While in India this year, I gave a workshop called “The Three P’s: Preparation, Practice, and Performance”. One part dealt with a handout that encouraged comments from the individuals attending the workshop. The following comments are taken from the handout as well as from the participants in the audience; therefore, this forum is in the format of general comments and in no particular order. What I found interesting was how pervasive our common problems are in the music community and the unique ways we try to motivate and guide our students.

  • The teacher’s responsibility is to stimulate the student’s interest in practicing.
  • Students need to be shown time and time again how to practice … may occupy much of the lesson for good home practice.
  • Emphasis must be placed on the fact that the student is the teacher 6 days of the week.
  • Make the student aware of what they are doing; otherwise, as in a computer: GARBAGE IN-GARBAGE OUT.
  • What the teacher hears in the lesson is the result of what the student has done at home.
  • The mind is programmed to do repetitive practicing.
  • Practicing means repeat, repeat, etc … but with a goal or object in mind.
  • Results of practicing are cumulative and not a quick study.
  • Make the student aware of what they are doing and be persistent until results are achieved.
  • Encourage students to organize practice routine and evaluate if they have arrived at a goal.
  • Ask student to demonstrate how to practice a piece, tape it and let them evaluate their practice routine. Compare this with the teacher’s evaluation.
  • Have student keep a daily practice journal and bring to lesson.
  • Have a “practice lesson”.
  • Ask students to mark problems with a very black pencil.
  • Use what the student really knows to build a new concept.
  • Teamwork is important for successful practice.
  • Look at the score as if you are reading letters … notes need to be understood.
  • Mistakes in reading must be corrected and called to the student’s attention instantly.
  • Question: What do you hear when you practice and when do you hear it?
    Before or after you play?
  • Look first and then try to play without music.
  • In “like” sections look for what is not the same.
  • Most important tools in practicing are the metronome, the recorder and a sharp pencil.
  • Never forget that tempo controls everything.
  • Setting goals should be a joint project between the teacher and the student. For example:
    § Block the Alberti bass in measures 4-8
    § Practice sonatina for melodic projection by “ghosting” the LH
    § Listen for all the staccatos in the Bartok .. none must be “sticky”

Undoubtedly, each of us have some special ways of encouraging more meaningful practice time, so don’t be modest … share your helpful ideas with the rest of us as we begin a new teaching year. Feel free to add to the list! As Pete Seeger, the famous folk singer said, “Practice does not make perfect but it sure makes for improvement!”

Mary Tickner, Coordinator