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#14433 - 07/11/03 03:50 AM Re: Practice Sheet
WenBee Offline
Regular Member

Registered: 07/12/02
Posts: 92
Loc: Minneapolis
I have never had students complete a chart illustrating that they practiced each day... I don't want to be legalistic, and I don't want this to be a source of stress and focus. What I want is for them to want to practice for its own sake and to practice well. What I have done which has worked very well is type-up on red paper (in order to stand-out from all other papers) my practice tips. I discuss how much to practice at different levels/ages. I suggest different methods of practices. I discuss how to sightread a piece before even playing it the first time. I discuss how to practice. I don't have the sheet here but is something like this:
1. Focus only on notes, rhythm, and fingering until is really good. Practice slowly.
2. Add articulation (legato, staccato, accent...
3. Add dynamics
4. Add pedaling
5. Speed-up to appropriate tempo.


Besides having this on the sheet, I also drill it in the lesson by pointing it out while working on pieces. When they get new songs, I tell them only focus on ... this first time. And remind to add other features through the week... I also write practice notes in their notebooks about measures and details they are having trouble with such as practice measures 10-11 over and over until correct 5X in a row each day before playing the whole piece...

I have noticed since I gave my students these red handouts to take at home, that their performance in lesson has improved greatly! over the past when I found myself verbally reminding them and writing in notebook over and over. This is less and less necessary as students get use to their red sheets. I occasionally ask if still have by their piano and refer to... Until as is now the case, most are so in the habit of practicing this way and no longer need it.

I rarely have students play their songs too fast. They usually correct themselves and their own mistakes... \:\) \:\) \:\)

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#14434 - 07/11/03 07:02 AM Re: Practice Sheet
pianoannie Offline
Mainstay Member

Registered: 07/20/01
Posts: 946
Loc: midwest USA
This brings up some interesting points for, ah, shall we say, lively debate? I'm curious how many of you agree with wenbee that students should learn only notes/rhythm/fingering first, then the other details ie dynamics and articulation later? Or who thinks that working on all of the above from the first read-through is the most effective? Or perhaps different strategies for different students?

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#14435 - 07/11/03 07:22 AM Re: Practice Sheet
Lilla Offline
Star Member

Registered: 10/30/00
Posts: 1569
Loc: Chicago
It depends doesn't it? Ideally, they would work on all of it at once. But sometimes a student is struggling so I might not mention the dynamics, for example. I would not say, "forget the dynamics for now". But I might not fuss over them and focus instead on perhaps a difficulty with the rhythm or hand position - and begin comments on the dynamics at a later lesson. It's a matter of how much that particular student can take in at that particular time and what's more important for securing success with that particular piece.

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#14436 - 07/11/03 10:04 AM Re: Practice Sheet
Marcia Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/18/00
Posts: 354
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
Most students respond better to a "layering" on of items to focus on when learning an assignment from the beginning. Most of us perform so much better when not trying to think about everything at once. For instance, I particularly like when students can play good legato without the pedal first, then add it for *effect.* Some aspects have to go hand in hand, such as dynamics and phrasing, or rhythm and steady tempo. Most students' big practice error is attempting too much at a practice speed that is too fast.

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#14437 - 07/14/03 09:50 AM Re: Practice Sheet
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
My thoughts...

Every time I look at the method books, & think about how gradually paced they are compared to the books my teacher used when I was taking lessons, I wonder how anyone could possibly have trouble. Each "layer" is added one at a time, with plenty of supplementary books & sheets available for the students who need reinforcement, compared to the old books where several layers were added all at once (not gradual at all). What is the problem?

