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#2193011 - 12/05/13 03:24 PM how to practice efficiently?
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
Hello,

My child has been playing piano for about 5 years and is on CM level 8. Now that he is in high school, he is having a hard time keeping up with all his homework and finding time to practice. What advice do you give your students who feel overwhelmed with work? Do you find the amount of practice drops significantly once the kids hit high school? He used to practice at least 1.5-2 hours a day, but now he's lucky if he gets 30 minutes in a day.

He doesn't want to quit, but I don't know how he can continue like this. He is a very good student and a perfectionist. His prior CM level exam, he received 5+ on all his performance pieces and was invited to play at the honors recital and the music festival. Any advice how to practice efficiently?

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#2193043 - 12/05/13 04:27 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
The problem is the way American public education distributes the work, which is extremely top-heavy towards grades 9-12. Kids can cakewalk all the way through 8th grade, and by 9th grade it's like they hit an avalanche--IF you want to go to a good college.

And that's why some of the local schools here begin to spread out the work downward, so that 8th and 7th (and sometimes even 6th) grade students get a heavy dose of "work" they're supposed to cram in high school. That's a great idea, except that they forgot to ease off the work for 10th and 11th graders.

To answer your question: you can advise your son to take fewer honors classes, or participate in fewer extracurricular activities. If he truly loves piano, then devote much more time than 30 minutes a day. You may also want to consult other parents whose children survived your child's high school. Every district/school is unique, and the best plan is to listen to the advice of people who suffered through it.

There's really no way to practice piano more efficiently, especially at the upper CM levels. If anything, more time and work should be placed in the daily practice, not less.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2193048 - 12/05/13 04:31 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11801
Loc: Canada
He should ask this question of his present piano teacher. His teacher should be able to adjust and prioritize the work load as well as focus on practice strategies that take the situation into account.

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#2193059 - 12/05/13 04:50 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
If your piano teacher can give specific practice instruction, then your practice at home would be more efficiently.
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#2193064 - 12/05/13 04:58 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
It's also a time management issue. I know tons of students who can juggle music competitions, hobbies, and still get tons of scholarships for uni.

Definitely ask the piano teacher about practicing efficiently; it's different for everyone.

With that being said, these articles might help:

How to practice less & get more done
The weakest link in practicing

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#2193075 - 12/05/13 05:20 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: Bluoh]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
Thanks. I just got off the phone with his teacher to cancel his lesson today. She was not happy. I explained that he has gotten very little sleep this week. He has been going to bed at 2 am for the last few days due to the homework load and his other extracurricular activity ( he plays in the school band). He has 2 exams tomorrow in addition to his regular homework. Yes, he's also in honors classes which is another factor. He does want to apply to a good university and therefore, is working his butt off to get good grades.

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#2193078 - 12/05/13 05:30 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
It's a matter of priorities. If good grades, honors classes, and university acceptance are atop his priorities, then you might just stop piano lessons. When the plate gets too full, something has to go.

Your son can always resume lessons after college! Or during college! He might find university coursework a little more tolerable and sensible than high school, believe it or not. Professors don't want to grade busywork from students.

Going to bed at 2 AM is just not acceptable, but it is a reality that many of us (speaking from experience) have learned to cope with.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2193102 - 12/05/13 06:15 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: AZNpiano]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
I don't think he wants to stop. He'll just have to find a way to manage his time better. I do feel that is part of his problem.

One of the selling points of his current teacher is that all her students go on to top universities or conservatories. Of course, she expects all her students to make piano a top priority which is difficult at the high school level when there are so many competing interests. She also has very high expectations for her students which can be intimidating if you don't always play perfectly. I just hope she doesn't come down too hard on him next week when he has a lesson.

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#2193113 - 12/05/13 06:35 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
I also think that this is an issue that your son and his teacher should have a serious discussion about. If there is a real difference in expectations, maybe it is time to switch to a teacher who does not demand students treat piano as the priority. It may be difficult for the teacher to change her attitude just for your son if "all" of her other students agree with her priorities. It will also be helpful if your son can talk with a few of this teacher's former students, especially those who treat piano as a priority but ended up being non-music majors, to see how they managed to keep up with the teacher's high demand in high school. But in the end it's your son's decision how to use the high school years to help him become who *he* wants to be.

