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#2311597 - 08/05/14 05:28 PM How to encourage practice
Donzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/14
Posts: 64
Loc: British Columbia

Rather than hijack the "best student in your studio" thread" with this question, I thought I'd start a new thread.

The thread in question mentions that mark of a supportive parent is one who "encourages daily practice".

As a parent with a headstrong and stubborn 8 y.o. boy, I struggle with this encouragement daily. If he only practiced as much as I struggle with how to encourage practice, he'd be doing fine smile

The problem I have is how to encourage without making piano a punishment. My son doesn't really mind practicing, its just not high on his priorities. He'd rather play tablet games, play with lego, watch tv, watch video game reviews on youtube (he doesn't get to play any console games, so he likes to watch other people who do).

The easiest way to get him to practice is to take one of these pursuits away until he practices. "You can't do X until you practice your piano". However, I worry that this kind of tactic will lead to him resenting piano practice and eventually he will come to hate it. So I don't do that often. Instead I cajole. But when he really has his mind on something else, he will just get angry, do a terrible job of practice and flee the scene.

He comes home from school or day camp earlier than I come home from work. I usually get home just before supper and he's had an hour or so to get wrapped up in his other activities. Supper drags him away from them so he is chomping at the bit to get back to them after supper, but this seems to be my only chance to sneak in there and get him to practice first. I am successful 2-3 times a week. (The rest of the time either I feel I have to come down on him too hard and it will be punishment, or I get him to sit down but he does so resentfully and it is not a success.)

When I ask him if he wants to quit piano, he says no. He just never wants to practice now, always later. He's a smart kid but a bit of a "stimulus response" type. he doesn't plan in advance, he follows his nose.

He's been playing a bit over 1 year. He's playing the Hal Leonard Keveren, Kern, et al. books and he's half way through book 2.

If I was going to give myself advice, it would be to establish an ironclad routine of practice right after supper before any playtime/tv. But this can often get sideswiped by the 4 y.o. who wants to watch kid shows in the room with the piano and my son can't resist the lure of turning around to watch.

Any advice?

BTW, since I'm taking piano as well, with the same teacher, I usually sit down at the piano with him. Sometimes I play the piano with him (i.e. in unison) or count for him, or just sit and listen. Maybe I'm in his face too much?

The only time he voluntarily plays the piano seems to be when we have a visitor and he wants to show off.

Thanks,
Don
_________________________
Piano: 1905 Heintzman Upright
Time in: 17 months and counting
Currently working on:
People Ain't No Good - Nick Cave
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Scales and Arpeggios - from the Aristocats

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#2311635 - 08/05/14 06:59 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 488
I'm just a parent, but the only thing that works for us is to have a routine. At ___pm, practice. My daughter has an alarm on her tech device as a reminder. I have a digital piano so she can use headphones if someone decides to watch tv, but I would say to the younger sib that at ___pm, it is piano time for sib and it's book time for him.

I realize life gets in the way, but then my daughter owes me make up time. She had a camp sleepover so she lost a day - she had a choice - split that day over the next two days or double a practice.

At 8 a graphic organizer might help - maybe 7 triangle magnets making a pizza or something and as he practices each week he can move them to create a full circle. Maybe you can reward the full effort with a concert performance for mom, dad, and brother.

I love the penny idea from this NPR


Edited by MaggieGirl (08/05/14 07:33 PM)

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#2311652 - 08/05/14 07:28 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
laguna_greg Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 1382
Loc: guess where in CA and WA
Originally Posted By: Donzo

He just never wants to practice now, always later. He's a smart kid but a bit of a "stimulus response" type. he doesn't plan in advance, he follows his nose.....


If I was going to give myself advice, it would be to establish an ironclad routine of practice right after supper before any playtime/tv....


BTW, since I'm taking piano as well, with the same teacher, I usually sit down at the piano with him. Sometimes I play the piano with him (i.e. in unison) or count for him, or just sit and listen. Maybe I'm in his face too much?



1- You get to be the good parent and put some structure on his impulsiveness. This is a good thing. Don't second-guess it.

2- The "schedule" is a very good idea for young kids who love chaos and don't appear to have any discipline. They'll grow into it over time. Again, don't second guess it.

3- No, you're not in his face too much. My best younger students usually did well because they had their moms and/or dads practicing with them.

