Self-Directed Practice: A Key to Both Student Success and Motivation

By Pearce, Elvina Truman | American Music Teacher, October-November 2004 | Go to article overview

Self-Directed Practice: A Key to Both Student Success and Motivation


Pearce, Elvina Truman, American Music Teacher


If students are to become successful at productively self-directing their practice

* They need to have specific musical and pianistic goals.

* They need to acquire an ever-expanding "tool kit" containing practice strategies that will enable them to fulfill these goals--procedures that produce successful performances with minimal time and effort. Such strategies are things that students should be utilizing when they practice instead of just "doing time" at the piano, such as playing through pieces and passages over and over again in a mindless, goal-less vacuum.

* They need to be active participants in the lesson.

Necessary Practice Strategies

To experience success, students need specific strategies

1) for working out a new piece

a) analysis of both form and structural elements

b) planning fingering; slow practice (choosing a "thinking" tempo); hands-separate practice (when and how much?); counting

2) for dealing with technical issues

3) for achieving a tempo

4) for producing musicality in performance

5) for securing, checking and maintaining memorization

Ways to Encourage Active Student Participation at the Lesson

To promote active student involvement at the lesson, teachers need to

1) Involve students with choke making. To facilitate this, the teacher might say

a) "Today we're going to start with technique warm-ups. Do you want to begin with scales, arpeggios or the Hanon study?"

b) "Let's begin today's lesson with a piece. Which one would you like to start with? Select the metronome tempo you'll be using when you play it."

c) "What would you like to start with today--technique, theory or a piece?"

d) "This week you'll be starting a new piece. I'll play samples of three possibilities and then ask you to choose the one you'd most like to work on."

e) "Our next piano program is six weeks away. At home this week, make a list of six or seven favorites you'd like to consider as possible performance pieces for this event. Then, each week we'll narrow down the list until we end up with the two pieces you actually will play on the program."

2) Encourage students to make use of the pencil at the lesson. …

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