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#2193115 - 12/05/13 06:38 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
I don't think he wants to stop. He'll just have to find a way to manage his time better. I do feel that is part of his problem.

One of the selling points of his current teacher is that all her students go on to top universities or conservatories. Of course, she expects all her students to make piano a top priority which is difficult at the high school level when there are so many competing interests. She also has very high expectations for her students which can be intimidating if you don't always play perfectly. I just hope she doesn't come down too hard on him next week when he has a lesson.



That's interesting. So she sees piano as a means of getting into university and standing out as top of the cut.

Speaking from personal experience: I skipped a year of high school, finished piano, and got a bunch of scholarships for uni (business school) in the same year. I figured out how to practice efficiently and work smart. I also built my first business in high school. Now I help other people build their businesses.

And as you probably know, grades aren't enough to get into good schools (they haven't been for the past... 8 years?); you need a selling point (e.g. top universities want you to homeschool). So definitely get your son to keep doing something special, whether it's piano or sports or something else. Being in honours isn't that big of a deal anymore, unfortunately.

In highschool, I never slept after 11:30pm for homework, and I never understood why people needed to stay up all night. It's a matter of using your time efficiently on things you care about, and not whine about it.

I'm not saying it's easy (it wasn't for me) but it'll work out if he makes smart choices. smile

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#2193128 - 12/05/13 07:00 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: Bluoh]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
Yes. My son knows that top grades are not enough to get you into the best schools. That's part of the reason why he wants to continue with piano. It seems the stress levels have tripled from when I was a kid. Now you need to have the top grades, do a ton of community service/volunteer, and be a great athlete or musician to get into a great school. And of course, I hear this one all the time - you need to be "passionate" about something. What teenager has any idea what they're passionate about?

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#2193133 - 12/05/13 07:12 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: childofparadise2002]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
We do know one of her former students. She's now at an ivy league in the east coast. Her mother told me that her daughter rarely had time to practice once she hit high school. Most of her practice was done on the weekend.

Oh... and I do notice a downhill slide in performance ( at least from what I could tell at recitals) in many of her kids once they hit high school. In fact, during a recital one of her high school students could barely make it through Liszt's Liebestraum, and she had the music in front of her. It was chockfull of mistakes.

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#2193136 - 12/05/13 07:14 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
Yes. My son knows that top grades are not enough to get you into the best schools. That's part of the reason why he wants to continue with piano. It seems the stress levels have tripled from when I was a kid. Now you need to have the top grades, do a ton of community service/volunteer, and be a great athlete or musician to get into a great school. And of course, I hear this one all the time - you need to be "passionate" about something. What teenager has any idea what they're passionate about?


In highschool, it's more of what are you spending your time on, and is it meaningful?

What if he looks into volunteering as a piano teacher, or playing at a senior's home a few times every week?

He'll get more practice time, rack up volunteer hours (help others), and learn how to perform. Plus, it'll demonstrate that he's "into" music. wink

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#2193141 - 12/05/13 07:21 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Bluoh Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/20/11
Posts: 421
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
We do know one of her former students. She's now at an ivy league in the east coast. Her mother told me that her daughter rarely had time to practice once she hit high school. Most of her practice was done on the weekend.

Oh... and I do notice a downhill slide in performance ( at least from what I could tell at recitals) in many of her kids once they hit high school. In fact, during a recital one of her high school students could barely make it through Liszt's Liebestraum, and she had the music in front of her. It was chockfull of mistakes.


It varies from person to person, whether the student is able to find ways to practice smarter (that's right for their personality).

Even Myers-Briggs type indicator may be useful; for example, INFPs usually work best in short bursts and closer to the deadline, and they do their best work alone. They're not amazing at planning; success, for an INFP, mostly means figuring out how to plan.

Psychology techniques have helped me a lot; it might be valuable for you and your son to look into them. These aren't gimmicks; it's just understanding how people tick, and how to work smarter based on that.

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#2193150 - 12/05/13 07:35 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: Bluoh]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
Thanks for the great ideas. He actually did mention volunteering to play at a senior center. I'm not sure who he would have to approach about that, but we'll look into it.

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#2193241 - 12/05/13 11:56 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Opus_Maximus Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/04
Posts: 1497
I noticed the first thing you mentioned was he "is on CM Level 5" - so I'm led to believe that CM is (For you) synonymous with "keeping up piano study". Of course I could be wrong.

