By Lia Hwang
As a teacher, I'm supposed to be encourage my students to practice, but I don't. Of course, I subtly hint at it during lessons and I physically write a long list of things for them to practice after every single lesson. However, I am not perfect and I don't expect them to be. I would much rather have them have a good summer or go swimming with their friends than worry that they have to practice. Practicing is very important. It's actually the only way to get better, but at their age, they are still learning how to practice.
Think of practicing like this: you are going to sing in front of the Queen tomorrow and you haven't even picked out a song. If you don't practice, you're going to embarrass yourself in front of the Queen. Which, if I might add, is not something you really want to do. So what SHOULD you do? Practice, right? You end up practicing all night, and you wake up the next morning dazed and nervous. If you had prepared this song two-three weeks in advance, you would be well-rested and confident (as best as one could be before performing for the Queen). Time is up. You can't go back in time.
I don't tell this story to all of my students. Instead, I show them a video by Josh Wright. He talks about how to develop good practice habits and he talks about how successful it can be if students were to try this technique. There are a couple of suggestions he makes:
1. Figure out a time in your schedule to practice. Only you know how much time you have to practice each week
2. When practicing, stick to only working on one page at a time. Don't do more than that. If you're trying to learn a lot of pages in a short amount of time, you can increase it to two pages
3. Divide the song into parts. Focus on one part at a time and perfect it
4. Once you have perfected one part, don't go back to it. Many students practice only the beginning of a song because they keep practicing what they learned. You have to force yourself to practice the next part. And repeat this until you have finished the whole first page
5. Work with separate hands first and then both hands together
And here are some of my own suggestions:
1. Hold yourself to a standard. If you practice for your lesson every week, don't let a week slip by without you practicing
2. Practice what your teacher suggests or gives you. Don't go back and practice material that your teacher didn't tell you to practice. It's counter-productive
3. Practicing for hours is sometimes the necessary way to master a piece. The more advanced it is, the more hours and hard work you'll need to learn it
4. You are not a machine. That is why you have to look at your schedule and carve out specific times to practice. Make this a priority. And schedule it in every single week
5. Practicing is piano playing. Lessons are not meant to be your only playing time. When you are practicing, you are playing by yourself. And eventually, your teacher will not be there in the future to help you. You have to become independent.
I hope this helps many of you! There are so many ways to develop good practice habits and it starts with implementing just one of these suggestions. Start slow, and take your time. Hold yourself accountable. And you will start to see yourself progress much faster.
Here is the link for Josh Wright's practice video if you want to check it out:
I also have two blogs of my own that I write in all the time. I write about lifestyle, and everything under the sun about music and teaching!
My name is Lia Hwang, and I’m a full time piano/double bass/English teacher and part time blogger. I started my blog with the purpose of writing about whatever I wanted. I didn’t know it would turn into so much more. It has become a community and I’m so lucky to help other teachers + parents learn more about music. Nothing was easy for me, but I wouldn’t trade teaching for the world.