Summer Practice Challenge

Summer is here! The school year is almost over for many kids right now and that means that parents and piano teachers have to have a plan for helping kids continue to play (piano that is) over the summer. So, here is a Summer Practice Chart you can use. The Summer Practice Challenge is to practice playing piano for 100 minutes each week. That’s only 20 minutes a day! Each day they reach their goal they get to color in, check off, or put a sticker on one piano key. If they practice this way for only 5 days they will reach their goal.

On the right side of the chart is a To Do List that takes the guessing out of what to practice. Summer is a great time to focus on scales so that is the first thing in the to do list. A summer of scales will make learning new songs in the fall so much easier and faster!

The second practice step is a new song for the week. If the child is taking lessons over the summer this is the one song that is covered in the lesson. I set a goal of learning one song a week because most people are doing more leisure activities this time of year and so there won’t be as much discipline when it comes to new repertoire. I suggest using a practice prop such as an abacus or dice to help the child do repetitions. For example, they can stop practicing a particular thing once they have played the song the number of times that the dice show.

Finally, a worksheet page reviewing theory concepts tied to the song for the week can finish off the practice session.

And the only thing left to do is color in, check off, or put a sticker on one piano key for the day!

At the end of the summer I have a gift card for ice cream for the student who practiced the most minutes over the summer.

What do you do to keep your students playing piano over the summer?

From Piano Parent To Piano Student – What My Mother Now Knows Pt. 2

Yesterday I wrote about my mother becoming a piano student after years of raising 2 daughters who both play piano. Today I will share what she has written about her experiences as a piano student so far. She writes:

When I Grow Up I Want To Be…  A Piano Parent?

I always wanted to play the piano but never took lessons.  In grade school I played the plastic flute and did that well.  In Junior High I took music appreciation and could clap to the beat very good.  But I never took piano lessons.

When my daughter Dana was 5, I enrolled her in piano class.  She would cry the first few times I would take her to her teacher’s house.  Each of those times I used my self-fulfilling prophecy and told Dana to try the lessons for 3 months.  Then if she still didn’t like them, I would discontinue them.  One day I dropped Dana off and returned to pick her up.  To my surprise Dana was laughing with the teacher and venturing as she played the piano.  From that day forward I never saw Dana cry about not wanting to take the lessons.

I started Jessica, Dana’s sister, to take piano lessons when she was 7.  At home Jessica had Dana as a mentor.  She would often watch her play.  So that was much encouragement for her.

Yikes! I’m A Piano Student!

Last October I started taking piano lessons from the same teacher who taught my younger daughter many years ago. Once I started lessons I soon realized that I had to discipline myself, to learn theory, and to practice daily.  If I make one mistake, the average time I have to start over again.  Though this is part of the challenge that comes with a person striving to achieve, much time is invested.  Had I realized this when Dana and Jessica were taking piano lessons, I would have signed up for piano lessons myself.  We would have been able to encourage each  other.  I would have enjoyed listening to them and making comments along the way.  Equally, I believe that they would have loved listening to me.

I remember when I first started taking lessons and how there was such a difference from my preparation at home to my lessons in front of my teacher.  My fingers would shake a lot as I struggled to remember the notes, the melody, and the keys.  Long hours of rehearsal enabled me to improve from this madness over time.  I found that as the songs increased, the demands to practice increased.  I even discovered that if I stopped practicing the songs I learned to play, I would forget how to play them and would have to start over again.  I also learned that there are favorite songs and others that I simply put up with.

If I’m dissatisfied with the outcome of my playing during my lessons with my teacher, as soon as I can get back home to the piano, I get back on it.  I keep playing the song to my satisfaction and feel much better.  I’ve learned since I started lessons last October (I’ve progressed to page 112 in my book which goes to page 159) to translate each song.  When I write the alphabet per note, that helps me a lot.  As I continue to play the tune, I improve significantly.  The more I play with concentration, the better for me.  I begin to relax when the melody sounds right and I can hit the key at the right time.

Come Back Tomorrow

In tomorrow’s post you will get to read about my biggest piano obstacle so far – HANON – and how I showed him whose the Mama around here! LOL

From Piano Parent to Piano Student – What My Mother Now Knows Part 1

 I was very surprised to learn a few months ago that my mother had decided to start taking piano lessons. After years of transporting my sister and I to and from piano lessons with various teachers (sometimes against our own immature wills), the music bug had finally bit her! Since she and I live in different states I am not fortunate enough to be her piano teacher, but this is probably for the better, right? I mean, can you imagine?!

When she told me the news, I had so many questions. Why? What is it like taking piano after having raised two piano players? Do you enjoy practicing? Is it easy to learn to play the piano? How does it feel to sit on the bench under the pressure of playing for someone? Underneath all these questions was the deep desire that maybe, just maybe this piano learning journey would help her to understand a part of me that maybe was inaccessible to her before because she had not sat on that bench as I had, didn’t know how wonderful being able to play music makes you feel after you finally get your hands to do it, and she hadn’t had to turn down social opportunities because she had to practice piano while others played outside. How would she be different as a result of this experience? How would I be different?