No, he does not resent it, yet. When he does, things will change and you'll be the first to know.
_________________________
Laguna Greg

1919 Mason & Hamlin AA
1931 Bechstein C - now sold
http://www.triangleassociates-us.com/about_us (my day job)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Taubman (a recent article I wrote about one of my teachers)

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#2311688 - 08/05/14 08:57 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
malkin Offline
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Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
I know a family with 3 kids who all have a scheduled time for their piano practice. If anyone misses an afternoon/evening and needs to make-up practice time it needs to happen in the morning, before school, before breakfast, before anything when they would normally be sleeping.
_________________________
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#2311712 - 08/05/14 09:32 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
hreichgott Offline
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Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1102
Loc: western MA, USA
Sounds like the 8 yo and 4 yo are both in charge of more than they're ready for. If the 8 yo is not responsibly scheduling his own practice time then it is your job until he's ready. The 4 yo definitely shouldn't be allowed to turn on the tv during practice time.

Having a parent listen to practice and give only honest positive feedback is a terrific motivator for kids. Like showing off for those visitors. And good for your relationship too.


Edited by hreichgott (08/05/14 09:34 PM)
_________________________
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#2311714 - 08/05/14 09:39 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Morodiene Offline
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12046
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I agree with greg here. You are being a good parent by giving him some discipline/structure to his free time. Not a bad thing, as long as he still has unstructured time left.

If he has to play after dinner, then the 4 yo cannot watch TV then. Either that, or get a small TV and have it in another room. If your 8 yo knows that he has to practice at this time, then he knows he can do all his other stuff before you come home and have dinner. This allows him to plan, and if he doesn't get around to doing all he wants to do before piano, then it's on him.

This may be a bit hard at first, but once he does it for a couple of months, he will be pretty happy with the results that he gets from daily practice.

An important thing to help with is that when you have something coming up that you know will throw off the schedule, discuss with him how you can make it work to get practice in if at all possible. Sometimes it's not, and that is OK too, but more important is to get right back at practicing as soon as you can after that. If you've been in the habit of practicing, missing one day won't hurt. If you aren't in that habit, however, then missing a day will throw your attempts at a routine out the window. Just keep at it.
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#2311787 - 08/06/14 01:35 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
outo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/12
Posts: 727
Loc: Finland
Originally Posted By: Donzo



He comes home from school or day camp earlier than I come home from work. I usually get home just before supper and he's had an hour or so to get wrapped up in his other activities. Supper drags him away from them so he is chomping at the bit to get back to them after supper, but this seems to be my only chance to sneak in there and get him to practice first. I am successful 2-3 times a week.


A few suggestions to consider:
Just after supper may not be the best time for him to practice. For many people it's difficult to concentrate on complex cognitive tasks with full stomach. Before dinner might be better. Or about an hour later. People also have different activity levels throughout the day depending on their personal rhythm, so it would help to figure out when he's most suspectible to piano practice and then just get him started. He might start to like practicing more if he had it easier to concentrate. Have you tried short practice session on mornings when his mind is not yet filled with other things?

I am a lot like your son and I can tell you that no amount of outside dicipline never really changed me...There's just too much going on in my mind all the time so I tend to avoid starting tasks that require calming down my brain. Piano practice also often, even though I really love practicing when I get to it... It helps me to trick myself by thinking I will ONLY sit down and play five minutes or one thing and then I can stop. That five minutes usually grows into 1-2 hours. It might help to first make it enough for him just to sit down and practice at least a short time on set hours and reward that. Don't tell him he has to practice for a set time, rather tell him to practice until he learns one thing and then he can go. You might see that his own interest will keep him on the piano longer. If not, time to think of something else smile


Edited by outo (08/06/14 01:39 AM)

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#2311833 - 08/06/14 06:07 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Chris H. Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/05
Posts: 2919
Loc: UK.
This is a good thread because it reminds us that the fact some pupils do not practice enough is not necessarily anyone's fault. With all the distractions nowadays it's very difficult to get young kids to put in the required amount of work needed to learn to play. I do believe it's harder today than ever so as a teacher I do sympathise.

I would echo what others have said about routine. It really is the only way to ensure that practice gets done. Without a set time there will always be something else to do and it will be a battle. Kids need to know that a certain time of day means piano practice. They don't really understand the importance of regular practice and don't often have intrinsic motivation so it's unlikely that they will go and practice every day of their own free will. Arrange a fixed time and stick to it as much as possible, if you have to miss the odd day here and there that's fine but try to keep it daily wherever possible.

How you go about getting them to practice is important. It shouldn't be a punishment and threats of banning other activities or confiscating things will just lead to arguments. I had a good pupil a few years back who despite being quite talented had an ongoing battle with mum over practice. One of the main gripes was that her younger sister was allowed to do something more exciting at the same time. Her mum gave up eventually and the girl stopped lessons which was a shame. So definitely don't let your younger one watch TV in the same room as the piano! Instead you need to be positive and encouraging. Try saying things like, 'would you play me that piece you're working on because I really love it', rather than 'go do your practice'. The more interest you take in practice sessions the better it will be.

