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#951951 - 02/20/07 12:02 PM Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Hi Everyone,

Understanding that each student is different, I am curious what other teachers expect as far as practice time each week for students of different ages and levels? Does anyone have any standard expectations, say for beginners and intermediate students? Also, do you ask each song to be practiced a certain number of times or give a time limit?

Parents on the board, how long do you expect your children to practice each day, and how many times through a piece?
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#951952 - 02/20/07 12:31 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
piano_mom Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/02/05
Posts: 170
Loc: U. S. A.
Hi Stephanie,

My 10 year old son practices 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
He does not practice on the lesson day, and a day when he
has lots of homework. He practices technique twice and
other songs three times.

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#951953 - 02/20/07 01:05 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
Good topic. I'd love to find out what other kids are doing.

My son (6.75 years old) practises 30 minutes a day, 5 or 6 times a week. He takes this fine, especially when he really likes the pieces. He practises Hanon for once or twice, and then the pieces. His teacher tends to give him lots and lots of pieces at the same time (for example right now he has 10 pieces on the list). If he practises all pieces he might only have time to play each once or twice. Sometimes I let him practise half of the pieces everyday so he can play each piece a bit more, maybe a couple times plus the trouble spots.

Sounds reasonable?

I kind of hope there are fewer assignments so my son has more time to do the "fun" stuff. He used to write his own little pieces and plays around with transposition, but hasn't got the time to do it recently.

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#951954 - 02/20/07 02:01 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
Stephanie`

Good topic. I expect my kids (8,11, 15) to practice their instruments about 30 minutes a day, but more than clock watching, I really want them to just have the habit of doing it. I do insist on a short practice at home, shortly after the lesson to review and write down (clearly and exactly) what needs to be done. Especially for the older children this gets them focused on what needs to be done rather than so many minutes, repetitions etc. My older children play in ensembles and that is a good incentive to practice

I plan to practice for an hour a day but call it a good day when I get 45 minutes in.

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#951955 - 02/20/07 03:22 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I require 5 days a week practice but have no set amount of time. I write the days of the week out at the top of their assignment page and ask them to put a check in the box if they practiced that day. I used to have a "fancier" sheet for recording practice but switched to this version. I'd like to see consistent weekly practice over how much time per day and as mentioned I'd prefer the emphasis not to be put on the amount of time per day but what was practiced. I ask the students if I can tell they probably just played a piece through once or twice a day, "how did you go about practicing this over the week?" Then we talk about how to break it down for the next week. Or if a student played a piece really well, I say, "you obviously have practiced this a lot, how did you go about practicing it?" Then I praise them by saying "those are some good ways to go about practicing your pieces."

I just expect them to practice the assignment and usually write a couple extra ideas at the bottom they can add if they need more to do over the week.

For some students who tend to play the piece from beginning to end one or two times a day and say their done or those who tend to play the piece from beginning to end over and over, I write a more specific assignment like, "practice each phrase X times per day." I leave it up to the student more if they are good about practicing different ways and dividing up the piece on their own.

This is a good topic as I'm interested in how many times other teachers would require a student to practice a certain segment and how do you split up a piece, for example, do you have them practice by measure, line, phrase, or section, etc? One of my students always told me about a friend of hers taking lessons from another teacher who required the student to practice a little fraction of a piece something like 20 times. I always wonder if I'm not requiring enough repetitions per day of a certain item.

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#951956 - 02/20/07 03:28 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Ken Knapp Offline



Registered: 04/18/06
Posts: 2278
Loc: Pennsylvania
I try to practice an hour a day every day. Of course, I NEED the practice!!

Ken
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#951957 - 02/20/07 03:51 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I usually focus on how many times I want each item practiced by students. Usually it is something like 2-3 times each scale, 2-3 times for a short technical exercise and 5 times for a piece. If there is a tough section in the repertoire, I will usually add in some extra repetitions on the tricky section.

I do have some students though who will tend to blow through each song the required number of times at warp speed without stopping to fix anything. Because of that I have started giving parents a good idea of how long their practicing should take and what I want them to focus on. I also have a practice chart that I have my parents initial for each day practiced, and I ask for a minimum of 5 days.

Actually I am also handing out a reminder notice this week to ask parents not to initial the practice chart unless the student practices everything on the list. Lately I have had some students show up with a signed practice chart only to discover that they only practiced two of the items listed in their notebook. It is tough because I rely on the parents to sign for proper practice and in a few cases the parents will sign when proper practice doesn't take place. Of course I can tell right away whether my students have actually practiced, but then what do you do accuse the parents of lying? I am hoping my general practice reminder notice will get the point across.
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#951958 - 02/20/07 03:57 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
NancyM333 Offline
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Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
My children's teacher requires 30 minutes per day for elementary students, 45 for middle school, and an hour a day for high school students. Most of these students have two lessons per week, so this practice would be 5 days per week. She asks an hour of her adultstudents also, but most of them only go to a lesson every other week.

