Instrumental Practice, Part 3: GOODWIN FAMILY

Thanks to piano mom, Jodi Goodwin, for sharing her valuable insight! From Jodi…

Piano practicing is one of the greatest contributors or one of the biggest barriers to a child succeeding with piano proficiency.  You can have the best teacher in the world, but if your child doesn’t practice, they will not learn to play the piano well.

After growing up in a home where my mother taught piano for 25 years and after working with my five children, I have learned that piano practicing is up to the parent, not the child.  Let me explain- if the parent doesn’t invest the time with the child from the very beginning, the child will not learn to play the piano.  A child can’t be in charge because they do not have the wisdom to understand that sacrifice now will pay off, but at a much later date.

Here are a few suggestions that I have to make learning the piano successful:

  1. Be consistent.  When my children started piano lessons, the most important thing was that I was consistent I had to make piano practicing a priority and make sure that I scheduled it as a priority.  If I didn’t set aside a time every day, practicing didn’t happen.  I discovered several interesting things:  when my children  practiced every day, they progressed and were excited about playing the piano.  They want to practice!  They felt successful and in control !!

However, if they didn’t practice, they didn’t progress.  When they didn’t progress, they became frustrated and felt out of control.  When they became frustrated, they didn’t like the piano and wanted to quit.

  1. Know what they need to practice (their assignments) and how to practice their assignment.  I found that I needed to sit down with them every time in the beginning and make sure that they were practicing correctly.  My children frequently needed to be corrected during their practicing.  I found that simple corrections in rhythms, notes, or even fingerings made a big difference in their progression.  Together, we learned that perfect practice makes perfect and that imperfect practice makes a lot of work later (because you have to unlearn the incorrect way and relearn it the right way).
  2. Immerse your child in piano music! Listening to music helped my children play the piano better!  We listened to classical piano pieces, modern piano pieces, and hymns.  We would talk about the music, make up stories to the music, and talk about the pianist.  It made them want to play the piano even more!
  3. Make practicing fun! We would put stickers on a chart.  The stickers led to rewards that each child wanted.  We also make up lyrics to the music that they were learning.  We made practicing fun and not a chore.
  4. Adapt practicing to your child. Not every child can sit at the piano for 15 minutes or an hour.  Sometimes, my child would practice for 5 minutes, take a break (sometimes a long break- a really long break) and come back to the piano for another 5 minutes.  Gradually, we could increase the time.
  5. Be realistic. Most people want their child to take piano lessons so that they can “just play the hymns”.  It is important to understand that for your child to be able to play the hymns, they will need to be in piano lessons for a few years. This doesn’t happen overnight.
  6. Realize that not every child will love the piano. It’s ok if your child doesn’t play the piano.  Sometimes you want them to play, but they don’t have any desire.  Don’t force the issue.  They have other talents.  Help them discover them.  Let them enjoy music in whatever way they can.