Practice Tips & Tricks: Games!

Happy New Year! We know the new year is a great time to get a fresh start & form some new habits. So to kick off 2019, I'll be sharing a series of blog posts all about my favorite practice tools & tricks complete with tips for how to help you use them at home! Teachers & parents alike, we all know that piano practice is necessary, and sometimes the discipline to keep it going can be tricky. But many of the tools that us teachers use in lessons to make things engaging & interesting can be adapted for easy use at home so your piano kid is digging into their music in new & fun ways. This helps piano students to grow into well-rounded musicians because they develop a whole toolkit full of ways to engage with and make music.

To kick off this series, I'm going to talk about games. Gamification is an incredibly effective learning tool. Did you know that on average it takes 400 repetitions for the human brain to create a new neural pathway? BUT if we're having fun & gamifying it, it only takes 20 repetitions. Games are not just a way to trick your kids into staying focused, they're actually a tool we can use to speed up the learning process. Hopefully you're convinced enough to try it at home, so the next question is how can we implement games without tons of extra effort? 

If you're in Wunderkeys, your method books include games for you to use in home practice, and I DEFINITELY recommend making use of them with a sibling, parent or grandparent helping you out. For other students, I do send home board games from time to time that are relevant to what we're working on in lessons, so take advantage of these when that happens! 

But if there isn't an assigned game for the week, here are a few easy-to-implement ones I love to recommend:

Break it down! 
This is an adaptation of Nicola Cantan's "back it up" suggestion in her book The Piano Practice Physician's Handbook where a student breaks their music into different parts. This is a great way to practice for performances or pieces that are just proving a little tricky. If your piano kid has a 4 line piece, each line would receive a number 1-4, if it's a 3 page song, each half page or so would be a section numbered 1-6. So first step, look at the piece of music and number your chosen sections. Then grab a dice and roll for which section you're supposed to practice. Do this 3 or 4 times each practice session before playing through the whole piece, and watch how quickly those sections begin to improve with the isolated practice!

New Concept Collect
Did you learn something new in lessons this week? Some new key terms, music symbols or key signatures? Set out 5 coins (or buttons etc), and review your new concept. Each time your review it correctly, collect a coin, each time you make a mistake, move a coin back out of your pile. See if eventually, you can collect all 5 coins in just five tries!

Scale Mix-up
Scales or 5 finger patterns don't have to be mindless drills, let's have some fun with them. Grab that dice again, and roll it. If you get a:
    1. Play it in super slow motion
    2. Play it with your right hand
    3. Play it with your left hand
    4. Play it hands together
    5. Play it hands together, and swing the rhythm! (long-short rhythm pattern)
    6. Play it as fast as you can (keeping fingers & notes as accurate as possible!)
Roll the dice at least 2 more times, and follow what your number says. But you can do this as many times as you like to try & get all 6!

Ssshhhh! Your Piano Teacher thinks this is Practice
This is an excellent practice resource that gives you 88 ways to gamify your practice, so for 88 different practice sessions, you can try something new & exciting every single time. For students in my studio, your tuition includes all books (yay!), so if you would like a copy, just let me know! For other teachers or piano parents out there, you can see some sample pages & purchasing options for the book here.

 I'd love to hear how these go if you try them out at home this week! And stay tuned for next week's next Practice Tips & Tricks post where we'll be discussing how to use a metronome or rhythm backing app to up your piano practice skills.