How to Motivate Piano Students to Practice

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Most kids are excited about learning to play the piano when they first start taking lessons. But after a few months, the novelty wears off and reality sinks in: learning to play the piano takes a lot of time and work. How do you get them to keep practicing? There are many ways to motivate students to practice, but each child will respond to incentives differently. It's important to have several ideas. Creating a broad motivational program based on rewards, performing experiences, and concrete practice tips will help students practice consistently.

Motivational Techniques for Piano Students

  • Create a reward system. Have the students earn stickers, points, or "money" by reaching practice or performance goals. Make sure parents are aware of the goals and involved in keeping track of students' progress toward them. Goals may target specific issues that need work such as memorization, accurate rhythm, correct articulation, or playing with dynamics. Have small prizes available that students may buy with their "money."

  • Use music as a reward. Have the students choose a piece they are interested in playing, and let them work on it once they have reached a specific goal. They will be excited to practice their song, and you will learn what kind of music they like.

  • Give parents tools that will help them stay involved. This may be as simple as writing down the practice goals for that week so the parent can see them. You could also create a practice guide with reminders such as "Check your posture and hand position" and "Remember to count out loud." Practice guides are a great way to help parents be aware of what their child is working on and will help the child focus as well.

  • Consider having themed recitals, group lessons, or piano parties. Choosing recital themes like "Broadway Musicals" or "Rags and Jazz" is a great way to broaden repertoire and help students learn to enjoy performing. Other fun ideas for recitals include letting kids play in costume, using holiday music, or having a duets-only recital. Group lessons or piano parties are another great way for students to gain performing experience in a relaxed setting and learn through playing music games. If students have fun learning and performing, they are more likely to keep practicing.

  • Make sure your students know how to practice. Teach them how to divide their time into sections like warming up, learning new music, and polishing. Give them concrete steps to use if they get confused, like playing left and right hand only or focusing on specific measures. Students are more likely to give up when they feel frustrated or unsuccessful, so teaching them how to approach new music is critical. Play through new songs as much as possible during the lessons so they are less likely to get confused once they get home.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask students what they think would improve their practicing. You may be surprised by what good ideas they have.
  • Talk to other teachers in your area or join a teacher association for additional ideas and resources.
  • Get parents involved. They are usually the ones paying for the lessons and will want to know how to get the most for their money.

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