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#951981 - 02/22/07 06:18 PM Re: Practice time expected for students
Dorrie Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
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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Registered: 02/02/07
Posts: 1651
Loc: Houston, TX
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.

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


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
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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Registered: 04/12/05
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Loc: Williamsburg, VA
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


Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13780
Loc: Iowa City, IA
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
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 438
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
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/10/05
Posts: 2365
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
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/06
Posts: 384
Loc: Alberta, Canada
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
Full Member

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
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7355
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
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
Full Member

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 256
Loc: Houston, TX
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
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
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
Full Member

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
Full Member

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
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/06
Posts: 356
Loc: Frankfurt, Germany

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#951996 - 02/26/07 10:42 AM Re: Practice time expected for students
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10356
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
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
Full Member

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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