Nancy
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#951959 - 02/20/07 04:16 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
When my son started, at age 8, we required 30 minutes per day, seven days per week. He had no particular rules about practicing things twice or three times, because I have always worked with him in breaking pieces apart to work on separate problem measures or phrases.

In his second year his practice time went up to 45 minutes per day, but I think it moved toward an hour per day by the end of that year. The third year he practiced an hour per day as well, but it moved toward 1:15 by the end of the year. In his fourth year he started doing 1.5 hours per day, except when school work or other things intervened, though he usually did extra on the weekends.

Last year we firmly established 1.5 hours per day as the accepted minimum and he tried for 2 hours per day on the weekends. This year he has maintained the 1.5 hours per days on school days. Again there is an exception for days when other work piles up. He usually plays 2.5-3 hours per day on the weekend.

I think a regimen of this sort is essential if a student is going to make rapid progress. Having said that, rapid progess isn't absolutely essential if what you really want to do is create a person with a lifelong love of music!
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#951960 - 02/20/07 09:02 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
ftp Offline
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Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Philadelphia
Our 12 year old practices 1 hour a day during the week and 1.5 hours on weekend days. (was actually doing more before changing teachers-but that's another story) 10 year old 45min and 1hour respectively. Generally, we've gradually moved the time up according to their ability to handle it. The older could do more but I see other activities on the rise and don't want to be in a position of having to decrease the time in the coming years.

At this rate, they won't become concert pianists but they seem to be comfortable with their relationship with the piano and if they want to do more-we'll clear the decks.

It is a seven day a week thing, with the exception of very unusual other events.

It's a tricky balancing act and I haven't even hit the trying years yet so I have no idea how it will all turn out.

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#951961 - 02/20/07 09:33 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
As a kid... my motivation is VERY high. My parents don't know much about music. My teacher suggests that I play 25 minutes per day. I try to practice 2 hours per day minimum (i'll sometimes eat lunch and run to the music room at school for 20 minutes) on the weekends, I like to get in 3 hours which usually ends up being 2 hours. ;\)


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#951962 - 02/21/07 08:52 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
sarabande Offline
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Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
When I was taking lessons as a child through teenage years, all my teachers suggested 30 min. per day practice. When I went to college, just for a B.A. in Music the minimum required practice time was 5 days a week, 2 hours per day. I was so suprised. I didn't even know anyone practiced that long! If I would have realized that as a teen when I started becoming serious about a possible career in music, I would have practiced a lot more.

Also, I heard from a prof. of piano that practices about 5 hours a day when he has upcoming concerts. I was so suprised at that too. Again if I would have known when young how much those in the performance profession like concert pianists practice, I would have been practicing a lot more. I just assumed when young that everyone practiced the standard 30 minutes and that was all it took to get good at piano playing. \:\)

It's been mentioned in the thread that some students keep increasing the minutes the longer they have been studying and the more advanced their music becomes. I feel this is necessary too. I've had students that I have required a minimum of 15 - 20 min. per day when on primer and level 1 books at 7 or 8 years old. But they get used to the 20 min. requirement and 20 min. of course doesn't cut it at the intermediate levels! I think it's a good idea to require X amount more time per day for each level of difficulty and for number of years the student has been taking lessons so the student realizes this at the onset when they start lessons.

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#951963 - 02/21/07 09:42 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
That's a good point about habituation. If students become habituated to 30 minutes per day they may resist changing that number. You may avoid future problems by letting them and their parents know right from the start that practice time increases with age and level.

In my early teens (14, 15) I was practising perhaps 45 minutes to an hour per day on my crappy Gulbransen vertical from the dark ages. Then my pushy mother (bless her) had me audition at the U. of Miami. For strange and fortuitous reasons the prof. accepted me, but the conditions included a two hour per day absolute minimum of practice. Three hours was the recommended level. At age 16 I bought into this. Part of the sweetner was a brand spanking new 5'9" grand!

That professor told me point blank later on that she regretted not getting a hold of me years earlier when there would have been a chance to change my trajectory in a major way. As it was, she worked minor miracles on me, in part because she increased my self-discipline! Practice time is KEY (pun intended).

Cheers,

David
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#951964 - 02/21/07 12:58 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7417
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Dorrie, your 8 yr old is probably practicing about right. But how is it possible that your 11 & 15 yr olds can practice only 30 min each? Are they just beginners?

I have found that most 3rd graders can easily focus on their practice, if someone is close by to help them focus, for 45 - 55 min daily.

