This is how I recommend that students structure their home music practise. I encourage you to schedule daily practise to ensure that it gets done. Please record the practise time in the Student Portal once it has been completed.
If I have assigned some theory worksheets, then getting them out of the way early on means they won’t be forgotten!
2. Warm Up
All technical work (warm ups, scales, arpeggios and other exercises) assigned / required for their level.
Go through all assigned pieces and work on areas that need extra attention. Simply playing a song through from beginning to end over and over does NOT fix problem areas! Nor does stopping at the problem spot and starting over fix a problem. It just makes you even better at the beginning of the song.
To fix areas that need improvement (which will typically be marked on the piece and mentioned in the lesson notes):
- Isolate the particular problem area, e.g. play the single bar or phrase hands separately.
- When the bar can be played correctly hands separately, bring the hands together.
- If the problem has been solved, play it through a few more times, then move on.
- If not, return to playing hands separately a few more times before trying together again.
- When the bar can be played, move on to a bigger unit, such as the phrase it belongs to.
- If the whole phrase can be played correctly, play it through a few more times for good luck, then move on.
- If not, return to playing the single bar hands together a few more times before trying the whole phrase again.
- Continue moving up to bigger and bigger sections of the song that contain the problem area.
- Finally, play the whole song from beginning to end.
Take advantage of technology!
Many lesson books come with CDs that allow you to listen to how the song should be played. Please make use of these!
I am increasingly making use of beginner series that offer technology to practise along with at home that can be slowed down and sped up as progress is made, such as books available in Piano Maestro, or for those without an iPad the Bastien New Traditions series has software that can be downloaded onto a computer. If a student can’t remember what they learned that week, at the very least they can listen to and try to play along with the songs (so they can hear when what they are playing doesn’t match with the recording). Piano Maestro will help prompt them with what the correct note should be if they use the Learn mode (best option) or try the song with the Hold on.
For exam pieces, YouTube recordings likewise exist that show how the song should be played (I recommend those by Alan Chan). I will often show these to students during the lesson, and may put links in the lesson notes for them to watch again at home. Listening again to these recordings at home or watching the videos is very important to help the student understand what they are aiming for. When they can play along with the recording, they have mastered the main parts of the song in terms of correct notes, rhythm and speed (there may also be elements of dynamics, phrasing, touch, pedal use etc to be addressed..)
4. Aural practise
For students preparing for exams which have aural components, aural practice will be required. For students in Grades 1 and higher with access to an iPad, this can be done using the free “AMEB Aural Book” app.
I will usually provide notes on other ways to practise for aural tests at home.
5. Piano Maestro free play / Free play of other songs
I try to find out from students what types of songs they like and am happy to source additional songs for them to play for fun. If you use Piano Maestro, please do let your child spend some time exploring the plethora of songs available there – it is great sight reading practise, and there is a wide range of songs to suit all interests and levels, even to quite advanced levels!
I encourage you to also source music for them, by going to a music store and purchasing a book or sheet music, or you can purchase individual songs online from music publishers (G Major Music Theory offers some free piano sheet music for beginners through to intermediate level). I can either recommend what “level” of book they would need to look for (“Easy” piano does not apply to beginners, but to students who have passed several exams!), or else take your lesson book with you and the staff can assist with pointing you to the relevant section. After all, the whole point of learning to play is enjoying music!