At any rate I have relished hearing about her experiences with piano learning and thought that you might enjoy reading about them as well. So, this week there will be a short 3 part series of posts about her piano adventures! If you are a piano parent, perhaps you will gain some ideas about how to support your child’s musical learning. And if you are a long time piano player like me, maybe you will get some satisfaction of knowing that there is a parent out there who can truly appreciate all the things you had to go through to become the player you are today. If you are a teacher, you will gain some insights on how to teach parents to best participate in the child’s music learning. Or if you are a student just learning to play, you will be encouraged to know that someone else is facing similar challenges as you concerning piano learning and yet they think it is worth it.

Stickers And Parents Oh My!

This one is an oldie but a goodie for motivating young students. No surprise here, but it’s worth mentioning just in case it’s slipped your mind. I know I had forgotten about the amazing motivational power of stickers until yesterday when one of my preschool piano players showed up for lessons and her mom said it was difficult to get her to practice last week at home.

Enter the amazing stickers! I took a blank piece of paper, folded it in half and told my preschooler that we were going to see if she could fill up the page with stickers. How were we going to do this? Well for each time she played her piece she’d get to put a sticker on.

But no we didn’t stop there! After she played the trouble spots a couple of times I told her I had a suggestion. Why don’t we get her to see if her mom could play it too? Of course she would have to be her mom’s teacher because afterall, I was busy teaching her! She absolutely loved the idea so her mom joined in the lesson and of course she earned stickers as well. Now we had two sticker sheets going! My student was excited to find out that not only would her mom get a sticker for practicing, she would get one also every time her mom played the piece.

Finally I had another suggestion. Why don’t we get you and mom to play it together? And yes, she loved the idea too. What 4 year old doesn’t want to do something special with their mom? The best part was that we recorded them playing and let them listen and judge their playing. Oh and as a bonus it was a perfect opportunity for a new vocabulary word: duet. Now my preschooler chants “a duet is when you do it together”

So what about home practice? Well the sticker sheet went home with a challenge to fill it up completely with no white spaces showing! When she brings it back she will get a something from my treat box. She couldn’t wait to get home and practice – I mean play!

Teachers, how do you get parents involved in the lesson? Parents, how do you get involved in practice at home? Share your wisdom in a comment below!


More Fun Practice: Silly 6 Pins

Ever wondered how to get a kid to play the same passage more than once – let alone 6 times? Of course you have if  you are trying to help a child learn to play piano! Here is a repurposed game that works extremely well for solving this problem. If you’ve downloaded my Weekly Practice Games Printable, you may have seen this game listed as one of the practice assignments. It’s the classic Silly 6 Pins Game. I tell my students to bowl to see how many pins they can knock down. They try really hard to get a strike which usually results in lots of pins getting knocked down. They get to play whatever passage or piece they need to practice one time for each pin they knocked down. I get really silly with it and take the pins they knocked down to the piano. Each time they play the piece, I ask them which pin they want me to throw away. And, yes, I throw the pin across the room (carefully, of course). Depending on the kids’ personality I might even let him or her throw the pin. Of course I only do that if I’m pretty sure the kid won’t tear up my studio with the pin! Warning: This practice game could take up a large portion of the lesson because kids want to play it over and over again. However, this results in songs well learned, and tricky passages terminated! In case you missed it, you can check out Fun Practice for even more sneaky ways to get kids to “Play It Again”.

What tricks do you use to get your piano player to practice?

Secret Practice

  As we get close to Spring Performance time I am modifying what practice looks like for my younger students. They will be given the wonderful job of presenting a concert at home for family members! We’ll brainstorm ways to really ham up the performance with costumes, tickets, and maybe even snacks! I will tell them 1 or 2 songs that have to be part of the concert and they can add others if they like. Then at home they will give out invitations to their concert which can be printed here. There are two versions of the invitation. The first has a picture on the cover that they can color. The other one has a space for them to draw their own picture. Inside each invitation is a space to write the titles of the pieces they will play. You can download the files by clicking the images above. Once you print the file all you have to do is fold the paper in half horizontally and then fold again like a card. Presto! Instant kid concert invitations and a practice sessions with no tears!

If you want more ideas about how to make practice fun for kids see “Don’t Practice, Play A Game”

Don’t Practice, Play A Game!

I know very few kids (if any) that get excited to practice, but I know a lot of kids (almost all) that get excited about playing games. That gave me the idea to change my assignment sheet from piano homework to My Weekly Practice Games. Using this sheet the student gets to choose which game or games they’d like to play during the week and circles them. The teacher can also choose specific games as well. All that’s left to do is to write the name of the song you want them to use for the game. There is also a space where the student / parent can check off each day. You can download a copy by clicking here or clicking the image above.

Musicians With Apps

The people who made this video have a great website

It has been very useful for me in finding apps kids love. They review apps for all kinds of instruments and give a rating. They make it easy to find out what the best apps are and even let you know how their kid testers voted and how the teacher voted. You’ve got to check it out! Oh and I use the featured app in my studio – all the kids love it!!!

Fun Practice?

 If you are looking for a fresh way to get music students to do repetitions, try Don’t Spill the Beans. This game can be found at any store that has toys like Wal Mart, Target, or Toys R Us and is very cheap. Usually less than $5. This is a game where you try to balance little beans on top of the swinging pot without spilling the beans. I use it to get students to practice troublesome sections several times. Each time they play they get to add another bean. We continue this until the beans spill. It works wonderfully because kids want to put LOTS of beans on without spilling them… and that means lots of tricky passages get corrected!