Like childofparadise2002's teacher, I assign sufficient material (age and skill appropriate, of course) to keep middle school students busy for 90 minutes or more, and high schooler's for several hours daily. Most of mine report long hours on weekends, shorter hours during the week. Seems appropriate.

What many students find necessary is to break practice into multiple daily sessions. 50-55 minutes is a good solid practice block for older students.

By the way, for you to parent 3 students and still be able to squeeze in 45 minutes of practice is some sort of miricle in my book. Congratulations.
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#951965 - 02/21/07 01:39 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
John -

My kids usually practice more - I simply won't fight to make them do more.

My little one had pretty severe ADHD and does pratice in several small bits. He was born with some congenital hand problems and his plastic surgeon recommended keyboarding lessons to improve his finger independence.

The older children do not play piano - my daughter (11) plays cello (and gets about 30 minutes a day at school in group lessons/rehersal in addition to home pratice). So she really is practicing closer to an hour a day.

My eldest did piano and cello for years and fought practice at every turn, although he loved performing and truly loves music. Finally his teacher said - practice more, or quit. So he quit. After a fallow year or so he asked for classical guitar. I found a very low key teacher and he seems to be having more fun. I am happy music is part of his life and am not tempted to push further.

I understand now as a parent, that 1) near daily practice is really necessary and 2) the closer you can get to 7-9 hours of practice a week, the better the progress seems to be. Until I played an instrument myself, I really didn't have a clue, and the information I got from their very well intentioned teachers actually was pretty useless in helping me help them practice.

I don't expect any of these kids to reach advanced levels on their instrument, but I hope they will enjoy music throughout their lifetime.


For me, John I am blessed with a need for very little sleep. And I am ruthlessly organized with my own practice. After each lesson I list goals and tasks that need to be accomplished. While I agree with you that 50 minute sessions are great, i have found that if I plan carefully, a 30 minute long session, and then 2-3 10 minute sessions can work well. It takes 10 minutes for pasta to cook - well a student at my level (about 2 years of lessons) has plenty of tasks that fit into ten minutes (review, Hanon drills, sightreading etc).

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#951966 - 02/21/07 01:53 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
I have found that most 3rd graders can easily focus on their practice, if someone is close by to help them focus, for 45 - 55 min daily. [/b]
That's the key right there. It makes all the difference when parents moniter the practicing to make sure it is being done effectively. Not so much hovering over their shoulder, but at least listening from the kitchen and providing encouragement and help when necessary. Not to mention to make sure actual practicing gets done. It actually amazes me when parents don't ever listen to the practicing, which I have had a few problems with when students have digital pianos at home. I have had a talk with a few parents about the importance of listening to the practicing rather than shoving headphones at them and assuming that they are practicing properly.
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#951967 - 02/22/07 01:09 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
MrsSV Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/06
Posts: 519
My daughter's teacher does not expect a certain amount of time spent (on a clock) but a certain amount of times on each assignment. I think it's because of her age. I know she has students who practice 2 hours daily but they are 10-11 years old. In other words she will tell her to go through a new 2-octave scale (and arpeggio) hands alone 3 times, hands together 3 times (that's kinda like 9 times)...and review all other scales/arpeggios 1 time daily. Her other music varies- from 2-5 times per piece. This takes longer than 30 min. usually (especially with so many scales) and other exercises (Schmitt, Czerny) which are daily, plus there are finger exercises. Usually she has 4-6 pieces of music as well. Daughter LOVES Czerny.

Her teacher requires 5 times a week practice. But we do 7, sort of. On the lesson day she runs through every assignment 1 time- and then no practice the rest of that day/night. So, it's more like 6 days a week of true practice. This is not a pressure type of thing with her- she loves it.

I think eventually as her practice time grows in length I will break it into more than 1 period of time daily. Like,a couple of exercises and couple of pieces of music early in the day and ther rest of the exercises and music later in the day.

If she is having a bad day with a specific assignment I have her put it away for a few hours and then go back to it later. That happens once in awhile.

Now my oldest daughter (years ago)- 30 min. a day, 5 times a week...and it was a real pain to get her to put in the practice time. I still remember what a pain it was (for me)...and I don't recall her enjoying it at the time either!

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#951968 - 02/22/07 01:16 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
20-30 minutes 5 days a week for beginners

45 minutes 5 days a week at the intermediate level

1.5-2 hours 6 days a week for advanced students

3-4 hours a day 6 days a week for high school students hoping to pursue a degree in music


In all of those, the "...days a week" clause is the more important.
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#951969 - 02/22/07 01:39 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
MrsSV Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/21/06
Posts: 519
 Quote:
Parents on the board, how long do you expect your children to practice each day, and how many times through a piece?
Short answer- I expect what the teacher assigns her- x number of times per piece 5 times a week.