Another thing I've noticed over the years is that the better students come from families where music is important. They have piano music playing on the stereo over dinner, regularly go to live concerts and talk a lot about music and playing the piano. It doesn't need to be an obsession but if kids can see that piano is important to their parents they will most likely be more interested in it themselves. You might be surprised at how motivated they can be after going to watch a live recital or learning a bit about current concert artists. A lot of young aspiring musicians are actually quite cool and can be great role models for children.

But whatever you do it is never going to be easy. It takes a while before kids start to practice on their own without needing any help from their parents.
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#2311867 - 08/06/14 08:22 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
You might consider hiring an after school practice buddy. Find a kid who plays piano well and is a few years older than your son to meet your son right after school for practice time. Perhaps your teacher can make a recommendation.
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#2311955 - 08/06/14 02:27 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Donzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/14
Posts: 64
Loc: British Columbia

Thanks everyone for all your feedback!

It sounds like everyone agrees with what I realized was my biggest failing - not setting up a regular routine. I started yesterday and we had one practice after supper that was good. (outo - I realize that right after supper may not be ideal... but it is the most reliable time I think I have and trying to put the emphasis on schedule first. I hope it works.)

My work schedule isn't consistent through the week - I have to work late on Wednesdays and from time to time. For now I think I'll plan to give him those days off. But as Morodiene says, I'll explain it to him.

One thing about my kid - I tell him he only has to practice for just 10 minutes, but when he is engaged in his practice we easily go for half an hour and he is usually very happy at the end. He has a warm glow of accomplishment! This is the cycle I want to try to maintain. I do have to give him some correction during practice, which he doesn't like. Usually a timing issue like he is rushing a half-note into a quarter-note. I want to avoid the "practice makes permanent, not perfect" issue and correct problems early. But I also try to give him a lot of high-fives and positive feedback after he fixes problems and when he's done a good job.

Maggie - thanks for the link, very appropriate and interesting. I am trying to steer away from rewards for playing piano as I tried that and as soon as my son got the reward he wanted, he stopped practicing smile But the game idea maybe worth a try.

Chris - we don't listen to a lot of music actually. Mostly just in the car. But I practice both in the mornings and in the evenings so I hope that rubs off a bit.

Malkin - I think right now he wouldn't be ready for an after school practice buddy. Finding a kid who could keep him on track and not allow him to degenerate the practice session into a lego-play-date could be hard smile Especially when my watchful eye is not around. But interesting idea maybe in the future. His school has a strings program that he will be starting in September and there are older kids in that program... Jeez - how will I be able to get him to practice 2 instruments! Yikes!


Anyway, thanks again for all the support and feedback everyone!

Don
_________________________
Piano: 1905 Heintzman Upright
Time in: 17 months and counting
Currently working on:
People Ain't No Good - Nick Cave
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Scales and Arpeggios - from the Aristocats

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#2312160 - 08/06/14 10:54 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Peer pressure might help with the strings practice.

(For the buddy, I was thinking of an older kid--like a high school student whom you'd pay to supervise your son's practice.)
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2312208 - 08/07/14 02:16 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: malkin]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: malkin
Peer pressure might help with the strings practice.

(For the buddy, I was thinking of an older kid--like a high school student whom you'd pay to supervise your son's practice.)

I don't like the idea of an older student supervision a younger kid's practice. I can see so many things that can go wrong.

The best students I have also have involved parents - or at least one involved parent - coming to lessons and helping at home. I think this needs to start early, both to educate parents about what I am working on and to get the family used to HOW to work together.

There are times when parents are actually giving wrong instructions, so having them at lessons where I can SEE how they interact with their kids is helpful to both the young students and their parents.

Tell some kids just to play for 10 minutes, just to get started, just gives them permission to quit after 10 minutes. But others are hooked for far longer after 10 minutes - this was always true of me. Some of us have a very hard time starting things, yet once we stop we also have a hard time stopping.
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#2312247 - 08/07/14 05:15 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
AZNpiano Online   sleepy
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
I wish more parents would tell their kids how much they enjoy hearing them play at home. Kids want to please their parents, so if the parents show that they are genuinely interested in hearing their kids play, the kids will practice more.

Too many times parents simply demand practice be done, or they set timers, or they whine and nag, or (worse) they yell. Practice then becomes a chore or a punishment.
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#2312327 - 08/07/14 08:51 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
woodog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/12
Posts: 405
Loc: Bowling Green, KY
Just curious,

What is your usual practice routine?