I suspect that the students who are struggling with the new books are not practicing or thinking, because the books are so easy that even a chimp could learn from them. Really! Maybe today's children don't need a more gradual method or presentation of material. Maybe they need to be challenged, not spoon fed. Short of practicing with students at their homes (which is impossible to do because we don't have time & we don't live with our students), how much easier can we make things for them? How much are we supposed to do for them? How much are they going to do on their own? Are we to hold their hands all the time? Whatever happened to independent learning? Seems like some kids don't know how to do things by themselves, on their own. They're so accustomed to being helped by well-meaning (but perhaps a little misguided) adults who don't want them to have to struggle. :rolleyes: After all, learning should not involve work. :rolleyes:

Please excuse me for venting. \:o

[ 07-14-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#14438 - 07/14/03 10:21 AM Re: Practice Sheet
Marcia Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 11/18/00
Posts: 354
Loc: Maple Grove, MN
I agree, Jala. I didn't mean to suggest that we need to make things easier, just that all students need to practice in parts and then put everything together. (If you don't know how to divide into manageable sections and how to join sections together, you don't really know how to practice efficiently.)

I totally agree with your frustration regarding how much we are to do for our students - are we to hold their hands, etc. I came back from vacation to find a message on my answering machine to the effect "She's not going to come to the next summer lesson or finish the summer. I'll let you decide to do with the money we've already paid - you do what you think is right." When I called to talk, the mom said she was confused about what to do each week. (A 14-year-old homeschooled 8th grader) We had talked about the process of learning a piece from the beginning. I think you need to synthesize quickly notes-rhythm-fingering, then notice dynamics and phrasing, articulation, accent, get up to correct tempo, reflect the mood of the piece, etc. You shouldn't stay at the notes-rhythm-fingering level for long at all before noticing all the musical details and reflect them in your sound. She wanted a specific direction on how many times to play each measure, etc. This is how her teacher during her elementary years taught and she can't seem to adapt to the idea she should listen as she practices, evaluate, practice until she know she's got it right, then move on. This is *amazing* to me! A 14 yr old who is playing sonatinas that needs a teacher to nurture her along this closely?! (She never asked for clarification, never said, "Could you explain what you want me to do this week?") I would be truly sorry if I thought I had been unclear in my directions, but I am quite specific as to what should happen the next week. No one should have to write every practice step down for any age student.

The money situation - now that probably belongs in another thread. Now I'M venting.
Thanks for listening.

 Quote:
Originally posted by Jalapeņa:
My thoughts...

. . . Maybe they need to be challenged, not spoon fed. Short of practicing with students at their homes (which is impossible to do because we don't have time & we don't live with our students), how much easier can we make things for them? How much are we supposed to do for them? How much are they going to do on their own? Are we to hold their hands all the time? Whatever happened to independent learning? Seems like some kids don't know how to do things by themselves, on their own. They're so accustomed to being helped by well-meaning adults who doesn't want them to have to struggle. :rolleyes:

Please excuse me for venting. \:o

[ 07-14-2003: Message edited by: Jalapeņa ]

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#14439 - 07/14/03 11:10 AM Re: Practice Sheet
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
I'm sorry, Marcia. My post wasn't directed at you or anyone else on the PT.com board. I agree with what you posted, & I should have stated that in my post. It just struck me that we IMTs try so hard to make sure our students learn that I often wonder if we're doing them more harm than good. Yes, we need to explain things & make our expectations clear. No, we don't want any student to fall through the cracks. However, students need to do their part as well. It looks to me like some teachers (not just piano teachers, but school teachers as well) are creating a generation of children who can't work independently.

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#14440 - 07/14/03 03:24 PM Re: Practice Sheet
GeeTee Offline
Resident Member

Registered: 12/26/01
Posts: 391
Loc: Midwest
I too have similar practice "steps" in a handout that I give to students. I refer to them as basic goals:

1. Aim for 100% accuracy of rhythm, notes, fingering, articulation, and phrasing at a mod. slow or slower tempo.

2. Cont. goal #1 and begin to "look" around the notes at the expression markings, assimilating as many of them as possible.

3. Cont. #2 and aim for greater fluency at a tempo closer to that which is marked.

4. Aim for 100% accuracy at tempo with complete fluency.

When I present a new piece to a student, I usually say that the ultimate goal is to honor the intentions of the composer. That of course means realizing all notations and markings in the score as well as what the title might stylistically suggest. With some students, they can handle most of the notes, rhythms, fingering, etc. from goal #1 and bring in some of the expressive things as well from the get go. Others simply seem to be able to focus on just the first goal.