But my daughter always does more (times and days).

Looking at Kreisler's numbers was helpful- and my daughter is close to that but not exact. She's intermediate level and practices 25-40 min. daily, but usually 6 times/week.

She's such a perfectionist within herself, she would just keep practicing more and more but I usually have her stop at whatever the assignment says. If it says 3 times, then 3 times it is. She usually wants to practice far more than the assignment. At her age I feel like I need to guard her from burnout- maybe I'll wake up and realize that 'burnout' is not in her, but I still feel like I have to be on guard about it. Plus, I look at the work load she has every week in piano and I just think it's too much (of course I don't say so)...and then I watch her carry the load like it's not heavy at all. It's interesting, that's for sure.

I remember when she was evaluated last May. I asked the teacher privately, "eventually her progress will slow down as the music gets harder, right?" and the teacher shocked me with the reply "she may never slow down". I still don't grasp that but I am watching it unfold. In reality it seems like she is actually learning harder stuff faster and faster. I really don't understand it but I find it very interesting.

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#951970 - 02/22/07 07:02 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Then there is that school thing that sometimes gets in the way.

30 minutes practice on piano and none on French horn yesterday. \:\(
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#951971 - 02/22/07 08:11 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
JBiegel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 850
Kreisler is on the money.

Flexibility is also an issue--if they rotate the various assignments so it's not the same everyday, it might help.

1: stretching exercise (a chord that fits their growing hand--each finger separately and slowly)
2: new piece
3: old piece
4: technical exercise (Czerny, Hanon, Fingerpower Books, etc based on level)
5: theory homework (Edith MacIntosh or Edna Mae Burnam or more advanced)
6: scales--review old one(s)and then new one or vice versa
7: back to new piece to finish

This is a generalization, but these items can be varied--perhaps after the stretching exercise (finger chord or something with each finger separately done 3 or 4X each), then start with item 3 and go forward, the next day item 4 starts etc. It makes it varied so it stays fresh.

Having a recording device to record the old piece when it feels right to play and hear it back may be helpful to do for the fun of it. There are millions of tactics to make that time go by without it seeming treacherous. (I like having the M&Ms around!!)
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#951972 - 02/22/07 09:02 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
sarabande Offline
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Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
I encourage students to mix their assignment around each day rather than always starting with the first item and working their way through. I also give students permission to leave one item off of their assignment each day or one item each week (as long as it's not the same item every time \:D ).

Piano Dad,

I have to laugh about the french horn and piano practice. I had a student taking french horn. The school had a very strict practice requirement and if you didn't practice, it counted against your grade. So when time ran short, the student practiced the french horn over the piano which happened quite a lot. It was again because it counted for a grade where as piano didn't.

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#951973 - 02/22/07 09:50 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
JBiegel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/16/07
Posts: 850
Do young students ever video tape themselves playing a piece when it gets to a certain level and share them online with friends? Or do they ever post them to YouTube? I wonder if it's a fun way to get them to perfect their pieces and post them--they get to see themselves on internet television.
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#951974 - 02/22/07 02:56 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Igor Stravinsky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/22/03
Posts: 231
Kreisler's post got me thinking:
Do high school students have that much time every day? My son (10 years old) is still in elementary school and every parent of bigger kids from his school of music says, "Use the elementary school years for piano practice, because when he reaches high school, it will be impossible". My son's piano practice takes up most of his time (when he is not at school, of course, or writing homework) and I cannot even imagine how he will cope with studies and piano in middle school and high school.
Any thoughts on this?

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#951975 - 02/22/07 03:50 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
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Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10422
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Does your elementary school have your son doing "insane" amounts of homework? The appropriate amount of homework to assign to young children is quite controversial and the real evidence on its effectiveness is quite limited. "Death by worksheet" is not a particularly appealing form of homework and I believe it is beginning to die out (I say, hopefully).

As children progress through middle school and into high school they learn better time-management skills, and they can get homework done more efficiently. At least that's the theory!

I have found that the big competition for time is not between homework and music but between music and other activities like after-school band, sports, and other extra-curricular activities.

