Practicing Tips for Beginning Students

One of the most common questions when students are first starting lessons is 'how much should we practice?' and I love getting this question because it means studio parents are prepared to support home practice and encourage their child to be successful in their piano study. But sometimes with really young beginners practice doesn't look exactly how we might visualize it. In today's blog post, I'm collecting some of my favorite practice tips for young beginners to be used as a resource when new students join the studio. 

Nearly all young beginners in this studio (under 7 years old) will start in the Wunderkeys method, either at the preschool or primer level depending on their age. These suggestions take into account the types of activities & warm ups those books include as part of regular lesson & practice. 

Be present - 
Most students under 7 do not yet have the ability to self regulate and go through their practice assignments entirely on their own. And what each child needs may look a little different, some may need help reading & checking off their assignments in the binder, some may need help problem solving when they get stuck, some may want to play the games or lesson activities with you every day, or some may just love for you to call out encouragement as they go. You know your kid best, so you'll know the best way to let them know that you're on their team when it comes to piano study.

Warm up before playing songs - 
For new students especially, we are learning brand new concepts all the time in lessons, so we often need to circle back to those concepts to help prime beginning pianists for what to anticipate in their music. If your piano kid ever sits down at the piano, looks at the page and says they don't know how to play an assigned piece, that's a sign that today's practice might be better spent doing some review work on the new concepts. Some ideas for that: you can flip back a page & try the steps of the 'Practice on the Pathway' section, play the game in that chapter, read through the lesson activities in the first couple pages of the chapter with your child and try the suggested activities to reinforce what we learned in lesson. Then try coming back to the song later in the day or week when those concepts are a little more confident.

Short, frequent practices - 
With beginning students the songs are pretty short, and so will their practices be. Several quick practices throughout the week will be more beneficial than one or two long practices. Visiting the concepts frequently helps with retention, and quick practices keeps any frustration to a minimum so they are having fun at the instrument. Know that you don't have to check off every single assignment at every single practice. Some days you might play through your song assignments, other days you might play the included game, some days you might improvise or play one of our rote memory pieces. It all counts as practice, and helps your piano kid learn to love playing the piano. I don't like prescribing a set amount of time, but as a rough guide I will suggest student practice 3 times their age (so a 3 year old student would practice 9 minutes, a 4 year old for 12 minutes, a 5 year old for 15 minutes, etc). With a song or two and a game or other off the bench activity, this is very do-able.

Get off the Bench - 
A lot of what we do in lessons is not done sitting at the bench, and that can be the same for home practice. One of the things I love about the Wunderkeys method is that it includes games to be played at home. If your young piano kid is a little extra squirrely on a given day, go ahead and get off the bench. Try standing up and clapping the rhythm of their pieces, play the game that's included in that section of their book, play 'Simon Says' to review finger numbers, key names or any other musical concepts they're working on, make a big paper piano keyboard together on the floor and practice finding the notes of their song on it, or practice drawing notes. It's ok to get creative.

Communicate with your teacher - 
This can be a big one, especially if you're feeling a little lost or stuck. Let your teacher know by phone or email if you have questions about how to practice. Or if you just have a quick note about how something went during the week, jot it down on the assignment sheet. This helps your teacher know what has been worked on during the week, and what should be covered in lessons.