Piano Parents: Encouraging Practice
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
By: Harriet Ethridge, FAME Piano & Beginning Voice Teacher
"How often should my piano student be practicing?"
This is a question that every parent asks me, but my answer is not always the same.
My first consideration when answering is the age of the student. If the student is 4 to 6 years old, the goal is to establish a routine for practicing, to build their hand coordination , and allow the student to build muscle memory. Much like memorizing the lyrics to a song, your hands can memorize the notes to a song on the piano just from feeling. Younger students can get away with less practice time as long as they are practicing daily.
Practicing piano also teaches the student to increase their focusing ability. With every practice session, you should see your child able to concentrate on their piano for longer and longer periods of time. If they play their assigned music even just once a day these skills will increase directly. This progress makes students excited about their progress & showing that off to their parents and teacher. More practice leads not only to better playing, but also increased confidence.
Playing the piano at any age takes coordination, flexibility, hand and finger strength. It also develops the important element of muscle memory.
Practicing is cyclical. When students practice at home, even for just 5 minutes a day, they improve. They feel better about their progress, and are encouraged and praised when they come in for their lesson. On the other hand if your child does not practice during the week, all of the advantages to coordination, strength and memory will not develop. When they come in for their lesson they may be bored or frustrated that they are in the same place as they left off the week before. Not practicing is self-defeating!
Suggestion: Set up a positive reward system. Make a weekly schedule in which you can set up a reward if your child plays the piano daily. Reward them at the end of the week or prior to lesson. Once they start building their own habits & seeing progress, they may no longer need encouragement. Bribery always worked for me!
Harriet Woods Ethridge received her B.A. in Music Education at the University of South Carolina. After earning an undergraduate degree, she continued graduate studies, receiving her Master’s Degree in Music Education with an emphasis in Choral Conducting. Throughout Harriet’s journey in music she received several scholarships, and awards in piano performance and the study of the violin. Ms. Ethridge later moved to Atlanta where she organized (and founded) several children’s choruses, and choirs. She sang with the Atlanta Opera Company and assisted with the administration, assisted with the Atlanta Boy Choir and sang with the award winning Robert Shaw Chorale. Ms. Ethridge has taught at several public and private schools throughout the Charleston area. She has taught all ages and grades.