HOW MUCH SHOULD I PRACTICE?
Beginners are generally asked to play each assigned song 5 times during each practice session
for around the first six months. Their practice time will often only amount to 5 – 10 minutes
until their songs become more complicated. Initially they are using skills they already have
mastered (the alphabet from A to G, counting to 4, and numbering their fingers from one to
five). Once they must play by note, not finger numbers, things get more challenging for many.
Be ready for this.
The expected length of practice time for more advanced students is at least 30 minutes daily on
up to 60 minutes or more depending on the length of the lesson and the repertoire. The most
important aspect of practice is feeling that you’ve made some headway for that day towards
meeting our lesson goals.
The most meaningful practice for a student consists of reviewing their songs at home for a few
minutes the same day they have their lesson, so they will remember what and how to practice
their assignment more clearly the rest of their week.
Each piece should be practiced in the manner we “practiced it” during the last lesson with effort
towards improving whatever we discussed and rehearsed. In general, students are initially
asked to analyze a piece – look for repeats, steps, skips, chords, anything that will help them
learn the piece more quickly. We then practice a short phrase right hand alone, left hand alone,
then that phrase is played with both hands together carefully. This is how they should learn
the tricky parts of every piece they practice. I note on the music what needs special attention
whether it be counting, names of notes, and I circle dynamic signs if they have been overlooked.
Students are always assigned certain things to master in their songs each week and have
practiced all of these things in the lesson with me so I know they can do it. By practicing as I
described, most lesson book songs can be mastered in one to two weeks.
An advanced student may need to practice at least 3 months or more on a song/program to
polish it at a level that makes them competitive. During this time they will be assigned easier
short songs for variation and continued learning.
Once you are beyond your beginning books, playing a song over and over without special
attention to the more difficult passages will not improve your song at all. It is not an
acceptable way to practice.
Taking some time each week to sight read new songs is highly encouraged. Sight-reading is
simply playing through songs, generally that are easier than your lessons songs, without trying
to work through trouble spots. The goals is to see how well you can play them first time
During January when we spend the majority of our lessons time orchestrating songs for the
Clavinova Festival, I still expect the student to practice other songs each day, even though I
may not be able to hear those songs for a few lessons. Continued practice has not been a
problem for students who also elect to enter the Three-movement Sonatina Competition held a
few weeks after the Clavinova Festival!
Confident playing happens as the result of regular daily careful practice, not from “crammed”
practice done at the last minute. It is so important to avoid procrastination habits that create
anguish and result in performance at a level less that we’d like .