Is CM participation absolutely necessary, and do you really want to finish it all the way through the advanced level?? I think it's a great program, but I admit, it takes a LOT of extra time and effort..some thing being extraneous for somebody who is not planning on being a music major or going to a conservatory.

There is no harm in simply NOT doing CM and working on one or two pieces in a relaxed and consistent manner throughout the whole school year, and then playing these one or two pieces for festival, competitions and recitals. In fact, he might actually learn to love music deeper and play these pieces better, and remember them for longer than if he did the whole haphazard "Gotta learn 4 major pieces, an etude, all those scales, and all that theory". What tends to happen in the latter scenario is a stressful rush to shove everything down your throat just to pass an exam, all of which you will forget later.

I don't think that CM is something most colleges view as super important or "proof" that they actually took piano seriously. In fact, most college admission officers are ridiculously stupid and don't even know what it is, nor could care less. He could have something else to show for his piano studies on his applications (won this festival, played in jazz band and choir, gave a "lecture recital" as his senior show, regular than just the regular recital...etc etc).





Edited by Opus_Maximus (12/06/13 12:03 AM)

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#2193249 - 12/06/13 12:13 AM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
Yes. My son knows that top grades are not enough to get you into the best schools. That's part of the reason why he wants to continue with piano. It seems the stress levels have tripled from when I was a kid. Now you need to have the top grades, do a ton of community service/volunteer, and be a great athlete or musician to get into a great school. And of course, I hear this one all the time - you need to be "passionate" about something. What teenager has any idea what they're passionate about?

I did. It was music. And at college all the kids I was with in music school had that same passion.

But expecting all kids to make piano that huge a part of their lives is just stupid.

I have teens who are loaded up with studies, and they barely have time to sleep. I am very easy-going with them, because they should have a right to a life, and I have no reason to try to make them crazy, demanding that the thing I teach be first.
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2193326 - 12/06/13 04:18 AM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: Opus_Maximus]
pianomomto1 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/24/12
Posts: 15
CM participation is not absolutely necessary. In fact, last year he skipped it completely. He had too much going on and knew that he needed to commit a lot of time to studying for the CM if he wanted to do well. He wants to take this year's upcoming exam. It's a source of pride for him since he's done really well before.

I doubt he will be studying music in college, BUT he really loves being in orchestra.
He's taught himself to play the guitar and ukelele. Outside of playing video games, listening and playing music is what he loves to do the most. He has eclectic tastes in music. He loves indy rock bands, but also enjoys Chopin and Liszt.

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#2193347 - 12/06/13 06:36 AM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3336
Loc: Scotland
You need to have a really good chat with the teacher, and if necessary, switch teachers.

It is not OK for a youngster (or anyone for that matter) to be regularly up till the wee hours with work. School work and piano, it adds up. Any reasonable teacher will see that. And half an hour is enough to make progress, provided it is used effectively. Another thing to discuss with the teacher.
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I am a competent teacher.


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www.babysinging.co.uk

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#2193589 - 12/06/13 04:58 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: Opus_Maximus]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
There is no harm in simply NOT doing CM and working on one or two pieces in a relaxed and consistent manner throughout the whole school year, and then playing these one or two pieces for festival, competitions and recitals. In fact, he might actually learn to love music deeper and play these pieces better, and remember them for longer

That is precisely what I'm doing with several of my more advanced students this year. CM is aimed at the "average" and "typical" student. Why would students who are obviously above average and not typical do CM?

Originally Posted By: Opus_Maximus
I don't think that CM is something most colleges view as super important or "proof" that they actually took piano seriously. In fact, most college admission officers are ridiculously stupid and don't even know what it is, nor could care less.

thumb
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2193593 - 12/06/13 05:08 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
He wants to take this year's upcoming exam. It's a source of pride for him since he's done really well before.

Not to rain on your son's parade, but LOTS of kids do well on such exams. There's really no "pride" in getting a 5+ and being recommended for honors. LOTS of students get it. Take a look at the MTAC Convention booklet and you'll realize how common are 5+ ratings and convention honors. Then you actually sit through those recitals, and you wonder, "How did that kid get in?" And then you'd have to realize that not all the 5+ students choose to perform at the Convention, especially if you live up north and the Convention is in LA.