Forrest
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current studies:
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#2312329 - 08/07/14 08:54 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: AZNpiano]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12046
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
I wish more parents would tell their kids how much they enjoy hearing them play at home. Kids want to please their parents, so if the parents show that they are genuinely interested in hearing their kids play, the kids will practice more.

Too many times parents simply demand practice be done, or they set timers, or they whine and nag, or (worse) they yell. Practice then becomes a chore or a punishment.
I agree 100%! Often, it is parents that have not studied an instrument or similar discipline that don't understand the idea of practice.

It is also up to the teacher to show the student how to practice during the lesson, and how to make that fun and interesting instead of simply "repeat this 5 times" or "practice for 10 minutes". Sure, sometimes repetition is all you can do, especially in the early levels of playing, but I try even then to have students identify and isolate areas of difficulty. Then as they get into more complicated music they can then try and think of creative ways to address those areas. Doing blind repetition puts the brain to sleep and doesn't reap the rewards as the music gets harder.

The best thing a parent can do is sit in during lessons, and ask any questions at the end if they're not sure what to help with. But if they can observe the practice techniques that the teacher s having the child do, they can make sure that happens at home. Children will do blind repetition when they practice almost 90% of the time, I'm guessing (and that's being generous), even when I tell them specific things they can do.
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#2312469 - 08/07/14 02:29 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Donzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/14
Posts: 64
Loc: British Columbia
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
I wish more parents would tell their kids how much they enjoy hearing them play at home.


Thanks AZN, I hear you. I am always sitting on the bench with my son while he practices so I'm in a bit deep to just give a blanket "I love to listen to you play" I think smile I usually just try to point out what he did well in the last piece and compliment him on it. Like "you had really good tempo on that one, way to go!". And high-fives when he's nailed a piece is something he really seems to appreciate.

If he spontaneously sits down and plays something without me asking him, that is when I give him more blanket "nice playing" feedback.. but that only happens about twice a month.

I work hard at trying to keep piano positive for him... but I realize it is probably this tendancy that kept me away from establishing a good routine because I didn't want to "make" him practice when he didn't want to.

BTW - on the routine front: 3 days in, 3 days practiced... routine setting is working out so far. I know it is early to come to any conclusions but he is taking to it pretty well because I'm giving him lots of advance notice. I.e. "Remember, piano at 7, thats in 20 minutes" so when its time I don't get the "Oh MAN! NOW?!!"

The only bump in the road so far is that he is getting too good at his assigned pieces so he is getting a bit bored. I am trying to keep to his assignments rather than going ahead in the book, so I'm trying to get him to polish them. (Maybe if this regular practice works out, his teacher will start assigning more per week that will keep him interested.)



Originally Posted By: woodog
Just curious,

What is your usual practice routine?

Forrest


Our usual practice routine is simple. My son usually has 3 pieces that he is assigned to work on. So we just go through each piece a few times. He always asks "how many times do I have to play this one" and I respond "lets start with 37" or something similarly sarcastic because I'm trying to get him to not focus on how many times but on the piece itself. If he is having more difficulty, we'll do it more times (5 or 6). If he's pretty much got it, only two or three.

These are really simple pieces - usually just 16-bars.

I try to point out something to think about before each piece - like "oh, this one starts as 'piano', so try to play softly" or "remember to link your notes on this one where there are the slurs". He is good with hitting the right keys, but paying attention to dynamics etc is something he hasn't picked up on too well. So his teacher will often write on the piece a few things to key on and I try to remind him of them.

On songs where he has some trouble with timing, I clap or count for him. Sometimes this really bugs him, sometimes he doesn't mind, so I need to use it appropriately based on his frame of mind. I also sometimes play in unison with him as a way to try to tighten up timing and have fun together. He likes to count my mistakes when we do this. But like counting, it is something that I only do with him when he's in the right groove.

I get him to go through his pieces in a different order each practice.

And at the end of the practice I suggest we go to one of his previous songs that he enjoys and is easy for him. These days we typically finish off with a rousing few rounds of B - I - N!G!O! Bingo in unison together.

He also has some homework in his theory books, but we only do that once a week.

But his teacher has not assigned him any drills.


Thanks again for all the feedback!
Don
_________________________
Piano: 1905 Heintzman Upright
Time in: 17 months and counting
Currently working on:
People Ain't No Good - Nick Cave
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Scales and Arpeggios - from the Aristocats

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#2312496 - 08/07/14 03:21 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12046
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: Donzo

The only bump in the road so far is that he is getting too good at his assigned pieces so he is getting a bit bored. I am trying to keep to his assignments rather than going ahead in the book, so I'm trying to get him to polish them. (Maybe if this regular practice works out, his teacher will start assigning more per week that will keep him interested.)


