What’s the best way to structure practice?

Erin & Christopher Palmer said: Nov 3, 2013
25 posts

My daughters are up to Go Tell Aunt Rhody (just started learning it), and I find that with everything we have to review and the pieces we are still working on, there is just so much to do during each practice! My daughters are 5, so it is hard for them to focus for such a long period of time, and because of school/work schedule we can only practice at night. So please critique my today’s practice (with one of the girls) and let me know if there is anything we can do to make it shorter;

  1. Twinkles review: played 3 variations, theme and A scale, 1x each ~7min
  2. Recital Piece: Lightly Row, played ~6 times 3x without the CD and 3x with CD ~10 min
  3. Working Piece: Song of the Wind, played 4-5 times. We tried playing it with CD in slow tempo, had a few restarts ~15 min
  4. Go Tell Aunt Aunt Rhody, she was learning 3rd and 4th measures, so I played the rest of it and she played her part ~15 min

Total: 45 min.

The main problem is that during the week we don’t have as much time and cannot get through as much. So is there any way that I can structure this practice better? Are there certain things that are more important than others?

Phankao said: Nov 4, 2013
 128 posts

Is there a reason to do the entire piece several times? Can the earlier pieces just be played thru once or at most 2x?

Mary said: Nov 4, 2013
 39 posts

Yes, I had the same thought. WIth my younger son’s piano teacher, he wasn’t allowed to move on until he can pretty much play the piece correctly consistently. So there really hasn’t been a need to play a review piece more than once or twice per practice as long as he’s playing each piece every 1-3 days and listening to the CD. The only occasion that we’ve been asked to repeat a review piece multiple times in a practice was when there was a specific point or technique she wanted him to work on that would be well served by replaying several times. If it’s your teacher asking you to play old pieces multiple times, I’d make sure to ask what is the reason for doing it so that you’re sure to hit the right teaching points.

Also for the Twinkles we don’t play all of them at every practice. Instead we play do a different variation for each practice along with Honeybee and scales to warm up the fingers.

We often are pressed for time during the week, so we usually only have 20-30 minutes for my younger son’s piano practices. So this is roughly what we usually do.

Warm-up: One Twinkle Variation and Honeybee—1x each; Scales (5 minutes)
Review: 3-5 songs (5 minutes)
Music Reading: 5 minutes
Recital Piece: 1x (2 minutes)
Working Piece: 5-10 minutes

I hope this helps.

Phankao said: Nov 5, 2013
 128 posts

I personally look thru my boy’s “To-Do” for the week and spread it thru the week. I don’t do much review I’m afraid. But… I start every single practice with Every Finger Warmup on each of the 4 strings. That way, we work on intonation plus violin hold plus bowing during this Warmup.

We would then review the old piece(s) and any areas to be worked on (i might break up the piece if need be). If there’s a new piece for the week, I might just break it up into a few parts…eg. work only on 1st line for 1st day or 2, then add on the next line for the next day or 2 instead of running thru the whole song first. Our practices at most last 15-20mins for violin.

After we are halfway thru the next book through, we start reviewing some of the previous book’s pieces gradually so that we can prepare for the previous book’s recital. Usually he can relearn the pieces quite quickly by then.

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