Piano Progress Report

tips, ideas, inspiration

Have you been wondering what you can do to enhance your child's music education? I often come across ideas for how to make music lessons more enjoyable. I have many years experience getting kids to practice in ways that are positive and not draining on the parent. If you have ideas or things that work for you, please consider sharing them and I'll spotlight them in a newsletter for the other parents in our studio!

Practice Ideas

Putting a much desired activity after piano practice. One of the classes I taught at UC was "Behavior Modification for the Teacher." And one of the best ways to make piano practice enjoyable for the student is to put it early enough in the day so that something fun can come afterwards. This fun activity or event then becomes a reinforcer for practicing the piano. For example, my oldest daughter wasn't allowed to play on the computer, read novels, or play video games until piano practice was finished. After piano she could choose any of these activities and take a break from work. This made her more likely to practice the next day, but most importantly, it got her to practice without my nagging her!

Using a kitchen timer twice a day. There have been times in my children's lives when they would run through their piano pieces, but they would not polish them, or pay attention to detail, or repeat them. So piano practice would take about 6 minutes. When I see that starting to happen I get out my kitchen timer and set it for 15 minutes. I look at the list of assignments, and make sure each one is being repeated several times. Then, later in the day, I again set it for 15 minutes. This "distributed practice" works much better than long sessions, and I would recommend this for any school work, especially things like times tables or other memorization work.

Giving a mini-recital. The most important factor in getting kids to practice is having parents who like to listen to their kids play. So I urge you to listen, and make comments such as "I love hearing you play!" A few times a year I talk my kids into make up programs and giving mini-recitals for Bill and me. But it doesn't have to be this formal. Simply asking them a few times a week to play one of their pieces does wonders for motivation.

About Me

Angela Birkhead-Flight is a musician in Cincinnati who directs choirs, performs in churches, and teaches piano. She is the Director of Music and Liturgy at St. Martin of Tours Church in Cheviot, Ohio. She has a M.S. in Music Therapy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, an M.A. in Research psychology from CSULB, and a doctorate in Research Psychology from the University of Cincinnati specializing in Human Cognition.