A few posts up I complained about my son's inability to get his music done because of a homework flare-up. The real issue, though, is that his after-school band practice is what kept him in school all afternoon and THIS is what made homework push instrument practice to the sidelines. And there is another factor ....waiting until the last couple of days to do a major project for class. There's that time management issue!
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#951976 - 02/22/07 04:01 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Cephas:
Do high school students have that much time every day? My son (10 years old) is still in elementary school and every parent of bigger kids from his school of music says, "Use the elementary school years for piano practice, because when he reaches high school, it will be impossible".
Any thoughts on this? [/b]
I actually practiced more once I was in high school because by then music was such an important part of my life. It was my activity out of school. I think once children get to high school (up here around 13) whether or not they can commit to practice time becomes a matter of priority. Students who really love playing can excel, and students who are taking piano only because their parents make them will spend their time doing something else. Also, the volume of homework in high school usually causes parents and students to narrow down activities to ones that are important to them. If a 9th grade student has an activity going every day of the week everything is going to suffer. Consequently most the high school students I have had for lessons do their practicing because they love playing and have chosen to continue lessons. To force teenagers is a whole other issue.
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#951977 - 02/22/07 04:03 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Igor Stravinsky Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/22/03
Posts: 231
To me the amount of homework assigned in my son's school is excessive... But then maybe our time management skills need improvement. I had to cut his organ classes (and he liked them a lot) because we suddenly realized that we are overburdening him with work, plus his piano practice suffered. He doesn't have an after school band but he goes to chamber music classes once a week but his chamber music pieces require practice too. The real problem, as I see it, is that they spend what, 7 hours at school? If school started earlier and finished at around noon, then we'd be better off.

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#951978 - 02/22/07 04:05 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
LiszThalberg Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/13/06
Posts: 3288
I was told at the beginning of the year by a teacher[/b] that I should expect 2-3 hours of homework every night. That is what I get on average. Sometimes I'll do a "working" lunch to get a little bit ahead.

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#951979 - 02/22/07 04:13 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1547
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
 Quote:
Originally posted by StephanieF:

Parents on the board, how long do you expect your children to practice each day, and how many times through a piece? [/b]
I go by our teacher's recommendation of 30 minutes for elementary school. They go to lessons twice a week, so they practice five days per week.

As we've mentioned, though, time on task doesn't matter much if the time is poorly spent. I've tried to work with my boys on what is actually "practice," and what is playing, playing around, and clocking bench time. I do think I they could use a bit more structure from their teacher on this also, so I will mention it to her.

Homework is a huge issue at our house as well (my kids are in 5th grade). I have to admit that being a parent has completely changed how I use homework as a teacher.

Nancy
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#951980 - 02/22/07 04:22 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
John Citron Offline
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Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 3925
Loc: Haverhill, Massachusetts
 Quote:
Originally posted by Kreisler:
20-30 minutes 5 days a week for beginners

45 minutes 5 days a week at the intermediate level

1.5-2 hours 6 days a week for advanced students

3-4 hours a day 6 days a week for high school students hoping to pursue a degree in music


In all of those, the "...days a week" clause is the more important. [/b]
That is exactly what was expected of me when I was younger. The funny thing is if you don't count the minutes right down to the wire, the practicing just takes its course and the time increases with the complexity of the music.

In my high school years, I was doing the 3-4 hours a day plus longer on weekends.

John
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#951981 - 02/22/07 06:18 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
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Maybe, if Kreisler has objectively stated the expectations, we have the explanation as to why children stop playing their instruments.

I have no problem with anyone putting this much time into a recreational activity, but it is useful to note that few school subjects or sports would require the time suggested for advanced students year-round.

It doesn't seem that there's a shortage of concert pianists so I guess market forces are working well.

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#951982 - 02/22/07 06:49 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
gerg Offline
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I try to practice 1-3 hours daily, averaging about 2. This is without a teacher, with Chang's methods as my main guide, learning the pieces I love along with the technique needed to play them well.

As a general management principle, there are X- and Y- theory approaches to management of time. The former begins from the presupposition that workers (students) don't want to do the work and must be forced with carrot-and-stick methods. This is an approach appropriate for low-skilled labor and hourly wage earners. The latter assumes the worker wants to do the work for reasons of self-fulfillment, and seeks primarily to remove obstacles. As applied to piano, your future virtuosos likely belong to group for who the second approach is the most appropriate. A third approach, Theory Z, combines X and Y.

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#951983 - 02/22/07 07:08 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Kreisler Offline


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13818
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I've been thinking, and it seems that my original post needs one bit of explanation.

While the original question was how much time we might expect[/b] from students, I thought a bit of justification might help.

I expect that kind of time from students because that's (on the average) how much time it takes[/b] to really see improvement.

Many high school students can do very well in music and enjoy playing the instrument on 30 minutes a day, and they should be encouraged to do so. But if you want to go from playing Mozart 283 your Freshman year to playing Un Sospiro and Beethoven Op. 31#2 your Senior year, it's going to take some work.

I just wanted to put my comments in context. The times I listed are for the average student who wants to see real improvement and become a good pianist with a wide ranging repertoire and a secure technique. However, I do believe very strongly that students should be encouraged so long as their interest remains, regardless of how much time they spend practicing.

