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Which of These 7 Common Piano Practice Mistakes Is Your Child Making?
October 21, 2016
Music practice is essential for your child if he or she wants to improve on their piano playing. It is also important for you as a parent to sit in on their practices to provide support, encouragement and look out for any mistakes that they may be making. You don’t need much musical background to identify his or her mistakes! Read on more to find out!
The way a person practices is especially important because it affects the effectiveness of the practice. And because practice makes permanent (not necessarily perfect), we don’t want any mistakes to be ingrained in your child.
We have compiled a list of the 7 most common mistakes made during music practice. Observe your child for any signs of these mistakes, and correct them before it becomes a habit!
Playing too fast
When learning a new piece of music, sometimes your child may be slightly impatient during practice and try to play through a section at a fast tempo right away. The thing about practice is that the slower the tempo your child practices in, he/she has more time to look at the notes, rhythm and fingering and execute them correctly. Thus, it is better to practice a section of the piece slowly first.
What do you do if your child refuses to practice slow? Make it into a tempo (speed) game! Have them play through a section of the song (4 or 8 bars) slowly and correctly. When they are able to play the section slowly without any mistakes, get them to go a little faster, and then quicker and quicker until your child is comfortable in playing the piece at the actual tempo of the piece.
Using animals in the practice can also be beneficial. Use slow animals like the sloth / turtle / snail. Discuss which of these animals moves the slowest, slower and slow. Then have your child play like the slowest animal, then play like the slower animal, and then lastly like the slow animal.
For fast animals, examples could be the cheetah / bee / hawk. Repeat as above and there you have it - your child would have practiced their piano piece at least 6 times and you would have successfully redirected their "need for speed".
Practising without a metronome
This is an often overlooked mistake that music students make. Practising with a metronome helps in making sure that your child is able to keep a consistent tempo and will not rush or slow down while playing a piece. This is important especially when beginning on a new piece as the inconsistent tempo might become a norm.
A digital metronome from any phone apps can be used if you don’t have an analog one! Explore this app/metronome with your child first before using it in practice to prevent any distractions.
Many music students make the mistake of playing through the entire piece every time during practice. However, that is not an effective way to practice music if they are still unfamiliar with the song. Being unsure of some sections but still trying to complete the piece in its entirety will often result in frustration and discouragement as the students think that they just can’t play the piece well.
What we recommend therefore, is to break the piece down into smaller chunks so that the practice session is more focused and feels more doable. Each practice section can focus on different sections (e.g first four bars) of the piece. By doing this, your child will be more familiar with the tune and can better learn how to play it correctly. When they’re comfortable with one section, move on to the next and so forth. Your child should also practice joining up the sections so that he or she will be able to play the whole piece fluently.
Too little of it
Too little practice is also a mistake many make! It is important to have consistent practice so as to become familiar with the music pieces and also improve one’s playing faster.
Perhaps your child isn’t practising often as well. It will be good to find out WHY your child isn’t practising. Is it due to a lack of motivation? Not enough time? Too tired or distracted? These are some questions you can ask your child or yourself when you observe him or her and try to change their practice routines to address the issues.
If it’s a lack of motivation, try to increase their interest through ways such as providing rewards. You can check out more ways to motivate your child in our previous article here.
Not having enough time to practice could perhaps mean that your child has too many activities planned for him or her. If so, you might want to consider lessening the number of activities in a day, or prioritise the time spent for each activity. As mentioned earlier, there needs to be consistent practice to play an instrument well, so make sure that your child has sufficient time to practice!
Expanding on the previous point, it is not optimal if your child is distracted during practice either from external factors or because he or she is tired. For the practice session to be effective and for whatever learnt to stay in your child’s mind, it is best for him or her to have a refreshed mind. If he or she is often feeling tired during practice, perhaps you can change the practice timing to a more suitable one! External distractions coming from the television or others should also be minimised during your child’s practice so that they can focus on the task at hand.
Inconsistent fingering - playing their pieces with different fingering each time - is a big no-no! Try to observe if your child does this. If you also notice your child having awkward hand positions and fingering, or their fingers aren’t transitioning smoothly when changing notes, it may be a sign that the fingering used is wrong.
Wrong fingering makes it difficult to learn a music piece properly, and may even result in pain in your child’s hands. The muscle memory will also make your child get used to the incorrect fingering so it is best to ensure that the fingering used is the correct one. On the other hand, there will be no muscle memory made if your child’s fingering is not consistent, because during each practice session he or she is practising the piece differently. This may hinder his or her progress.
We have included a fingering chart for piano players at the end of this post. Save or print it out for easy reference!
Not practising with hands separately
Practising hands separately or one hand at a time, is actually a basic practice technique that many piano teachers will recommend their students to do. If you observe that your child is jumping straight to playing both hands together when learning a new piece, remind him or her to first practice each hand on its own first. We recommend starting with the weaker hand first (generally, the left hand) - this makes it easier to learn the notes and rhythm as there are lesser notes to read and play and they do not have to contend with coordination of hands at the same time. Once your child is comfortable with playing the separate parts, he or she can practice with both hands together.
Here is the fingering chart for piano players! Download and print this out for your own reference!
Instructions: right click on the image and click save as to download.