the morning, and an hour at night, as these are the times I am the most focused. And I do entirely different activities during these sessions. I also squeeze in mini-sessions (10–15 minutes) of practice on breaks between students during the day. (Piano is my living, so I have more time for it.)

But there is a way to practice. And that is, as the article below discusses, deliberately. Personally, if I am not focused, I just leave the piano. After over 40 years at the piano, I still work on passages slowly and repetitively. I analyze what I am doing: and since I’m a very analytical person, I enjoy this work and look forward to it, at every practice session. If you find you are frustrated or not focused, get up and take a break, or come back later.

Ok, I gotta run, time to practice!

The below article is a great read on this very subject:

How Many Hours a Day Should You Practice?


Bench Prize Practice Contest!

Kids! You might win a grand prize at the end of the contest!

The contest begins next week Week of Monday, Oct. 8: Monday kids: even though you don’t have a lesson because of Columbus Day, I’ll still check your practice sheets on the following week, so don’t take a break from practicing! 🙂

Weekly: Each week, if you have earned a bench prize you’ll get a star  in the week next to your name. At the end of the contest (end of Fall Quarter) a grand prize will be given out at the Holiday Piano Party to the student with the most stars! Good luck!

(The numbers below indicate the lesson week we’re in in our Fall Quarter.)

Bench Prizes for Practice

Starting this week, piano practice bench prizes!

For every week in which practice is done for the practice goal (weekly and daily), students will receive a prize from the piano bench!

I’ll keep a tally on the bulletin board of weeks earned by students; at the end of the quarter there will be a grand prize for the student with the most earned practice minutes!