Since you just started this, I'm sure his teacher can adjust next week's assignment to accommodate his faster learning. I think it would be perfectly OK for him to go ahead in his method book and just try out some new pieces. Just be sure to look at the new concepts (if any) and go over them with him so that he doesn't learn something incorrectly, but chances are it won't be a huge deal to go ahead.
_________________________
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MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2312648 - 08/07/14 08:37 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
malkin Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/18/09
Posts: 2611
Loc: *sigh* Salt Lake City
Three times perfectly?
_________________________
A good student is one who makes the teacher feel like a good teacher.

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#2312955 - 08/08/14 12:32 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: malkin]
Donzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/14
Posts: 64
Loc: British Columbia
Originally Posted By: malkin
Three times perfectly?


I'm not going to touch that one wink I don't think there is a right answer.
_________________________
Piano: 1905 Heintzman Upright
Time in: 17 months and counting
Currently working on:
People Ain't No Good - Nick Cave
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Scales and Arpeggios - from the Aristocats

Top
#2313642 - 08/09/14 11:36 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
hreichgott Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/11/13
Posts: 1102
Loc: western MA, USA
Originally Posted By: Donzo
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
I wish more parents would tell their kids how much they enjoy hearing them play at home.


Thanks AZN, I hear you. I am always sitting on the bench with my son while he practices so I'm in a bit deep to just give a blanket "I love to listen to you play" I think smile I usually just try to point out what he did well in the last piece and compliment him on it. Like "you had really good tempo on that one, way to go!". And high-fives when he's nailed a piece is something he really seems to appreciate.

If he spontaneously sits down and plays something without me asking him, that is when I give him more blanket "nice playing" feedback.. but that only happens about twice a month.

I work hard at trying to keep piano positive for him... but I realize it is probably this tendancy that kept me away from establishing a good routine because I didn't want to "make" him practice when he didn't want to.

BTW - on the routine front: 3 days in, 3 days practiced... routine setting is working out so far. I know it is early to come to any conclusions but he is taking to it pretty well because I'm giving him lots of advance notice. I.e. "Remember, piano at 7, thats in 20 minutes" so when its time I don't get the "Oh MAN! NOW?!!"

The only bump in the road so far is that he is getting too good at his assigned pieces so he is getting a bit bored. I am trying to keep to his assignments rather than going ahead in the book, so I'm trying to get him to polish them. (Maybe if this regular practice works out, his teacher will start assigning more per week that will keep him interested.)



Originally Posted By: woodog
Just curious,

What is your usual practice routine?

Forrest


Our usual practice routine is simple. My son usually has 3 pieces that he is assigned to work on. So we just go through each piece a few times. He always asks "how many times do I have to play this one" and I respond "lets start with 37" or something similarly sarcastic because I'm trying to get him to not focus on how many times but on the piece itself. If he is having more difficulty, we'll do it more times (5 or 6). If he's pretty much got it, only two or three.

These are really simple pieces - usually just 16-bars.

I try to point out something to think about before each piece - like "oh, this one starts as 'piano', so try to play softly" or "remember to link your notes on this one where there are the slurs". He is good with hitting the right keys, but paying attention to dynamics etc is something he hasn't picked up on too well. So his teacher will often write on the piece a few things to key on and I try to remind him of them.

On songs where he has some trouble with timing, I clap or count for him. Sometimes this really bugs him, sometimes he doesn't mind, so I need to use it appropriately based on his frame of mind. I also sometimes play in unison with him as a way to try to tighten up timing and have fun together. He likes to count my mistakes when we do this. But like counting, it is something that I only do with him when he's in the right groove.

I get him to go through his pieces in a different order each practice.

And at the end of the practice I suggest we go to one of his previous songs that he enjoys and is easy for him. These days we typically finish off with a rousing few rounds of B - I - N!G!O! Bingo in unison together.

He also has some homework in his theory books, but we only do that once a week.

But his teacher has not assigned him any drills.


Thanks again for all the feedback!
Don

Wow, all sounds great Don, congratulations on making such a positive adjustment together.
_________________________
Heather W. Reichgott, piano http://heatherwreichgott.blogspot.com
Sometimes a bagatelle is just a bagatelle. Beethoven Op. 33
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Always a fan of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and new music

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#2317975 - 08/21/14 01:32 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Colin Thomson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/28/07
Posts: 102
Just some thoughts:

Giving children a bit of responsibility in their time management can go a long way. One idea is to basically have a 1:1 minutes practice time with screen time. Or perhaps something like minutes spent in piano practice and something else (chore, reading, whatever), = number of screen time aloud.

