Practice Tips - Christie Chiles Twillie

Use a notebook to write down regular lesson assignments. Students are capable of writing down their own assignments most of the time. Keep a notebook nearby and have it available at lessons. I also suggest using the notebook for writing down questions that came up during the week’s practice.

b) Students should think of practice music in the same way they view homework. First and foremost, it’s important to review what as previously learned and to know when to leave it to focus on other parts of their assignment. Second isolate small section of the music that are challenging. Break the section down slowly and focus on the few notes or beats are the most difficult. Then gradually add a few more notes before and after the “hard spot” so the student becomes comfortable working toward the difficult spot and past the difficult spot. Third, remind the student to make their music very expressive and to follow the marks that are in their score. What is the tempo? What dynamic and expression marks are in the music? How does the must change between each of those point in time. Fourth, it very important for musicians to maintain a steady tempo and consistent flow when they are playing. I highly suggest using a metronome and working at slow to moderate tempos until the student is very comfortable and the mistakes has disappeared. When students start to get tired let them take break. Find something else to do that is unrelated to practicing, and then ask them to go back and work for a few more minutes later. Remember we are concerned with the quality of the practice not the quantity. Sometimes, shorter sessions are better than very long ones.

c) You take time to review what was previously learned first, work on the elements that are still challenging second, ensure that all of your assignments are completed prior to the next lesson third, and ask the teacher questions during and outside of the class to ensure success fourth. Since we do not typically have “Exams” during lessons, consider memorization and performances as the examination opportunity. This is when the student should exude their proficiency of the instrument.
b) Make sure that the student understands that practicing piano is a priority for the family regardless of how busy your schedule may be.
c) Parents sit down with the student and schedule practice time within your weekly schedule. Student should practice for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week.
d) Parents, when you remind the student to practice, never tell them to go and play the song through (x) amount of times. This does not promote successful practice. Instead ask them to work on the difficult parts of their music first. If the student practices in this manner for 2 or 3 practice sessions, it will make putting everything together much easier. If a passage is too difficult to work on hands together, then separate the hands and work on only a few notes within a passage at a time until the notational reading is secure. Then write in the counts and continue practicing hands separately. While playing very slowing gradually put the hands together. You will know that the tempo is slow enough if the student can play both hands correctly at the tempo (speed).
e) Sit with your child and listen to them play. It’s important that they know they have your support.
f) Take time to work on theory or supplemental assignments outside of the minimum 30 minute practice time. Sit with the student while he/she checks his or her work.
g) Help your child to review old music concepts.
h) Make sure they are reading the notes on the page. If your student requires the keyboard chart and or hand position listed at the top of the page, take a piece of paper and cover it up so they are required to read the notes on the page.
i) If your child pauses while playing they should practice at a slow tempo with a metronome until they can execute the passage without stopping. As the student becomes better, increase the metronomes tempo by 3 or 4 notches at a time. Remain on a tempo until the excerpt can be played without the old problems.
j) Most students have small practice sections that they can master. This is good, but make sure the student is also practicing connecting sections. Ask them to play from the last 2 measures of the old section to the first two measures of the new section.
k) If your child has a problem with eye movement while observing the page, take a pencil and point to the notes as they play. In the beginning your goal is to be 1 or 2 notes ahead of where they actually are in the music. Even though your pencil is ahead the student should not play the rhythm incorrect or speed up. Use of a metronome with help them to keep the pulse. Eventually you should be able to more your pencil a measure ahead of where they are playing in their music. This takes a lot of practice, but trains an excellent sight reader.
l) When we play the piano, we do not do so on flat fingers. The ideal hand shape for your child would be almost like the letter “C.” Even their thumb should be slightly bent at the joint closest to the nail. The arch of the hand can be found right in the center of the palm. This space should be hollow. You child’s hands should always be relaxed when in these shapes, never rigid. The student’s palm should not be flat unless they are playing larger intervals on the piano such as 7th, octaves, etc. This is the point we you might also notice a shift in the shape of their fingers. Now instead of playing on their finger tips, they would be playing on a more elongated finger tip.
m) The ideal wrist height would mean that is flat on a continuous extension of the arm. A student’s wrist should not be elevated and fall below the height of the keys.
n) If you see your child’s fingers sticking out as the play, remind them to relax and place their finger back down on the key.
o) Your child’s hands should not roll toward their pinky. Instead think of the weight first being distributed over the thumb and third finger so that the 4th finger and pinky can be curved and on their finger tips.
p) Help your child to figure out the rhythm of their music by observing the time signature. Remind them of the note values and ask them to add of the counts in the music.

If the bottom number of the time signature is a 4 then the following would be true:
The quarter note receives the pulse. Therefore note durations are as follows:

1. quarter note = 1 count
2. dotted quarter note = 1 ½ counts
3. half note = 2 counts
4. dotted half note = 3 counts
5. whole note = 4 counts
6. eighth note = ½ count
7. a pair of eighth notes would be counted “one and” or “two and,” etc..
8. Sixteenth notes = ¼ count. When grouped in fours we say “1 e and a”

If the bottom number of the time signature is an 8, then the following would be true:
The eighth note receives the pulse. Every note’s previous value is doubled.
Therefore note durations are as follows:

1. eighth note = 1 count
2. quarter note = 2 counts
3. dotted quarter note = 3 counts
4. half note = 4 counts
5. dotted half note = 6 counts
6. whole note = 8 counts
7. dotted whole note = 12 counts
8. sixteenth note= ½ count
9. Pair of sixteenth notes count “1 and.”
10. Thirty second notes = ¼ count. When grouped in fours we say “1 e and a.”