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.