We all know that there’s practice, and then there’s practice.
What many students think of as practice is actually just playing. They play each piece from start to finish, maybe a couple of times, then they call it a day.
That’s not really practice. It’s basically a humongous waste of their time.
Sure, they’ll eventually get better playing like that. But they could get a lot better a lot faster if they practised effectively.
In my course Practice Pro (available to Vibrant Music Teaching members here) I help you take your students through the three levels of practice using games and activities so that they can experience each level.
Level 1: Regular Practice
This is the baseline. I understand that for a lot of us this is what we’re aiming for, and it’s where much of our focus is when comes to practice.
Practice does need to be regular but students can actually do more with 3-4 days a week of great practice than they can with 6 days of passing the time at the piano to make mum happy.
If you need help getting your students up from level 0 (no practice) to level 1 (regular practice) then you should read part 1 of this series.
Level 2: Varied Practice
At level 2, students’ practice involves a variety of different things like tapping out the rhythm, singing, listening, practising short sections etc.
This practice achieves more than simply playing a piece from start to finish mindlessly, and it’s a lot more engaging for the student. However, it’s not specific to what needs to be worked on. It’s not planned out based on a problem or challenge they are having.
Practice games can be great for getting students up to this level of practice. Some of my favourites include Practice Hero and Playful Practice cards and the games in the Practice Kit.
Level 3: Practice Pro
This is where great practice happens. At level 3, a student is assessing where they are with a piece before making a plan for the strategy to use that day.
In the Practice Pro course, we use an activity called the practice doctor to put this into action.
Level 3 practice isn’t easy to achieve, and we shouldn’t expect it to happen from the get-go.
It’s important to be clear with students as you discuss these levels, that almost no one is at level 3 all the time.
If some days, all they can do is show up and play through their piece then that’s ok! But they should make it their priority to make as much as possible in the level 3 zone.
Be honest with your students about your own practice too. You’re probably not perfect, and it’s healthy for students to know that this is a lifelong work-in-progress, but one that it’s worth pursuing.
How much of your practice is level 3 practice?
Tell me what you think of this three-level categorisation and where you fall on this spectrum in the comments or in the Vibrant Music Studio Teachers group on Facebook.
2 thoughts on “Creating Piano Practice Pros Part 4: The 3 Levels of Piano Practice”
I may not be completely at level 3, but I have started e-mailing students a practice plan with specific measures identified and what I need them to do that week. It is nearly impossible for me to do this at the lesson do to my own inconsistencies in teaching and lack of time. This is new for me this year. So far, 1 student, who is resistant about practice, is starting to practice more with a chart I bought and parent involvement, and 2 others actually seemed pleased with this idea. I also tested my students last June and gave them plaques for their grade level in music. That way, parents, who say they don’t care how much a student progresses, actually became aware of where their child is at after years of lessons, and one parent now cares and the child is more interested in moving up a grade. Since I take weekly violin lessons myself and am at level 3 in practicing finally I now know how to get my students at level 3. I am very frustrated with students who don’t see the need to practice in between lessons and aim to solve this problem this year. A detailed practice plan might be an answer. I can make it organized and well thought out after each lesson.
Sounds like you’re taking great steps forwards Linda, best of luck with it!