Wow! (or how to get good at piano)

A few weeks ago, two different piano parents asked me if I noticed anything different about their child at the most recent lesson. My response was, “Yes! Wow! What happened?!” The parents’ answer was, “I helped my child get to the piano every day this week.”

Success in piano is very much dependent on three things – the teacher, the student, and the parents.

Typically a teacher and student only spend about an hour together each week. At lessons I explain new concepts and demonstrate the physical aspects of creating sound on the piano. I teach good practice strategies and habits. Usually the student leaves the lesson with a clear understanding of the new concept or skill. After the lesson I email detailed instructions about what to do at home during the week. And at the next week’s lesson I review the student’s understanding or proficiency of the new concept or skill.

The student should be at the piano every day. I suggest practising 30 to 60 minutes per day, five to seven days per week. (Advanced repertoire demands 90, 120, and even 180 minutes per day.) It really does take a lot of time to get good at piano, and it is harder than it looks. The student should be reading their homework instructions at the start of each practice session and setting a daily goal for what they intend to accomplish. [Read this post about what good practising sounds like.]

The parents’ part of piano success is perhaps the most important – parents help the student schedule their practice time. It’s one thing to register for piano lessons, but it’s another thing to create time in each day for your child to practice. And what child excels at time management? By a parent insisting that piano practice is a part of every day, a student can achieve the frequent repetition necessary to master a new skill. I also want to acknowledge my piano parents’ many other contributions – teaching assistant, financial backer, chauffeur, cheerleader, and having a desire to enrich their children’s lives with music.

So the difference in these two students at that lesson was so dramatic. The students were extra cheerful and confident. They had mastered the new skills in their assignments and were eager to show me. It was a pleasure to listen to music done well. They had completed all their weekly goals, and we set off on some new discoveries. Live is busy, and it is a big challenge to meet weekly practice targets – even for me! If only all our days and weeks went according to plan. [P.S. to my piano parents: If you are facing daily battles to get your child to the piano, let’s have a chat.]

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