Also...as regards the hours being an awful lot for high school students - it *is* a lot of time to spend during high school. I myself was unable because I came from a lower middle class family and I had to get a 20 hour/week job in addition to school. I was lucky to get 1.5-2 hours a day 4 days a week. (And it shows - my technique isn't as sturdy as most pianists, and I still have to practice a lot if I want to sound good.) But high school students routinely spend a great deal of time on other pursuits. Sports is the obvious one - hours of practice each day plus games on the weekends. Forensics is another. I got lucky, I have a sticky brain so I didn't have to study much, and I wasn't one of those overachievers who took all honors classes just to boost their GPA. I took calculus because I liked math, but I took "normal" English 'cause I didn't have the time or the desire to read the Grapes of Wrath.
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#951984 - 02/22/07 10:10 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
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Kreisler,

You were perfectely clear. Your recommendation on appropriate time for high school students is very sensible, and you qualified it by saying that it was for high school students who saw themselves going for university-level training in music.

Middle school and high school students who enjoy music, but who do not intend to pursue a music career (and for whom a conservatory is not in the cards) can still make progress on substantially less time.

I suppose Dorrie also has a point. Many children do drop out because they can't sense much advancement on short practice times and this likely affects their enthusiasm for the instrument. They also see their peers who work more accelerating past them.

Lastly, to Cephas: you yearn for the German system. Five hours of school per day, ending around noon. Very academic, no "recess" and no non-academic subjects. Not much homework either, especially of the "pointless drill" kind that dominates in American schools public and private.
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#951985 - 02/22/07 10:42 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Kreisler Offline


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Posts: 13818
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Believe it or not, there is a fairly strong trend in the United States against "pointless drill."

Once the latest generation of teachers comes of age, I think we'll see a big improvement.
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#951986 - 02/23/07 08:58 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
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My point is that if we (parents and teachers) see musical lteracy as important, and see instrumental education as an important part of developing consumers of high quality music, we ought to see a way to make piano accessible, and acceptable to persons willing to put in a consistent, but lower level of effort. I really thought Kreisler's second post made that point well.


I think it is important for the teacher and student to have clear expectations on the level of committment - if the teacher is expecting 2 hours a day from a high school student and the child can only do 40 minnutes problems will occur. The child won't be able to meet the teacher's expectations, will feel like a failure and will quit.

The parent's expectations need to be in line too. One can have "music for a lifetime" on under an hour of practice a day, but your child isn't likely to be a virtuoso on that amount of time. There is plenty of accessible music available.

If the lower level of committment can't be accomodated in a particular instructor's studio, a graceful way out should be used. I'd hate to see a high schooler made to feel like a failure because s/he couldn't handle 90 minutes of daily practice


OT - I don't see much pointless drill in our local school system. I do see a lot of inefficient use of time where the children are essentially held in school while various admnistrative processes go on.

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#951987 - 02/23/07 09:12 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
ftp Offline
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Loc: Philadelphia
I've learned alot from this thread. Many thanks to all.

While I intuititively understand the effort-outcome relationship I hadn't heard it expressed so well.

It begs the question in my mind at least, is this part of the problem why so many kids don't stick with an instrument; that is to say that perceived progress is slower than other activities? Also what about 'plateauing' or hitting a wall if practice time doesn't progressivley increase-does this kill desire?

Does an instrument and piano in particular require more practice to see a progressive positive result than alternatives? And if this is the case, does understanding the effort-outcome relationship help a parent/student decide for themselves where they want to be on the continuum?

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#951988 - 02/23/07 09:20 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
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I have to wonder how much of the problem with kids dropping out of piano is not as much the practice, but the isolation when practicing. Many children stick with band instruments because of the social aspect. I wonder if that is what is missing.
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#951989 - 02/23/07 09:40 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
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Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
FTP -

I think promoters of other activities (i.e sports) have found ways to make it acceptable and enjoyable at lower levels of achievement.

After all, if Graf (an ice skate manufacturer)had to rely on NHLers and Olympic hopefuls to purchase skates, they wouldn't make any money.

My eldest son whose better sport is ice hockey wouldn't give up his recreational soccer league for anything. He's not a great player - neither are most of the other 6,000 kids that play in our county's league. But for 6 weeks in the fall and 8 in the spring all those 6,000 kids are tearing up fields.

Perhaps the issue is whether instrumental music should be treated like an academic subject where there is an expected achievement trajectory (and not meeting that trajectory is failure) or whether it is a recreational/hobby activity with a greater emphasis on participation.

