Teaching Productive Practice and a (FREE!) Fun Practice Game

Do you have students who claim to practice but you never see much improvement? You keep giving the same assignments to week after week, parents say they hear them practice, but you don’t hear any change?

This is a clear sign that “practice” might be happening but it’s not productive or effective. Many students view practice as sitting down to play their song through a few times. But as teachers we know practice is much more than this! And it’s important for us to remember that all students need to taught and reminded what productive practice looks like.

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I like to teach my students the 5 aspects of a productive practice session.

1. Musical Tool Box: Every musician has a musical tool box. Use various tools from you musical “tool box” to address practice “trouble spots” such as counting aloud, tapping rhythms, hands alone, slow practice, etc.

2. Sections: Practice is more than just sitting down and playing a piece straight through, students need to pull out tricky sections focusing on the assigned material and goals for the week. And students often need to be reminded of this regularly!

3. Correct Repetitions: Students need to play sections correctly at least 4 times to make any measurable amount of progress. I find students often forget this, or they forget to practice mindfully making sure each repetition was correct.

4. Fun: Let’s not forget practice can also be fun! For younger students it’s helpful and more fun to include a practice game such as this fun game!

5. As students progress in their playing abilities and maturity in practice it is important to remember to teach them how to evaluate their own playing during each session, how set appropriate goals, and apply the needed tool to accomplish those goals.

Check out this fun game to help encourage young students to practice effectively!

It’s important to remember that no student is perfect and there will be days students are only able to sit and play a song through. And that’s OK! It’s important to be realistic in our goals and standards as well as encouraging and challenging.

A note to new students: Productive practice is learned in stages as students grow and mature. Students just starting lessons should be focused on building the habit of consistent practice. Typically their pieces are short at this time as well so simply playing their pieces through or applying only one tool from their tool box, such as counting aloud, should be considered a wonderful accomplishment! In time they will also learn to break songs into sections and set weekly and daily practice goals as well.

What do you think the most important aspects of productive practice are? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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