Teaching Practice Techniques

Teaching practice techniques is one of the most rewarding things a teacher can do (or at least, that’s my opinion :)). When you teach a student how to practice, your teaching is no longer limited to the music he/she is learning. Suddenly, their potential to grow and strengthen outside of the lesson time is escalated to hitherto unknown levels.

There are two main things a teacher can do when teaching practice techniques and they are both increased in effectiveness when you use them together.

  1. Demonstrate
  2. Explain

Most of us learn best by example, so demonstration is an incredible tool to have at your fingertips. This can take a little bit of extra work on the teacher’s part, because now, instead of saying “work on measures 7-8 and make the notes even,” we have to work through exactly how to get those stubborn sixteenths even. There are scores of good techniques for learning various skills in each of the different instruments, so work to have these ready to use at a moment’s notice.

I find it helpful to demonstrate a technique a time or two, depending on the situation. Then, I’ll demonstrate it again step by step, talking about exactly what I’m doing and how. I don’t usually like to let a student leave a lesson until they have tried and succeeded at mastering at least one facet of what we talked about, so after I have demonstrated with explanation, I let them try. I usually have them work on a smaller section than my original demonstration: maybe just two measures instead of eight, or sometimes half a measure instead of 2 whole lines – this just needs discretion because you want them to succeed at whatever you give them to do.

The student’s work will probably need to be alternated with more demonstration and explanation, but that’s okay! A big point here is to not leave a subject until there is a thorough understanding of what is desired as a goal, clearly defined steps to get there, and some (usually small for lack of time) level of success accomplished. Once they have mastered it on a small area, you may desire to repeat the process on a larger section or just on another section. In some cases, it is equally effective to just verbally apply it for their reference at home.

Depending on the maturity of the student, the distance of time between lessons, and their track record for being able to remember what you say :), writing down the practice technique(s) in detailed instructions can be very helpful. See also “Forgetful Students” for more tips on taking notes in a memorable way.

Don’t be afraid of taking lots of time to make sure your point is carried. If you spend half of the lesson discussing how to practice one phrase, your time is not wasted. Every technique you instill into your student is an investment into their ability to practice well in the future, which is actually an investment into their being able to continue progressing into the boundless levels of advanced repertoire.

 

Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 1-2. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 24 pages. Alfred Music #00-6583. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6583).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 3. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 32 pages. Alfred Music #00-6584. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6584).
Cover tiny file look inside Masterwork Technical Skills Level 4. Edited by Jane Magrath. Graded Standard Repertoire; Masterworks; Piano Collection; Technique Musicianship. Technical Skills. Masterwork. Book. 32 pages. Alfred Music #00-6585. Published by Alfred Music (AP.6585).

 

If you found this post helpful, please consider leaving feedback in the comment section below. Also, read other posts on music pedagogy here.

 

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