This post, and the associated 100-day piano practice chart, was originally published in February 2017 and was updated in May 2020.
Habits are one of the most powerful ways we get stuff done. It’s usually habit, not willpower, that keeps us eating healthily, exercising regularly, or learning new things. But how do we harness this power and encourage piano practice in a way that helps our students form a real and lasting habit?
The 100 Day Practice Challenge idea was originally popularised by ‘The Piano Explorer’ magazine. It’s very simple concept – as you can probably guess – and does exactly what it says.
So what’s the magic of 100 days then?
There isn’t any magic to it. Apart from the simplicity itself, that is. 100 days is mind-bogglingly big to a child, yet it’s not quite so long as to make it unmanageable. In other words, it’s achievable, but it’s a big achievement. And at the end of 100 days, piano practice has well and truly become a habit.
The Power of a Practice Habit
When we’re trying to make any kind of change in our lives, many of us fall into the trap of relying on our own willpower. We think that if we’re strong enough or strict enough with ourselves we can learn to eat more salads, run farther, or meditate more regularly.
You can do it that way, sure. But that’s the hard way. You can make a change more easily by cultivating a habit.
Remove the internal struggle from the equation. Forming any habit, whether it’s piano practice or eating more salads, is about taking away the question. Make it “just what you do”.
You must give yourself no choice in the matter. For example telling yourself “Before checking my email, I do my morning yoga.” is far superior to “I’m going to try to do my yoga first, before checking my email.”
Do, or don’t. There is no “try” in habits.
Habits are automatic, built-in mechanisms which get us through our day-to-day tasks efficiently. We don’t debate or question whether we should brush our teeth before bed; we just do it.
A piano practice habit can be formed exactly the same way. By committing to 100 days in a row of piano practice, your students won’t think about whether they can find time to practice on Saturday. They know they have to or the game is up.
That’s the magic. That’s what helps us form a long-lasting piano practice habit.
The 100-Day Practice Challenge
The entire week before I kick off the challenge in my studio, I start selling it in all my lessons to get the kiddos ready and excited about it. And I do mean selling.
When I post about challenges like this, many teachers ask me about the piano practice incentives I offer. When I explain about my challenge board and stickers, sometimes they persist, “Yes, but what do they get?”.
That is what they get! The stickers and wall of fame are enough for me and my students. I don’t give out candy or vouchers or any other physical prizes. If I do my marketing right, the kids (and even teens) are super excited to get their name up in that spot and the badge for their folder.
Sell it. If you’re excited, your students will be too.
(That said, for this particular challenge I have mentioned to my piano parents that they could consider offering a prize at the end too. It’s not required, but if the student is on the fence, it’s a suggestion that might push them to go for it.)
Piano Practice Log
To participate in the 100 Day Practice Challenge in my studio, students simply fill in the piano practice chart each day with a short description of what they worked on.
There are different practice chart options included in the kit (which you can download below,) so you can choose the best fit for your studio.
Each week at the student’s lesson, I review their practice diary and stamp their 100-Day Chart. If there is any foul play, I should be able to tell that things aren’t quite matching up pretty easily. I doubt there will be since my students are all angels, of course. 😇
Every. Single. Day.
I’m going to be pretty darn strict on this challenge. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it being 100 days in a row. No exceptions.
So what about when students are travelling and can’t actually get to a piano? I’ve got them covered. Included in the 100 Day Practice Challenge Kit are 17 suggestions for alternative ways to practice on those piano-less days.
Download the kit below and put these suggestions in your students’ folders. There’s no excuse to miss a day with such fun options at their fingertips!
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Effective Piano Practice
Once that habit is in place, you need to make the practice as effective and efficient as possible. In the Vibrant Music Teaching library, I provide plenty practice games and ideas which make this super simple to do.
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For more great piano practice teaching tips, check out my page devoted to teaching piano practice.
Have you done a practice challenge before?
