I prefer to have students start with a simple formula. Each student is asked to play each assigned piece four times throughout the week. I encourage students to make their goal of playing each piece a total of twenty times in between the weekly lessons. Students are usually successful if they make tally marks on the music or in their assignment notebooks. This visible tracking system creates an easy opportunity for us to discuss how the practice went throughout the week with the student, parents, caregiver and myself.
In order to keep the practice interesting for our beginner students, I ask them to focus on one element each of the four times they play each piece. The first time, students are encouraged to play the piece through focusing on the correct notes. The second time they are asked to focus on the rhythm and counting out loud or with a metronome (an app can be used). I ask students to focus on dynamics and any articulations the third time through. The fourth time can be a lot of fun for some students and that is when I ask students to sing along while playing. If the piece does not have lyrics, I encourage students to create them!
This system works well with beginner students who need structure in getting started with a solid practice routine. Once a student can consistently achieve the above recommendations, then it is simple to increase the frequency and length of each practice session. The process helps students break down the various elements of music into smaller steps. When a student is in the habit of breaking the music into sections, it is very easy for a student to independently analyze what he or she should practice in a piece.
If your student or you have any questions about setting up a solid practice routine, please feel free to contact me for additional ideas.
Best wishes and have fun practicing!
Renee K. Bordner
M. Ed., B. Ed., Studio Director