When preparing a new piece, I draw the student's attention first to the stylistic and expressive considerations of the piece before looking at notes. I may ask things like (after studying it visually) "How do you expect this sound? Where does the music look difficult/easy to play? Why?" Then we look at form, esp. if it's obvious (binary, sonata-allegro, etc.). IOW we try to discover as much as possible about the piece "musically" before jumping in to practice goal #1. I often also pull out some of the more complicated rhythmic sections for specific counting, tapping, drumming activities hoping to prevent problems when they're working out notes, etc. At this point I'll often play the piece or a recording of it if available and we'll sometimes talk about whether or not their intial expectations were on the money. Then, as the student begins to work thru the nitty gritty of goal #1, they hopefully have in the back of their minds a general impression of where the piece needs to go "musically".

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#14441 - 07/14/03 04:06 PM Re: Practice Sheet
Lisa Kalmar Offline
Star Member

Registered: 04/10/00
Posts: 4277
Loc: KC
The Practical Piano Pedagogy book by Martha Baker-Jordan has a "Practice Suggestions" form in it that is similiar to what Gretchen mentioned and has been floating around pedagogy circles for years. It's designed for 4-week study of late elementary and early intermediate levels. When higher level than that, pieces need to be divided into sections that are practiced like individual pieces with separate weekly goals.

Her definition of "accurate" includes everything printed on the page - "dynamics, phrasing, articulation, rhythm, etc." All must be learned in the first week of practice. Her answer for appropriate tempo is whatever it takes to play the assigned accurately. If they are truly learning it accurately, then they are FORCED to take it slowly the first week. Here's her breakdown:

Week 1 Goal: Slow-Accurately, counting out loud if necessary
1. each part slowly, no mistakes, HT XX times
2. Whole piece slowly as well as possible XX times.

Week 2 Goal: Modearate tempo - accurately
1. Whole piece slowly, counting to self, BUT always counting XX times
2. Whole piece moderate temop to see if there are trouble spots. If so, stop on each spot and play it perfectly 3 times in a row at a slow to modearate tempo.
3. Whole piece moderate tempo, as well as possible XX times

Week 3 Goals: SHould-Sounds
1. Whole piece moderate tempo XX times
2. Whole piece should-sound to see if there are trouble spots, If so, stop on each spot and play it perfectly 3 times in a row at a moderate to should-sound tempo.
3. Whole piece should-sound, as well as possible, without stopping XX times

Week 4 Goals: Should-Sound, 1st try (performance level)
1. Whole piece should-sound as well as possible without stopping
2. If trouble spots: A. Play whole piece again and stop on each spot. B. Play each spot perfectly 3 times in a row.
3. Whole piece sloly 1 time
4. Whole piece moderately 1 time
5. Whole piece should-sound XX times

This is pretty much how I was trained by Mary Gae George. First week to be played at metronome half-tempo ACCURATELY, then moving on from that over a 4-week period. I really don't subscribe to not paying attention to important musical elements the first week. It creates non-aware practicers plus certain things, like articulations, simply MUST be learned correctly from the beginning. I also don't think that playing musically is something that should be tacked on at the end of studying a piece. It is possible to play thing's musically at half tempo. And the sooner they figure it out, the more practice-aware they become and you nip potential problems in the bud. JMO, though, not looking for a debate, heh heh.

THe sheet I detailed above, btw, is in tear-out form in the back and on the CD disc that comes with the book. I haven't figured out how those thangs download yet! \:o :rolleyes: Plus she has more specific comments on the different weekly goals. This is just in one little chapter out of 20. This book is, again, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for everyone's personal pedagogy library!

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#14442 - 07/14/03 05:35 PM Re: Practice Sheet
Jalapeņa Offline
Star Member

Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 1143
Loc: New Mexico
If she teaches like Mary Gae George, then I'm buyin' the book for sure. We have lots of moving-related expenses to pay for this month, but I'll put the book on my Amazon.com wish list. \:\)

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