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#951990 - 02/23/07 10:35 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Early on in lessons, if not at the initial interview, I tell parents/students this story. Frank Sinatra (if they're old enough to remember him) was once asked how much he worked on a new song before singing it in public. He replied he sang every song 1,000 times before he ever let anyone else hear it in public. So then I ask my students that if you play a piece six times every day, how many days of practice before you're ready to perform? After major prompting, because schools no longer teach them how to do simple arithmetic in their heads, we come up with 167 days. Sometimes one of the brighter kids come up with, "How about practicing it 10 times a day, so it will be ready in 3 months?" I suggest that they go home and practice every pice ten times and report back to me next week how it went. You all know what happens.

But there is a point to this story. It takes time for the mind to get it's musical grasp around a piece of music, and it takes repetition for the body to master control over the fine motor skills required to play a piece well.

What we teachers need to do is find ways to clearly but kindly communicate this to both parent and student.
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#951991 - 02/24/07 08:50 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
tjbsb Offline
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Registered: 01/29/07
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Ahhh, let's not forget that for 95% of kids that play piano, the other homework stuff is usually more important Except for those students planning a career in music, the SAT just does not have a music section. The development of good math skills in particular requires a significant amount of practice, which teachers call homework.

I'm not saying piano is not good or important. It is a skill that can give somebody joy for their entire lives. Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that it assists in the development of anlytical thinking and improves academic scores in math and science.

The key, as in everything else in life, is balance. For a child the time has to be available for music studies, academic studies, organized sports and plain old unstructured play time. That is why I strongly agree with those that suggest on the order of 30 minutes of day for yound students. Eventually the child will usually decide to unbalance things on their own based on what makes them excited. Not all will choose music as their passion but those that do will teach the next generation.

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#951992 - 02/24/07 11:04 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
sarabande Offline
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Registered: 11/18/05
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Loc: Mo.
How many of us adults who are still playing the piano after all these years (still loving and enjoying piano) have since the beginning practiced faithfully every day at the expected amount of time per day? \:D

Would students who really love playing the piano quit because they didn't or couldn't meet the required practice time or because they hit a plateau and couldn't get any further? I procrastinated all the time (between ages 12 and 17, I would say the majority of weeks I practiced 2-4 days a week usually practicing like crazy 2 days before lessons sort of like cramming for a test. It's the way I was with school work too and most everything). I also hit a plateau at around level 4 in the red John Thompson books or equivalent of that level in music where no matter how much harder I practiced and worked, I couldn't get any farther and wasn't happy with how the pieces or my playing sounded. I thought that was it, that I'd be forever at that level the rest of my life. Did any of that deter me from wanting to keep playing the piano? I never gave a single thought to quitting piano because I loved music. I knew I would stay in it for the long haul regardless of how well I could play or not. I'm not as far along as I could have been. But I'm still here!

I have a hard time comprehending a student who really loves piano quitting just because they don't always have enough time to practice or because they feel like they have hit a brick wall in their playing ability. I always thought if a person really has a passion for something like music, a sport, writing, history, etc., etc., one would not let a few set backs as far as lack of time or progress, cause you to drop that pursuit for good.

As far as not enough time to practice because other things get in the way, I've been there many many times with piano as I'm sure we all have. Lack of time, however, has never caused me to quit altogether.

Also, as the old saying goes, "you make time". Everyone should be able to squeeze in 10 minutes a day even on extremely busy days if they wanted to. Practicing a couple scales and a little bit of one or two songs at a time every day for 10 min. even if one had to alter one song one day, the other the next - that's still progress. It may not get you to concert performance level but it would still add up over time of how many pieces of music you could learn.

One of the students I had who came for weeks on end without practicing at all (her grandma wanted her to take lessons and paid for them while her mother brought her and wasn't really into the idea), she would always rattle off this long list of things she had to do with homework, etc. I timed one of her pieces and it took 90 seconds to play through it. I said, "could you find 90 seconds out of your day to play this piece through each day?" She said, "yes". That was her assignment for the week then. And she came to the next lesson able to play the piece perfectly. It jumpstarted her practice and she played it more than that each day once she got started. It was to prove a point that she did have time to at least do a little each day.

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#951993 - 02/24/07 11:45 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Flute Offline
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Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by sarabande:
How many of us adults who are still playing the piano after all these years (still loving and enjoying piano) practiced faithfully every day at the expected amount of time per day? \:D [/b]
Good point! I think there were probably more weeks that my teacher got on my case about practicing than didn't certain years.

Through senior high school, with advanced students I usually tell them 2 hours of practicing is expected. This is mainly because I know that they don't realistically have time for more than that. Sometimes only one hour is possible on a busy school day, and then weekends become more productive. Also they know that I feel school work should come first. Even if you do have a promising student who wants to persue a degree in music, good luck getting in to a good university without a good grade point average! I also ease up during exam periods. The bottom line is that piano teachers have to be realistic. School is more important.