This is an idea I give parents sometimes. It has to be the right circumstances and the right child, but I think it can be highly motivating, as it gives the children responsibility for how they want to spend their time.
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#2318096 - 08/21/14 11:26 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
chasingrainbows Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/06
Posts: 1124
Loc: NJ
Hi Don, I love this thread. I was feeling pretty down today, because too many students (I work in a music store) on the average, practice twice a week (probably one of those days falls on the day of their lesson!). These young ones have so much potential, but their parents are busy, work late, can't supervise their practice routine, or they have a million other activities they are involved in. IN a perfect teaching world, my students would practice at least 5 days a week, and complete all their assignments.

Despite the overly structured world this generation lives in, very few of them have established practice times. When I suggest that to parents, they are very receptive.

However, there are two incentives that I find really motivate students to practice in my studio: I have 3 recitals a year, one in the Spring, Fall and Holiday recital in December. We are always working on performance pieces, which I let them have some input in when selecting pieces. But most importantly, your son is 8 years old. The boys that age in my studio are not too motivated by method book music. They want to learn songs like Viva La Vida, All of Me, Demons, Radioactive. I am always amazed at the progress they make when they are working on music they know and love. They learn notes and rhythms that would take 2 or 3 levels via method books to learn. But more importantly, they are excited, their faces light up and their performances reflect their joy. I make sure to include something popular, whether it's current pop music, Disney music, Broadway, swing, movie themes. One of my young men (he's 10 now) has been taking lessons for 3 years. I've noticed more disinterest in method book songs, classical pieces and other pieces I introduce to him. He wanted to learn a piece from a pop group. He created his own dynamics, ending with an explosive chord and when he jumped up from the piano, his bow was that of a star! The audience went crazy. I've never seen a more exciting performance from my students, and his parents were ecstatic.

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#2318139 - 08/21/14 01:24 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Donzo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/04/14
Posts: 64
Loc: British Columbia

Thanks for the comments Colin and Chasing.

Practice sessions have been a bit bumpy over the last 2 weeks - we've dropped back to 3 days a week. This is because the schedule is different on the weekend, so we've only been practicing on weekday's, but not on the day when he goes the class (same time as practice schedule) and not on the day when I have to work late. I need to tighten up the weekend practice.

However, over the last month with more regular practice he is pulling things together a lot better and we've had a pleasantly surprised teacher the last 2 lessons.

I completely agree that the song makes a big difference. If he's into it, he'll do well. What I'm surprised at is some of the songs in the method book that I look at I think "ho hum, he's going to hate this one" and then he totally gets into it. While others I think "oh this is fun" and he doesn't.

So far we've only had 1 recital - our teacher says she will try to arrange them 3 times a year but will have to wait and see if she can pull that off.

Colin - I've suggested 1:1 screen - to - piano time but was mocked. If I could get 6:1 I'd be happy frown
_________________________
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#2318149 - 08/21/14 01:47 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Colin Thomson]
The Monkeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/13/12
Posts: 428
Loc: Vancouver BC
Originally Posted By: Colin Thomson
Just some thoughts:

Giving children a bit of responsibility in their time management can go a long way. One idea is to basically have a 1:1 minutes practice time with screen time. Or perhaps something like minutes spent in piano practice and something else (chore, reading, whatever), = number of screen time aloud.

This is an idea I give parents sometimes. It has to be the right circumstances and the right child, but I think it can be highly motivating, as it gives the children responsibility for how they want to spend their time.


Been there, done that, and very quickly we were arguing on the numbers:

"I played 30 minutes I am watching TV now"
"You didn't play 30 minutes!"
"I did, I came up here 6:30 now is 7:00"
"Half of the time you were on YouTube"
"It wasn't half of the time, I were there only 5 minutes to check out how other people play the piece"
"It was far more than 5 minutes"
"I needed to search it up"
I gave up counting the minutes.

Here is how we do at home and it seemed to work for us, so far:

1. No screen time of any sort from Sunday night to Thursday night. Electronics are very distracting. Weekends, go wild. (But there are so much fun things to do in the weekends, they don't usually end up watching a lot of TV or playing a lot video games, but that is their choice).

2. The teacher gives written, quantified assignments, like do this exercise each day 2 times before practice, play these section 20 times each day. At the bottom of the assignment sheet, there are check boxes for each day. When they complete the practice of the day, I put a check marks on it. I don't count how many times they play each piece, it is an honour system. I just trust them (or let them cheat). They did cheat when we started this, and I think they knew I knew they cheated, but I just showed them my full trust and quickly they stop cheating. There are times they don't complete the practice, we just put a smaller check mark, or don't put the check mark on it. There is no reward or penalty for it, it is just for record keeping, but the very act of putting down a record gets them going.

