Effective Practice and Motivation

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Below are some of the many different aspects involved in learning how to practice the piano effectively.

Environment | Goals  | Musical Form | Rhythm | Fingering | Posture & Tension | Method | Memory | Pedal | Motivation

Practical suggestions on how to motivate your childREN AT THE PIANO

I believe that motivation at the piano is the key to making progress. As a piano teacher teacher, I feel that the ideal form of motivation should be the sheer joy and pleasure of being able to play a piece of music. However, the reality is that many children need something more to motivate them to practice the piano effectively.

Piano teachers can motivate their students by trying to involve them in creative and engaging projects. Recitals, workshops, group classes, games, ensembles, composition, improvisation, recording projects and field trips can all be effective in motivating children. In addition to providing motivation for some students, Showcase Recitals and Senior Recitals are a great way of providing opportunities for older, more advanced students,
to act as role models for younger students.

Parents can also help motivate their children to practice the piano. Ideally, I think the specific form of motivation should reflect the personal values of the individual family involved. What will motivate your child to practice the piano? What forms of motivation will support your family's values? These are questions that as parents, you might want to discuss at home and then again with your child's piano teacher.

I recommend that parents, teachers and children discuss whether or not they want to abide by a specific practice schedule. Some students will want to do all their piano practice in one session; others may prefer to
break it up into two or three shorter sessions. It is often helpful to relate piano practice to a specific activity: before or after dinner, after soccer practice, before their homework. Different children respond differently to parental help. Ask your children if they want to be helped. Do they have a preference as to who helps them or how they are helped?

Piano teachers often have strong feelings as to what kind of help children receive at home. Are you trying to help
or are you trying to be the teacher? Ask your child's teacher to help guide you as to how you can most effectively support their goals. Consider asking your child's teacher for a practice guide or ask them to modify this one for your child: Piano Practice Guide.

Over the years, the families I have worked with have provided many creative and effective solutions for
motivating their children at the piano. Have you found an effective way to motivate your child? Share your ideas.

Here are some of my favorite examples of how some parents have found ways to help motivate their children to practice the piano more effectively:

*Family Concerts
Some families initiate informal family concerts: the inclusion of grandparents often provides additional motivation. These informal performances are most successful when the children, teacher and parents are involved together in the preparation and planning.

*Homemade CD recordings to give as gifts to grandparents and other family members and/or special friends.

*This idea is the all time winner for originality and creativity! A mother bought some small blank cardboard puzzles containing 5-6 pieces (arts and crafts stores carry them). On each puzzle she wrote a specific prize: breakfast in bed, trip to the bookstore, choice of movie for movie night, choice of menu for Sunday dinner etc. The child was awarded one puzzle piece for each good practice session. By the end of the week, it was possible to complete the puzzle. When the puzzle was completed she was able to receive the 'prize'. What
I loved about this particular method is that it encompassed both short and long-term goals. Each completed puzzle could in turn be traded for one puzzle piece to another puzzle that contained a 'more valuable' prize (remember that these 'prizes' should reflect your family's values. A 'more valuable' prize doesn't mean it has to cost more money. Often, it will mean it involves more time -something that is becoming increasingly
rare and consequently, more valuable.

* For every 30 minutes of piano practice, the child earns 30 minutes of computer time

* If the practicing gets done, a special event takes place such as: Breakfast in Bed,
Slumber Party, Invite a Friend to the Movies, Special Trip to the Bookstore, Special Parent/Child time
(bake cookies, go shopping, go for a walk, play a game).

* One mother took her teenage daughter to a bead store and let her pick out a certain number of beads. Two glass jars were kept beside the piano and for every 10 minutes of practice the child was able to transfer one bead from one jar to the next. It was decided that about 3 hours of practice were to be accomplished by the
end of each week but the amount of time per day would vary according to that particular day's scheduling constraints. The child was able to visually keep track of her practicing in a way that was satisfying to her.

Piano Practice and Motivation: Would you like to share something that has worked for you and your family?

This University of Illinois Extension site is devoted to Helping Children Succeed in School:
Urban Programs Resource Network

motivational and inspirational quotes  |  Practical suggestions on how to motivate childREN AT THE PIANO 
All content © by Donna Gross Javel