How to help my kid to practice the piano at home is a question that many parents would ask when they start their children with piano lessons. Before we begin on the “how,” I want to first say that taking piano lessons (or other instrumental lessons) is not only about learning how to play. It is so much more. It’s a lifestyle! Some of the best life skills from learning the piano are time management, discipline, concentration, consistency, and commitment.
Of course, learning the piano should also be fun, but we need to redefine fun.
“Achievements are fun. Tackling something you thought you couldn’t do, is fun. Showing off one’s capabilities is fun. Exploring sounds and articulations, and incorporating ideas into interpretations, that’s fun. Making music with others, etc., etc.”Alan Huckleberry, piano professor at University of Iowa
If we want the student to make the most out of piano lessons, daily practice is necessary. Yes, every day. Not once, twice, or thrice on random days of the week. It’s about building a routine. For young beginners, the practice could be 5 minutes or 10 minutes, but it needs to be every day. Why? Think about it:
School teachers assign students homework to do. Students review what they learned at home, so they can continue to learn new things. The same thing goes with piano (or other musical instruments.) If we want to help students to acquire new abilities, besides having good instructions, review and practice at home are also essential elements.
Now, let’s talk about expectation:
Many parents told me they’re not expecting their children to become professional musicians. They just want the students to learn to enjoy music and have music as a part of their lives when they grow up. I understand, but practising is not just about getting better at playing. It’s also about making music a part of their everyday lives. Literally.
I would like to use “PIANO (MUSIC) TIME” when we approach young students about the idea of “practising.” The point is to make it not sound so much like a chore. Yet, keep in mind that your child won’t seem enthusiastic about “piano time” every time. Also, even if your child likes playing the piano, practising and playing are different.
If your child is already self-motivated, congratulations because that is rare. Typically at the beginning, they won’t jump in front of the piano to practice by themselves. “Part of learning how to practice independently is learning how to be disciplined. Part of becoming an adult is learning discipline. Discipline is not a fixed, finite idea. It does not have anything to do with sitting still or not. But … it does have to do with achieving goals, getting better, and over time, becoming an independent learner.” (Huckleberry) Our goal is to have them practice independently eventually.
Here are a few tips on how to help your kid to practice the piano at home:
1. Show them YOUR commitment.
Parents’ involvement is essential. Don’t just tell them to GO practice. Sit with them when they practice. Show them your commitment. Make it parent-child bonding time.
2. Make “piano time” joyful and exciting.
Don’t make practising the piano sounds like a chore. Use other phrases like “Let’s go make some beautiful music together!” or “Can you perform for daddy and mommy tonight?” Make it exciting.
3. Learn Time management.
Dedicate a certain time every day to play the piano. Let it be after school, before dinner, after dinner, or before they go to sleep. If they don’t have time to play through all the assignments, play just a bit each day would help, too.
4. Know what to practice.
Know what your child learned in lessons every week so that you can help with their practice. Ask your child’s piano teacher if they can provide a practice guideline or some ideas to assist the practice at home.
5. Build concentration and consistency.
If students just don’t want to practice, use the daily piano time to listen to some music. It could be a song or two, but instrumental music is preferable. The point is to stay in a routine. Listen to music together. Give full attention to the music. Try discussing and ask their opinions about what they hear. No one should play with toys, read books, or be on electronic devices during music time.
6. Boost your child’s self-esteem.
Praise them about their progress on the piano in front of other people. Mention to friends and family that your child is learning the piano and give him/her compliments. Ask them to perform for people from time to time.
Music is one of the most beautiful gifts this world has to offer us.
As teachers, we want to help our students to enjoy the process of learning and practising, and we try to make lessons as engaging as possible. Yet, we need to consistently raise the bar for our students. To help them to achieve their best, we need your help. (Of course, the bar is different for each student.)
“The fun comes when we can apply the skills we have developed no matter what the age or level of the student.”Miriam Kornborg, piano teacher at Rubin Academy of Music and Dance, Jerusalem, Israel.