3. We try to make each piece they practices presentable. Often we record (video or audio) a piece on Tuesday (Wednesday is lesson day). We don't post the recording to the internet, but the recording itself motivates them. They love to watch or listen to they own playing, and laugh all the way though.

4.The teacher (school) has 2 recitals a year, in addition to that the teacher assigns some performance pieces and do in lesson video recording a few times a year. The teacher posts the recordings on YouTube. It gets like 30 views or so but kids seem to be proud of it.

5. For the older one, after every 3 pieces the teacher assigned him, he can request one piece. His list, includes, of course Star Wars, Mission Impossible.....

6 I let them set their own schedule, they have all the freedom to arrange the orders of activities as long as everything gets done.

I enforce the schedules they set themselves.

Our days go like this:
"What is you plan today?"
"After dinner, I will read 15 minutes, then I will play piano for 20 minutes, then I will take a shower, read 15 minutes, do my homework, drink milk, brush my teeth, and play 20 minutes and go to bed by 8:30"
"OK"
"Isn't it time to play piano?"
"Oho yeah, I am going up now"
"Isn't it time to do your homework?"
"Just 2 more minutes, I am finishing up this chapter.."
"Go brush you teeth, it is 8:40 already"
"It is?"
.........
I never get them to bed 8:30, just like I never get them hold the fermata long enough (the boys always rush). The day will probably never come, and I am OK with it.

Piano practice is not always fun. Whenever they "finish" a piece, I celebrate with them, however imperfect it is, that is fun. Piano learning, even life itself, has no destination, it is all about the journey.






Edited by The Monkeys (08/21/14 04:41 PM)
Edit Reason: typos, and typos

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#2318201 - 08/21/14 03:53 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11731
Loc: Canada
The Monkeys. thumb smile thumb

Excellent post. Great ideas.

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#2318338 - 08/21/14 10:34 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Donzo]
Jonathan Baker Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 403
Loc: New York City!
We calculate various strategies to infuse the student with a sense of engagement, or ownership if you will, in the endeavor of learning rather than have them feel they are spending their life taking orders for the sake of obedience alone. That feeling of forward motion and achievement varies from student to student, but one way or another it must be there. That is often more than 50% of our job.

Sometimes I trade places with the student and they are now the teacher. I play their piece and they follow the score as I play. They must be alert to any wrong notes that I play or incorrect rhythm (and I make sure they happen) and stop me and identify the exact note in the score. They must listen, and they must read carefully. This chance to exercise authority definitely engages them and I get them to pay attention to the music. Sometimes I just don't get it, you see, so I ask them to illustrate how the theme goes, or what is a steady rhythm as opposed to the mush I just made. They jump for the opportunity to show me how it really goes. Of course, they must give me a grade as well.

I may ask them if they ever heard of such-and-such a piece (knowing they do know it) and if so, could they play it to help me remember how it goes? - they invariably feel triumphant at being able to show off they do indeed know that piece and play it with gusto to prove the point. I earnestly thank them for reminding me how it goes, and then we work some creative changes into the tempo or dynamics for dramatic effect - 'just for the fun of it' - and they are not quite aware they just got the lesson I meant to give anyway.

Children like to prove they can do something on their own (adults are much the same but more fearful) so I like to make sure they hold forth. That is why small children sometimes brush away my hands when I show them a position - they don't want to be pushed around any more than necessary. Children generally are at the mercy of adults pushing them around day and night, so one way or another I give them their own territory to prove themselves, and make sure they are acknowledged.

For what it is worth, I never talk 'baby-talk' or anything remotely like that as I see some mothers doing. I may use fewer big words and speak at bit more clearly than usual, but no downward patronization. I always engage in real dialogue throughout the lesson, and the young students get to have their own voice, and I must listen when they talk just as they listen to me in turn. Perhaps this is useful in some cases, because just today a mother said to me of her six-year old son, "He really like coming here for his lessons. It's because of the way you talk to him. That's what he told me."
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http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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#2319053 - 08/23/14 09:59 PM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: Jonathan Baker]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4812
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Jonathan Baker
We calculate various strategies to infuse the student with a sense of engagement, or ownership if you will, in the endeavor of learning rather than have them feel they are spending their life taking orders for the sake of obedience alone. That feeling of forward motion and achievement varies from student to student, but one way or another it must be there. That is often more than 50% of our job.