Originally Posted By: pianomomto1
but also enjoys Chopin and Liszt.

30 minutes per day of practice is not going to do Chopin and Liszt justice. I don't care how efficient the practice is. It just doesn't compute.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2193685 - 12/06/13 09:52 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1204
Loc: western MA, USA
There are a lot of good schools in the country, many of the best music schools are at non-Ivy-League institutions including state schools, and many Ivy League colleges have lackluster music programs. Also, if you're going to school for music they would rather take a more exceptional musician with a lesser GPA than vice versa. The whole thing about having to be valedictorian AND a star athlete AND a volunteering saint etc. etc. is only true if you've got your heart set on one or two specific schools that zillions of kids apply to. If what you want is a good college education, just stay focused on the things you love to do, apply all over the place, and you'll find somewhere great that fits you. (Might be a good idea to cut down on the video games though.)

Most people who go to school for music do practice multiple hours a day in high school. They have decent grades but usually not straight As.

And no, there's no way to keep up with advanced music on 30 minutes a day, unless you only have 1 working piece at a time and it is very short.
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Working on: Schumann/Kinderszenen
Daily 16th notes: Chopin Op. 10 no. 2, Pischna
I love Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2193763 - 12/07/13 02:16 AM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
neuralfirings Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/29/13
Posts: 198
First, best of luck to your son in high school. From what I hear and read, it's gotten a lot more challenging since my days.

If you are looking at first tier university and conservatories, it's a very high bar to use your musical ability as a crutch. When I was a junior in high school, I was playing Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto, which I'd like to think was fairly advanced. After I got to college, I was one of the more average pianists among my non-music major piano friends.

The good news, though, is that passion isn't the same thing as abilities. Unless you are aiming for conservatory, you don't really need abilities. Passion can be playing at senior centers as mentioned above. Or starting a music outreach program for disadvantaged kids. Or rallying the community to save some after school music programs (I'm sure there's one somewhere is under funded and at risk of being cut). I've never been an admissions officer, so I can't say for sure.. but I think what they are looking for in "passion" is somebody who is thoughtful, will add to the diversity and offer different perspectives, somebody who can teach/inspire their fellow students.

That said, I'm a firm believer that there's always more ways to squeeze in the things you love to do--even if you love to do many things. I did theater in high school, and I was at rehearsals all the time. Between my calls, I did schoolwork--I used to hide books in my costumes so I could sneak in a read while the director was working with other cast members. I got study notes from upper classmen who had taken the same classes. I programmed my calculator to automate some of the busy work problem sets.

As for practicing efficiently, what I found helpful is playing the piece through once, recording myself. Then listening and picking out specific parts I want to work on for the day. It helps to play pieces through once per session, but it doesn't help to just play through over and over again.

Good luck!
_________________________
Working on Chopin E Minor Concerto (2nd Mvt), Mozart D Minor Concerto (1st Mvt), and others.

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#2193854 - 12/07/13 09:04 AM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: ten left thumbs]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11801
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
You need to have a really good chat with the teacher, and if necessary, switch teachers.

I haven't seen any response yet about talking to the teacher (son talking to teacher). The teacher should be made aware that there is a situation so she/he can adjust at her end, and the teacher should also be the one to guide her student in efficient practising. Is this - or has it - been done?

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#2194182 - 12/07/13 08:22 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
Oongawa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/14/12
Posts: 272
Given the choice between losing a student or adjusting the curriculum to accommodate all the other important things in his life, I would hope she would adjust.

If an adult told their teacher that they wanted to slow down a bit because their job was demanding extra work hours, the teacher would likely understand. School is his job. She needs to relax a bit and take the long view. A couple of years of slower progress is better than having him stop because keeping up the pace is not practical during high school.

If she doesn't get that, fire her and find someone who does. Music should be a pleasure for him.
_________________________
Oongawa

'69 Mason & Hamlin Model A

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#2195150 - 12/09/13 04:57 PM Re: how to practice efficiently? [Re: pianomomto1]
woodog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 422
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
Have your son create an account and speak directly to the folks here about his concerns.

Oh, and sleep is the most important determinant of quality of life. If he is regularly cutting his sleep short, his life's gonna be rough.

Forrest


Edited by woodog (12/09/13 04:58 PM)
Edit Reason: added the sleep thing
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current studies:
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