Practicing the piano: methods and techniques on how to get students to practice

A great piano lesson is useless if it isn’t followed by some dedicated practicing time.

Like anything new we are learning, whether it be math, science, a foreign language, or music, the concept won’t stick in our brains until we’ve practiced and become familiar with it.

Here are some great tips I found from another piano teacher’s blog for an efficient piano practicing session:

  1. Get organized
  2. Focus on one task at a time
  3. Only practice with full concentration
  4. Always warm up first
  5. Practice slowly
  6. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of mistakes
  7. Practice only short passages
  8. Schedule your practice sessions
  9. Keep a practice journal
  10. Study away from the piano

However, after a complicated lesson and the introduction of some difficult new songs, practicing can seem like a chore.

The first piano teacher I had required me to practice seven days a week for at least 15 minutes each day. That was a lot for 6-year-old. When I think back, that strict practicing policy probably paid off. But, I don’t require as much practicing time from my students.

I ask my students to practice three times for at least 15 minutes. Of course, they are always welcome to practice more if they’d like (and some of them do!)

So how do you get students to actually practice?

The secret is rewarding. Literally.

When I first start lessons with a student I buy them a sticker chart, like the one below.

These can be found at an office supply store, a teaching store, or some free practice charts you can print from home.

I usually get them laminated so that the stickers can peel off easily and the chart can be reused. Then buy some stickers (make sure they are small enough to fit in each box.)

Depending on the size of your chart, the student has to practice about 25 times to fill up the chart. Once it’s filled up, they get a candy treat of their choice!

It’s cheap, it’s easy to do, and most importantly, it works!

My students are always motivated to practice more, especially if they are close to filling up their chart.

A great way to keep parents involved is by having them sign off each time their child practices. I have them log the date their child practiced and for how long he or she practiced.

How do you motivate your students to practice? I’d love to hear your fun ideas!


2 thoughts on “Practicing the piano: methods and techniques on how to get students to practice

  1. Sometimes, for me, getting students the music they want entails me transcribing a particular pop song for them, that involves a lot of decisions for me about trying to be true to the original melody so the students can play along with the track (key, rhythm, register, etc) or transpose the piece to an easier key and with a simplified rhythm which will enable them to play it more easily. Sometimes giving them a very difficult transcription which is clearly beyond their current abilities is an excellent motivator, and sometimes it isnt, every student is a unique individual who responds to a wide range of positive or negative reinforcements- some will rise to the challenge and work their butts off to be able to conquer the piece and some will curl up in a little tearful ball and quit. One parent came up with an excellent motivator for her daughter (who was a very commercially minded girl), she paid her $5 for every day that she practiced on her own for 30 minutes or more- but at the end of the week the child had to pay for her lesson herself. Pretty quickly the student realized that if she practiced 7 days a week she would be turning a $10 profit weekly, and promptly doubled her efforts at home. Everyone is different, and part of our job as teachers is learning what makes each pupil tick, and helping them develop good discipline which will reward them with a wealth of achievements, both in music and life. This is the way we do it at my studio, anyway…

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