For me as a student a great deal of made me feel I had input into lessons was having some choice in what I played. I have a lot of things that I teach that are fully optional. For instance, I have "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", which I could personally not care less about. I don't like baseball. I ask my students, "Are you interested in this?" Some can't wait to play it, some are so-so, and some can't wait to SKIP it. wink

I let them make the choice.

Young people already have strong attractions to certain kinds of music and don't like others.

I have students who don't like "dark" things. They won't want to play the kind of moody, emotional music I was attracted to, but others will be the opposite.
Quote:

Sometimes I trade places with the student and they are now the teacher. I play their piece and they follow the score as I play. They must be alert to any wrong notes that I play or incorrect rhythm (and I make sure they happen) and stop me and identify the exact note in the score. They must listen, and they must read carefully. This chance to exercise authority definitely engages them and I get them to pay attention to the music. Sometimes I just don't get it, you see, so I ask them to illustrate how the theme goes, or what is a steady rhythm as opposed to the mush I just made. They jump for the opportunity to show me how it really goes. Of course, they must give me a grade as well.

Things don't always go well when I "demonstrate" something on the spot that I have not looked at or thought about for some time - or when I am sight-reading something with problems. This is a great opportunity to show students how and why things go wrong for us, and how we fix them on the spot, if they can fixed that fast, or how we would attack a bigger problem.

A student will usually not say: "Ouch, you really screwed THAT up. Having a bad day, are we?"

But if you say that about yourself, or I say it, we acknowledge that fact that we are all students, always, and that things go wrong.

And when things go wrong, I always make the point that they also go horribly wrong sometimes for the greatest players on the planet. Because of the recording industry students are under the mistaken impression that "professionals" don't make mistakes. All the mistakes are edited out in studios.
Quote:

For what it is worth, I never talk 'baby-talk' or anything remotely like that as I see some mothers doing. I may use fewer big words and speak at bit more clearly than usual, but no downward patronization. I always engage in real dialogue throughout the lesson, and the young students get to have their own voice, and I must listen when they talk just as they listen to me in turn. Perhaps this is useful in some cases, because just today a mother said to me of her six-year old son, "He really like coming here for his lessons. It's because of the way you talk to him. That's what he told me."

Parents tend to follow my lead in lesson. I teach the parents how to teach their kids at home, and some of my small ones are amazingly sharp. It's hard for a parent to use baby-talk when tiny tot is finding things almost as fast as the parent - and sometimes faster. I hated being talked down to as a child. I especially hate "we": "How are we doing today?"

My first response, which I always have to choke down, is: "Are you are nurse? Is someone sick?" ;D
_________________________
Piano Teacher

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#2323515 - 09/03/14 06:00 AM Re: How to encourage practice [Re: chasingrainbows]
cliona Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/27/10
Posts: 5
Originally Posted By: chasingrainbows
Hi Don, I love this thread. I was feeling pretty down today, because too many students (I work in a music store) on the average, practice twice a week (probably one of those days falls on the day of their lesson!). These young ones have so much potential, but their parents are busy, work late, can't supervise their practice routine, or they have a million other activities they are involved in. IN a perfect teaching world, my students would practice at least 5 days a week, and complete all their assignments.

Despite the overly structured world this generation lives in, very few of them have established practice times. When I suggest that to parents, they are very receptive.

However, there are two incentives that I find really motivate students to practice in my studio: I have 3 recitals a year, one in the Spring, Fall and Holiday recital in December. We are always working on performance pieces, which I let them have some input in when selecting pieces. But most importantly, your son is 8 years old. The boys that age in my studio are not too motivated by method book music. They want to learn songs like Viva La Vida, All of Me, Demons, Radioactive. I am always amazed at the progress they make when they are working on music they know and love. They learn notes and rhythms that would take 2 or 3 levels via method books to learn. But more importantly, they are excited, their faces light up and their performances reflect their joy. I make sure to include something popular, whether it's current pop music, Disney music, Broadway, swing, movie themes. One of my young men (he's 10 now) has been taking lessons for 3 years. I've noticed more disinterest in method book songs, classical pieces and other pieces I introduce to him. He wanted to learn a piece from a pop group. He created his own dynamics, ending with an explosive chord and when he jumped up from the piano, his bow was that of a star! The audience went crazy. I've never seen a more exciting performance from my students, and his parents were ecstatic.


Great thread you started Denzo. I am both a parent of two young piano students and a teacher. I don't teach my own kids - learned the hard way not to!
Just a question for chasing rainbows (and I'll post it in another thread not to mess this thread up too much) - where do you find good, well-written, level appropropriate pop music for your students - e.g. radioactive?
much appreciated

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