What systems have worked well for you? Did you enjoy the process? What did you find most difficult about running a piano practice challenge? Share your experiences in the comments below.
19 thoughts on “Creating An Awesome Habit: 100 Days Of Piano Practice”
I have done this challenge a few times.
Student practice is noted on their assignment sheets – by the student or the parent.
The list given here is a good one – I had something similar given out to parents who can use it to encourage on “wobbly” days
Certificates ( different colours /designs) are received at 20,50 80 and 100 practices
I found that there is an initial surge of interest and people practice everyday (hooray!)
so most ( but not all) achieve the 20 practices quite quickly. ^ or so continued like this and by the end of the year were surging towards 300! Even the slower ones who struggled to find a regular time to practice or who perhaps didn’t have that parent at home to encourage them redoubled their efforts towards the end of the year and proudly achieved the 100. Definitely worth doing. I am going to try this colourful approach for 2017. Many thanks!
Thanks Susan, glad it’s working well in your studio and that I could give you a fresh look for the new year! Enjoy!
I’m excited to try this!
Let me know how you get on with it Lou Ann. 🙂
Thank you for the 100 day challenge. Very well done. I just counted how many days are left before spring semester is over starting next week and counted only 88 days! Last day is May 17.
I read Susan’s comment and like an idea about 20, 50, 80 stickers (not certificates).
How did you make your stickers? It would be great to change 100 to a different number.
Thank you so much,
Aha! I started it so that we would finish before the end of May as we continue lessons into June. It wouldn’t be possible for me to make an editable version of the sticker I’m afraid, but I’m sure you could do something similar in a free service like Canva or PicMonkey?
This sounds like such a great idea! my biggest problem I have with my students is that they only want to practice when it’s recital time, or when they have a song that they love. It’s difficult to get them in the habit of practicing through a lesson book, so I hope this will help! Where do I download everything?
Hey Ali, do you see the orange box at the end of the post? Just put your email in there and I’ll send it over. If you don’t see it try refreshing the page or deleting your cache.
Sounds like a great idea. I would love to try it.
Hey Robert, you should see a big orange box for the download of this project. Just enter your details in there and I’ll send it on over.
Maybe I’m over thinking things – but my concern is my students who “fudge” their practice days. I have given in to the fact that we practice – alot….. medium…. or a little. I would love to get them to practice 100 days – even 75 days. But how do I get over the fact that they can “fudge” their practice sessions as home and I have no way of knowing…. except their lessons do tell all. I don’t want to “call them out” as not telling the truth on their home practice. Any input as suggestions…or experience and how this plays out?
Does fudge mean lie that they did it, or just not do good practice? Either way, this is why I have the option of having a parent sign for each. But mostly – they’re only cheating themselves and I don’t think it’s worth not doing just because a few kids might cheat.
soy aprendis, lo pondre en practica y vere la curva de aprendizaje , el habito es la mejor forma de aprender algo, lo dificil es hacerse al habito, gracias por estas sugerencias.
Muy cierto Javier. Gracias por tus pensamientos. 🙂
I’m excited about trying this for the spring semester! One question: what happens when they miss a day? Is it just over? I can see this going really well and then some kid forgets for the weekend…what do I do with them then? Are they just not part of the challenge any more? I could see this being a problem with the tweens/teens who might just say “never mind now.” What do you think?
Yep, they’re not part of the challenge any more if that happens! They can start again from the beginning if they want to. This is why I make it “opt in”. I don’t force this on anyone and I explain all the different ways they can practice if they have a busy day or are away from their instrument. Then we set up reminders or involve parents, etc, whatever they need.
Of course, you can do it your way. I just think it dimishes the accomplishment if there’s leeway.
so i have a question! could i copy your pdf and make it a little different for my music website if i give credit to you for making it?
Hey i have a question! could i make a pdf of this and make it into my own 100 days of practice and put it on my website and give you credit?
You can link to this page from your website but you cannot alter our PDF.