1. Location! Location! Location!  – put the keyboard or piano in a central part of your home where everyone spends most of their time.  You will be amazed at how your child will want to show you what they’ve learned!  Family concerts and impromptu practice is still practice and time enjoying the instrument.  So many times I’ve seen parents put the keyboard in the basement playroom only to find that practice motivation to be so difficult.  Of course!  It’s like being banished to the practice dungeon where no one else can hear you!
  2. Set Practice Time At the Same Time Everyday – by setting the same time for practice daily, you create a habit and a routine.  It’s like brushing your teeth.  You never forget to brush your teeth, do you?
  3. Work in Small Bite Sized Chunks of Material – I always tell my students, learning a song is like eating a pie…you don’t take it all in one mouthful.  You cut slices and then take small forkfuls to eat it.  Work on your pieces in small sections, very small for young children.  Micro-steps is how we learn and it never feels overwhelming.
  4. Work On The New Lesson and Review the Old – by always focusing on new stuff first, you constantly are improving.  Review the old pieces.  Have fun and make time to just play.
  5. Sit At The Right Height – Make sure your child is seated at the proper height.  This should be where his/her elbows are level with the keyboard surface.  Piano playing takes place from the arms.  If you are just using your fingers, you’ll be developing terrible habits and perhaps carpal tunnel syndrome years from now.
  6. Praise, Praise Praise! – everytime your child plays something, make sure you applaud, praise the effort and gently correct any mistakes.  Be honest about mistakes, but praise the effort.  If you just praise the results no matter how bad, you will start to lose their trust.  Mistakes NEED to be made and if you have a child who is a perfectionist, try celebrating the mistakes with a high five.  But aim at improving them.  Practicing a musical instrument is extremely high discipline and we need to make mistakes to improve.  It builds character.  Here’s a great article in the NY Times about character and grit being essential for success.
  7. Don’t Over Practice – daily short practice is far better than a long cram session.  Daily practice builds upon the previous sessions and provides the right time interval for your brain to make some new connections and muscle memory to set in.
  8. Practice What You Don’t Know, Instead of What You Know – many children seem to like to go back to the beginning every time they make a mistake.  What starts to happen then is that they know the first part of the song incredibly well, and the next problematic section very poorly.  Get in the habit of not practicing from the start of the piece.  Break it up into parts and shuffle the order.  Start on the hard part.  This is a great way to start memorizing the piece as well.
  9. Set A Goal For Each Practice Session – what do you and your child want to accomplish in this next 10, 20 to 30 minutes at the piano?  Even if it’s something small like get the right hand fingering of the first part of this song.
  10. Celebrate! – Every achievement needs to be celebrated.  The bigger the achievement, the bigger the reward.  This is true in life.  It makes for good psychology and self-worth.  Congratulate your child and yourself often.  Go out for an ice cream after mastering that first piece!  Give a special sticker for completing that phrase.  I always give my children stickers for their lesson accomplishments and a certificate at the recitals.


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  • Who allows a student to play with flat fingers?

    1. That’s a great question. I do approve of allowing my earliest beginning piano students to play with flat fingers. It’s a micro-stepped process teaching young children. My first goal is to have them using more than one finger. Then I’m having them play patterns with those fingers. In the past, when I emphasized curling their fingers, I often had the worse problem of having them tighten up too much so they were playing with clawed fingers like a monster. After about a month or so, depending on the age, I start to have them noticing that they can gently curl their fingers. As I teach children as young as 4, this granular approach has served me well. Of course, if the child is older, or naturally gifted, you can move swifter and present more information at the same time. Does that make sense?