This is where summer lessons can be a great option!
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#951994 - 02/26/07 05:32 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Violin Offline
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Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
Lastly, to Cephas: you yearn for the German system. Five hours of school per day, ending around noon. Very academic, no "recess" and no non-academic subjects. Not much homework either, especially of the "pointless drill" kind that dominates in American schools public and private. [/b]
German students would love school to be like that ... It's probably shorter than in most other countries and without a lot of the "drill-type" work, but will go into the ealier or occasionally later afternoon hours, and include homework which will keep them pretty busy for a while, depending on which school it is, of course.

While we are talking about different school systems, I have a feeling that pedagogy in Germany has for a pretty long time not only been anti-drill but also anti-excellence.

Highly intelligent kids are among those who find least support for their development in our school to the extent that they drop out eventually, the anti-drill ideal kids and their parents - and sometimes the grand-parents already - were raised with, clashes with "repeat this piece 10 times", you need to practice your instrument for 2 hours, you need to really focus on this activity at the expense of your other 10 activities if you want to be really good at it.

With a somewhat superior tone you may hear "Drill for excellence" is something kids in Russia, the Far East, and more moderately, in the US are exposed to ... - we won't go for THAT!" ... In a German internet forum there's the occasional complaint that "most of the few conservatory places are taken by Asians and Russians, we didn't even have a chance".

A tennis trainer we know once mentioned:

What's the difference between a German and an American or a Russian?

You tell the German lad to make 1,000 serves and he'll start a discussion on why he should do that.

You tell an American or Russian to make 1,000 serves and they'll ask: how long, what type of serve, with or without spin?

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#951995 - 02/26/07 05:33 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Violin Offline
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#951996 - 02/26/07 10:42 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
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P&V,

I may indeed have gotten my hours wrong, but it's still the case that the school day ends early, and the emphasis is almost completely on academic subjects. My source of information is a colleague whose kids are in a German gymnasium this year. The kids are home for lunch. They love the system. They believe their kids are challenged more than in US schools and they find that the school atmosphere is more tolerant of kids who are different from their peers. I realize this is just an anecdote, and I shouldn't generalize about all German education from it.

Your point about drill is very interesting, and it points to the importance of drill for certain things. All too much academic work in US schools, however, is "pointless drill" because it aims at a level of understanding that is too low for half or more of the students, and mind numbingly low (and repetitive) for the top 5% of students.

On the other hand, an important component of mastering the piano is learning a physical skill. There is much more to piano, of course, but repetitive hand training is indeed very important. That is indeed why drill is crucial, and learning this sort of repetitive physical motion requires time, and a lot of it. Hence we're here discussing appropriate practice time!

Many American students (like the German examples you give) are also allergic to drill, and hence resistant to extended practice time. Whether this is due to the prevalence of other opportunities (in sports or other activities) or due to shortened attention spans in general I don't know. But if you attend just about any piano competition in the US, even entry-level competitions of the sort my son participates in, you will see a preponderance of well-trained Asian-American students snapping up most of the top awards.
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#951997 - 02/26/07 11:17 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano&Violin Offline
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Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany
Piano Dad,

School days depend on the individual school, and in average they "should" end around 1 or 2 pm. But there are quite a few grammar schools (gymnasium) who have (mandatory) afternoon lessons for lack of space or because it wouldn't fit into a morning. The system also varies a little from Bundesland to Bundesland as goes for the demand of knowledge and work.

The German school system is known to be more or less "lousy", as has been shown in the Pisa study repeatedly. One thing which surprises me is that it takes the schools to teach the kids to read and write (those they do manage to teach this at all ...) 1.5 years or so. With class sizes around 30 pupils when I started school, we did read and write fluently after 1/2 year, and that was a very normal school, no posh private one.

Unfortunately, many subjects are cut from the lessons, such as music, sports, arts, or anything that authorities consider "not vital" because it makes a student's life poorer. And though I would pay music school for a child many parents would not. And how is a student to get in touch with music/music making then.

I am not in favour of following blindly as this would produce the perfect person for a dictatorship, but sound knowledge that x amount work/effort is needed for x result would be beneficial as would be some appreciation for a student or adult who does work hard and is successful.

I'm surprised to hear that it's also the well-trained Asian-American students snapping up most of the top awards. From working for American companies and overseas State govenment offices I've come to know many Americans are really hard-working and dedicated to their work. But maybe that's a selective understanding as there are some criteria to be met to be sent overseas first.

Don't know, if people over here would distinguish between American and Asian-American in sports or music, maybe it's the Asian-Amerian who are responsible for the US-reputation?

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