I have found that as students progress, it becomes difficult for them to understand the difference between practicing the piano and playing the piano. In the beginning stages, practicing and playing seem like the same thing because the first songs a student learns are short and simple. They play them a few times and might be directed by their parent or teacher to correct something, but generally, it isn’t hard work.
As songs get longer and more challenging there are more details to notice and more to work on.
When is student is really practicing, here are some things you will hear:
- Stopping to correct mistakes
- Isolating trouble spots
- Use of repetition
- Slow practice!
- Starting in places other than the beginning
- Working with the metronome
- Clapping or tapping tricky rhythms
- Working with each hand separately
- Mindfulness of the style of music and musical expression
On the other hand, when a student is playing, you might hear the student play a piece many times from beginning to end without stopping. The student might slide past mistakes and tune out the details of the music. A student that “plays” a lot, may slowly add in details of the music or correct mistakes over time, but not necessarily efficiently.
I am absolutely an advocate of students playing their music in addition to practicing it. Playing music can be really relaxing for students. It gives them a release but it can also be exciting and thrilling. However, I think it is really important for students to learn the difference between practicing and playing.
As students advance, it is crucial that they learn to put in the work and practice. Fortunately, working on music can be a very enjoyable process that doesn’t feel like work if you approach it with the right attitude! 🙂
Parents, do you hear your students practicing much, or are they mostly playing?
Teachers, how do you help your students learn how to practice, rather than play?