10 Ways to Fit Piano Practice into Your Schedule

A new school year starting means lots of adjustments—new routines, new schedules, new activities, and hopefully some new friends, too. Maybe your family is starting piano lessons for the first time, or maybe you’ve been in lessons for years. No matter where you are on your musical journey, you can set yourself up for success by including piano practice in your regular routine. So here are 10 ways to make sure that piano practice makes it into your busy schedule:

  1. Commit. The first step in creating good practice habits is just to decide to do so. As a parent, it may be helpful to talk to your kids about their expectations and what they want to learn. Then show them what it means to be committed to something!
  2. Create a positive practice environment. There are lots of ways to do this. Having a good, working instrument is essential. Other things like making the room visually appealing and comfortable will help kids want to spend time at the piano. (Bonus points for making the room smell good, too—I knew one mom who would make fresh cookies during piano practice time!)
  3. Evaluate how much time you can dedicate to practicing each day. Be realistic at the beginning of the year about what time you can give to piano. Then your piano teacher can help set goals that are reasonable for you.
  4. Include a set practice time in your daily/weekly schedule. Many people find it helpful to practice at the same time every day. This might be before school, after school, before bed, after dinner … whatever works best for you. Even if you can’t practice at the same time every day of the week, carving out a specific chunk of time every day will make sure that you don’t get to bedtime and think, “Whoops, forgot to practice!”
  5. Set long-term and short-term goals. Making goals for a week, month, or even semester can help motivate students to practice from day to day. Your goals might look like any one of the following:
    • Practice 5 days a week for one month
    • Finish a level of method books in a semester
    • Learn and perform a new solo piece by the recital date
    • Play 3 new hymns for church this month
    • Or anything else you can come up with!
  6. Give yourself incentives for those goals. There’s nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned bribery! But really, young students especially often need an outside motivation like treats, toys, or maybe a fun experience. There are lots of ways to make this work—be creative!
  7. Learn how to practice smarter, not harder. Why spend an hour practicing what you could get done in 30 minutes? Yes, piano practice IS hard work, but the smarter you are about it, the faster you will learn. Here are just a few of the things you can do to make the most of your practice time:
    • Practice small sections
    • Practice hands separate before hands together
    • Use the metronome often
    • Use correct fingering EVERY time you play something
    • Say the fingering, counting, or note names out loud for maximum retention
    • For younger students, use flash cards to help them solidify their reading skills
  8. Break it up if you need to. Let’s be real, even most adults don’t focus well for more than 50 minutes straight. Break up your practice into several smaller sessions to make it easier. A great rule of thumb for young students is for them to practice 1 minute for each year they are old (i.e. a 5-year-old would do 5 minutes at a time), then take a 1-minute break and come back to it for another 5 minutes. For an advanced student—let’s say they’re practicing two hours a day—practice might look like this: 30 minutes of practice, 3-minute break, 30 minutes of practice, 15-minute break, repeat.
  9. BE CONSISTENT. I can’t say this one enough! Because learning to play the piano is both mental AND physical, cramming the day before your piano lesson just. Won’t. Work. Trust me, even just 10 minutes a day for 6 days will get you way further than an hour of practice the day before your lesson! (Check out a kid-friendly article on why that works here, or a more detailed explanation here.)
  10. Be persistent! Persistence is our virtue of the month for August, and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Every piano student will hit concepts or pieces that feel difficult. If I could give only one piece of advice to every piano student I worked with, it would be simply this: Don’t give up. It will take some extra work to get over that roadblock, but it will be so worth it! As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”

We can’t wait to see all the awesome things our students will accomplish this semester!