In our profession we hear lots of “advice” from students about how to practice. Here are some of the most popular items we hear.
“Play it only once and your’e done! If you can get through it one time without a mistake you know the thing!”
Students get hung up on playing their pieces a certain number of times and often don’t think about WHAT they are doing when they practice. This happens a lot because early pieces are about getting your fingers in the right spot at the right time and this type of early practice can beed over into more advanced pieces. I try to have students identify sections and write out a practice plan to address those individual sections. Practicing the section is much better than playing the piece once and being done.
“Don’t worry about scales - she never asks to hear them!”
Note to my students - I ALWAYS ask to hear them. Scales are super important - see our post about technical exercises!
“I like to play the things I know a lot. I love to practice those songs!”
Playing songs you like is always a good thing, but not at the expense of doing the work your teacher asked you to accomplish. Try sectioning off a part of your current piece, work on that for a specific amount of time and then play a piece you really like. Come back to your new song and play another section and then play a piece you like. Bracketing new work with pieces you feel good about is a good way to stave off the “I can’t do this” blues.
“Yes I practiced every day! For like 5 minutes!”
Yikes! 5 minutes is a good start, but often not a complete practice session. I like 5 minute intervals for younger students because they can often achieve a small goal within that time frame. I have students link together 3 goals in 5 minute increments for a minimum practice session of 15 minutes. For students with short attention spans this is a good starting time line. I often suggest that they do a 15 minute session and then come back and do another 15 minute session later if sitting for a full 30 minute practice session is too taxing.
Students have a lot to say on the issue of practicing. Look for a post later this month with some of the best advice from students about practicing!