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Student Practice Expectations

In order to ensure a positive and successful experience in SMU’s program, it is essential that each child’s home schedule allows for a minimum of 45-minutes of practice time every day.

A significant portion of private and group lesson time is dedicated to addressing how to make practice both efficient and productive.  The entire family can play an active role in helping make lesson and practice time effective.

  1. Immediately after the lesson, ask your child to tell you what s/he learned that day, to show you the new assignment, perhaps to play one of the new pieces for you, and especially to tell you what the teacher had to say about the lesson.
  2. At the first practice period following the lesson (ideally the very day of the lessons itself), spend a few minutes with your child reviewing the new assignment and helping her/him practice each of the pieces briefly. Even if you do not play the piano, encourage your child through the instructions on the assignment sheet.
  3. Make sure that you understand as much as possible about the teacher’s specified approach to practicing each piece of music. For example, we ask our students to use three general steps whenever they begin to practice:
    • Study: First, the student studies the music carefully - one section at a time - to discover the overall character, the musical signs and symbols it contains, its physical issues, and its rhythm.
    • Play: The student plays each section slowly and carefully, with a full tone. The focus should be on technical and musical accuracy. This activity is repeated at least as many times as requested by the instructor and at various assigned tempi.
    • Critique: While practicing each section, s/he criticizes each repetition, asking if the segment sounded the way s/he wanted it to sound; why or why not?

Successful practice takes some time to become a habit at home and is critical to success in piano lessons.  Young students sometimes resist practicing and critiquing preferring only to play through the music up to tempo.  Time spent this way typically results in errors that, if repeated day after day, become nearly impossible to correct.  

Work habits are arguably one of the most important skills to be attained in piano study, and your encouragement and direction will be of immeasurable value in helping to establish these skills.  Each succeeding day of the week, check to make sure that the entire assignment is completed.  Perhaps ask your child to play one or more pieces to show you his/her progress throughout the week. Recording your child on video or simple cassette recorder on a regular basis will teach her/him to become self-critical, and teach her/himself on non-lesson days. 

Practice Standards 

Because regular practice is critical to a student’s progress at the piano, we require elementary students to schedule and practice approximately 20-30 minutes daily, intermediate level students 45-60 minutes daily, and advanced students a minimum of 60 minutes daily.  

These practice sessions should be scheduled at least five sessions per week outside of the lesson.  This offers the student one day to rest from the routine of practice.  

Students will be required to record each practice on an assignment sheet given at the lesson.  In these formative years, children learn faster if parents play a role in helping their child practice.  To encourage parent involvement we ask that parents sign the assignment sheet before the group lesson.  If a student does not demonstrate progress or commitment to regular practice for an extended period, a conference with the student and parent will be scheduled.  

A student will be asked to discontinue music study in the SMU Piano Preparatory Department if poor practice habits continue throughout the semester following the conference.

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