100 Days of Practice?
Our student, Maria Willertz, recently stood on the stage of Steinway Hall in Cincinnati proudly displaying her certificate for having practiced 100 days in a row, an accomplishment we achieved together by providing a positive environment in which to practice, conveying clear expectations of how to practice, and evoking encouragement to help keep her practicing every day.
To enable students to consistently practice for 100 days, first we encourage their family to provide a positive environment in which to practice. This gives them the opportunity to engage in consistent, productive practice sessions. Having a keyboard or piano available to practice on is just the beginning. It's necessary to set a specific time for practicing, with the intention of minimizing external noise and distractions during that time (i.e. while practice is going on.) If the piano rests in the living room, it is better not to be running a loud video game at the same time, for example. . Finally, having a family member in the environment to help direct the practice according to the practice expectations ensures it is effective.
Practice can only be productive if there are established expectations as to what should be done during it. Having an expected routine builds confidence and keeps the student from wasting time by not knowing what to do. We reinforce these expectations by going through the same process during their lesson. At True Virtuoso Piano Studio, we like starting with something low stress followed by technique practice, serious work on unfinished pieces, and finally ending with something fun. For something low stress, we like to start by having them play through a piece they have already learned, preferably something relatively recent. Then we move on to technique, including exercises for positioning yourself over time, various scales, and selected exercises for their level, such as A Dozen A Day. Then we move onto the core section, working on unfinished, and new pieces, by playing through them, finding trouble areas, and target practicing on them. Finally, we end practice with a reward, time to just have fun playing to keep motivation high. This time is used for activities such as trying to play something by ear, making something up, or playing through their old favorite pieces. Having this kind of free time both reaffirms their joy in playing and rewards the student for completing their practice session.
Structuring practices to end with time to enjoy playing is just one way in which we evoke encouragement. Additionally, we develop a supportive community, and provide rewards for success. We develop a community by having monthly meetings for everyone who learns at our studio to discuss various musical topics. We also have two recitals per year, where students from our studio come together to perform. This also acts as a reward for success; an opportunity to show peers the results of their hard work. Another way in which we provide rewards for their hard work practicing is through Clavier Piano Explorer magazine, which publishes the names of those students who have reached various consecutive practice milestones. We also present our own awards at recitals, one of which, this last time, was for completing this 100-day practice milestone.
After the recital, Ava, another student of ours, asked how close she was to earning a certificate of her own. After adding the seven days from her practice sheet to our tally, we were happy to tell her how far she had come. With the right environment, expectations, and encouragement, each student has a good chance to practice 100 days in a row and develop the consistent practice habits necessary to achieve the best possible results moving forward.