Methods of practicing when taking piano lessons can be a mystery to both parents and students alike. However, with a few basic strategies, practicing the assignments given at a piano lesson can be simple and streamlined.
First of all, during the piano lesson, I write down the book name and page number to be practiced. Then I will assign a number of times to play the song or exercise. For younger students, sometimes I make a chart for them to mark off every time they play it. This works well for kids who may forget just how many times they have played the song. It also gives the feeling of accomplishment to mark off each time the song is played.
Otherwise, the assignment may look like this:
Lesson: pp. 22-23, 5 x (I use “x” to represent the word “times”)
In some cases, there is a need to separate hands for ease of learning. In this case, I may use the code “HS” (hands separately) 3x, “HT” (hands together) 3x. I may also use the code “RH” 5x, “LH” 5x (Right hand and left hand, respectively).
Many parents will ask me how long their student should be practicing for piano lessons. This is a great question, but I find that time is not always a good gauge of good practice. I would rather a student play through the assignment as given than to stare at a clock or timer if he or she has finished the assignment. In the beginning, very young students may only play for 10 to 15 minutes. As their abilities grow, their time at the piano will increase naturally.
The goal of practicing new music is to train the eyes and hands to work together to learn a new song. Once that song is learned, the goal of practicing becomes polishing–working out kinks and trouble spots, perfecting little areas rhythmically and dynamically, until the song really shines. From this point, that song becomes part of a student’s repertoire. Practicing has transformed into playing! As long as the student plays that song once a week, he or she will always have it!