Posted on October 29, 2012 by Andrea

How do you tell parents to structure practice at home? I hear from parents, “He plays all of his scales and song and then says, “I’m done”. How long should practice be for different age ranges? 5-9?

This is a question I get a lot from my piano studio parents.  “How long should she practice for?” or  ”How much time should he be spending at the piano?”

They are usually somewhat surprised by my answer.  Until I explain.

Who Decided On 30 Minutes?

Setting time limits for home piano practice is simply convenient.  Parents can say “There.  She was at the piano for 30 minutes.”  Teachers can say “He practices for 30 minutes every night.”  Therefore he or she must be progressing… right?

Well… usually.  If you sit at the piano for long enough eventually your skills will improve.

But the more important questions should actually be “How should she practice?” or “How should he be spending his time at the piano?” Because if the focus is only on the amount of time spent at the piano, we’re missing a significant chunk of the purpose behind piano practicing.

It’s not about the time spent, but rather how you spent your time.

Teaching our piano students to become efficient practisers seems counterproductive.  After all… if they are efficient then it would mean that they’d end up spending less time on the piano!  But the truth is that the opposite actually happens.  Your piano students learn to practice efficiently… they progress more quickly… their enjoyment of the instrument increases substantially.  This increased enjoyment leads to motivation to practice for the sheer enjoyment of mastering the instrument; of being immersed in wonderful music.  And then you have a true musician.

If we as piano teachers shift our focus away from stopwatches and oven timers (which as a young child I would always sneak into the kitchen to twist it forward anyway!) and instead turn towards teaching our students effective and focused practice techniques then practice hours will increase as a lovely by-product.

Granted… teaching effective practice techniques to a 7 year old is no easy task.  Which is why we created our newest resource “Shhh… Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice”.  The 88 exercises in this book are designed to give your piano students the guidance they need to truly practice… not just play and fill practice time.  But… there is a whole lot of play involved, because this book is ridiculously fun.  Watch out oven timers… with this book in the hands of piano students everywhere you may have just met your match!