Effective Practice Habits
In my years of teaching I’ve found that the most common reason students give up study of the piano is frustration resulting from poor practice habits. Look at it this way: A piano teacher spends one half hour per week with a student. The rest of the time the student is on his (or her) own. If he doesn’t go about his practice methodically and diligently, he’s likely to accomplish very little in the course of a week. If, however, he develops good practice habits, he’ll progress at a steady rate and almost never get bogged down with repeating the same piece week after week. I’ll go so far as to say that practice habits—even more than innate talent—constitute the most critical factor in determining the ultimate success or failure of a piano student. In this article I outline some of the main steps in forming an effective practice regimen, directing my remarks to you the student.
Most students tend to think that “practice” is synonymous with “playing through.” The fact is, it’s impossible to “play through” a piece with any beneficial results until you’ve learned the piece. If you continually play through a piece you haven’t learned, you’re going to be practicing (reinforcing) mistakes. The primary step in effective practicing, then, is to learn the piece in question.
...then can you learn.
Proper fingering helps
One more thing: fingering. Many students ignore the little numbers above or beneath the notes. These numbers indicate which fingers to use. The fingering guides are there to make the piece easy to play, not difficult. If you take the time to learn the piece with the proper fingering you’ll save yourself a lot of grief and frustration later on.
And to return to my original contention, a feeling of frustration is the main cause of the high drop-out rate among beginning piano students. After all, it’s no fun to do something that’s continually difficult and anxiety provoking. If you develop effective practice habits, however, you’ll find that the piano is enjoyable, rewarding, and not nearly as hard as you thought.