Progress in music is very individual, but is also quite dependent on the amount of time devoted to it. In general, to progress at the rate of a level every 9 - 12 months, (typically fewer months for Primer, longer at more advanced levels) the following practice guidelines are recommended minimums (five to six days per week):
Primer/Early Elementary 15 minutes/day
Level 1/Elementary 20 minutes/day
Level 2/Late Elementary 30 minutes/day
Level 3/Early Intermediate 45 minutes/day
Level 4-5/Intermediate - Early Advanced 50 minutes/day
Advanced 60+ minutes/day
CM Students may need some additional time for both practice and theory.
Of course, it is not only the number of minutes practiced, or repetitions performed, but the quality of practice, as discussed in the previous newsletters (and continuously at lessons). See The Practice Corner.
I recognize that many students are in multiple extracurricular activities, and have less time than that listed above easily available for piano practice. Sometimes, the answer is to look at time options, such as a few minutes before school. Practice does not have to be completed in one sitting each day. For others, the answer may be to change the practice expectation to a shorter amount of time. Hence, the reason for the survey.
I would like to work with each family to determine what the parents’ and student’s goals are for piano study, and then to help meet those goals. If the goal is steady, reliable progress, and to be able to play intermediate repertoire within about four years, then the above practice schedule should be followed. However, I have heard from some families that the above goals are not reachable, and that what is wanted is a recreational, relaxed approach. If the goal is to be more relaxed, and to be content with a gentler rate of progress, then I will adjust the practice goals for that student accordingly.
Some pros and cons of the two approaches:
The pros of more practice/better progress are:
1. Satisfaction in recognizable progress.
2. Playing is more fun with more practice, therefore pieces seem easier.
3. When playing is more fun, more practice occurs, leading to playing being more fun…
4. Students are more likely to stay in lessons long enough to become self-actualizing.
The cons of more practice/better progress are:
1. Students sometimes resist practice; even those that love the piano don’t love to practice every day. Unfortunately, my father is not with us, or he would confirm this!
2. Parents are therefore sometimes put in the position of enforcer of practice time.
3. Students want to take a “break” from lessons to ease the commitment. The break may become many years long and lead to regret.
The pros of the relaxed/recreational approach are:
1. Students feel no pressure and can think of music as fully a fun activity, never as work.
2. Students can opt to play only one or two “fun” pieces at a time.
The cons of the relaxed/recreational approach are:
1. Because progress is slow, boredom* sets in.
2. Even though we are in recreational mode, frustration sets in because of slow progress. It’s hard for pieces to become “easy” if they are not played much.
3. Because of boredom and frustration, students want to take a “break” from lessons.
* Note that boredom is much more likely to indicate trouble with pieces/progress than that the music is too easy/not challenging/not interesting.
So what is the answer? Sometimes, it’s to switch back and forth between modes, to lighten up during periods of school stress or a particular sports season. Sometimes, it’s to take a break from the method books and focus on fun pieces from the student’s favorite music genre. Sometimes, it’s to accept periods of low practice without pulling the plug on lessons because of it. Ride it through. You’ll be glad you did. Keep in touch. Let me know if frustration is setting in or if practice expectations need to be altered.
An important, not to be overlooked part of keeping students playing music and interested in lessons is to be involved in your child’s practice. Whether or not you play piano or any other instrument, you can be a great help by simply listening to their playing. Make practice time, at least occasionally, a family affair. Right after the week’s lesson, ask to hear the new pieces. Point out that lesson day, or the next day, is the best time to complete the theory assignment. Look through their assignment books. Sit in on a lesson from time to time.
Please continue this communication by taking a few minutes to share your thoughts in the contact box below. I have provided some questions that you may use as a guide. Through your feedback, I can tailor a program that is right for your child at the current time, and we can alter it as other factors come into play. I always appreciate hearing from you.
Please call if you would like to schedule meetings (phone or in person) to discuss progress and goals.
I have been designing a curriculum for optional monthly group lessons. The lessons would be on one Saturday per month, either in the morning or early- to mid-afternoon. These would be small groups (three to four students) matched by level. Classes would be one, one-and-a-half or two hours in length (depending on age and level), and include a wide variety of musical games, ear-training activities, cooperative written work, white board work, and flashcard activities, etc.
In addition, there will be a low-key performance opportunity for each student during each class. This will give students a way to increase their performance frequency in a very friendly and non-threatening environment.
Another plus of the group lesson is that students can have fun learning about and making music together. I believe this can help keep students interested in studying music by showing that it can indeed be, like sports and games, an interactive activity.
I will only be able to proceed with this if there are 3 - 4 students interested at each level. The students could be grouped with some overlap in level. (For example, Early Elementary/Elementary, Elementary/Early Intermediate, Early Intermediate/Intermediate, Intermediate/Early Advanced.)
Please let me know if you would be interested, and if so, your preferences. Also, please include any questions you have: