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How many hours a week should I practice the piano?

by / Tuesday, 21 July 2015 / Published in Parents, Recommendations

We’ve all heard that practice makes perfect. I think we all can agree that you can’t expect to be good at anything without putting in the necessary hours of practice. That’s a given. However, defining what “the necessary hours of practice” means, is highly dependent on two variables: the student’s goals and skill level.

Defining the Student’s Goals

It’s important to establish what the goals are for the student before taking piano lessons. If no goals exist, the likelihood of “falling off the wagon,” becomes much greater. Please understand that I don’t say this to discourage anyone. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Creating goals enforces success and gives meaning to why the student is taking piano lessons in the first place!

For instance, many parents sign their children up to piano because they show some kind of interest in music. The child may like to sing to YouTube videos or “explore” the keyboard by making up songs or even banging on the keys! This interest needs to be reinforced at each piano lesson and at home – by continually exposing them to the arts and music.

Some students I teach are interested in learning how to play chords and developing their ear. These students often want to use this knowledge for songwriting, to read charts in their worship band at church or to more effectively learn songs from recordings.

I often get students who want to simply be able to read music. My adult students, for example, want to learn how to be fluent enough to be able to sit down at the piano and play their favorite songs.

The key here is that everyone has different goals. After these goals are defined, then a plan of action should be put in place to see those goals become a reality. The students piano instructor can be a big help in establishing and reinforcing those goals. This creates clarity and makes it much easier to establish how much practice is needed per week.

Ultimately, it all starts with commitment. Without that, it won’t work.Hugh Piano 15

Skill Level and Age

Of course, the skill level of a student is going to have a considerable impact on how many hours they practice throughout the week. Age is also going to be an issue. For instance, a five-year old’s attention span is going to typically be shorter than that of an eight-year-old. Of course, all students are different. I do have some five-year-old students who can sit through an entire half-hour lesson and stay focused.

Often, a higher skill level is synonymous with more work. Sight reading, theory, and longer pieces will obviously consume more time. A classical piece can take months to master and 45 minutes practice a day on that one song alone may be necessary to get results.

Weekly Practice Expectations

So, with all that said, how many hours/days a week should be spent practicing? Practicing at least six days per week is going to yield faster results. And, the better the student gets, the more they will “want” to practice because it becomes fun.

One more thing about practice. Though I ultimately recommend practicing six days per week, the student can still make great strides practicing in less time. It really comes down to “how” the student practices (I will reserve another post for that topic). Now, I’m not enforcing bad habits here, nor am I saying that practicing once or twice a week for a few minutes is a good thing. Let’s be reasonable. However, even three days a week of consistent practice can yield results.

Remember that practice schedules cannot reasonably be set unless goals are properly defined. This is where people tend to get it backward and as a result, progress is stifled. Also, it’s important to remember that age does not equal skill level!

Below is a great progress building schedule.

Age Optimum (Based on 6 Days) Minimum
4-5 years 10-15 minutes a day 15 minutes, 3 days a week
6-11 years 20 minutes a day 30 minutes, 3 days a week
12-teen 30 minutes a day 45 minutes, 3 days a week
Adult Goal-driven 30 minutes, 3 days a week

Again, this is not set in stone, particularly with other variables involved. If the student’s goal is to work on learning chords and structure, that will take a considerable amount of time up front. Adult practice is goal-driven. Some adult students have more time on their hands and practice regularly. Conversely, adult students often have families and it can be difficult to practice 6 days a week. Still, to be effective, 30 minutes, at least three days week should be implemented to see considerable progress.

Structure and Consistency

I can’t overemphasize the importance of creating a structured practice environment. Kids especially thrive on structure and routines. If they understand that there is a set time to practice, they will fall into that routine. We are all creatures of habit. Build practice times INTO the student’s schedule, not AROUND it.

Parental Involement

Parental involvement has a significant impact on a student’s learning. I often encourage parents to sit in on their child’s lesson so they can effectively help them at home when it’s time to practice! It does make a difference.

Getting Results

It’s often assumed that taking piano lessons will ultimately make a student better. This is only true if the student is implementing what they’ve learned through practice!  Although a great piano teacher is essential to learning, it’s only when lessons are coupled with a structured and consistent practice schedule – that results will happen!

 

 

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