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Change It Up!: Interleaved Practice–What It Is, Why It Works

What is Interleaved Practice?  Repetition is the most time-honored method of learning anything new, be it basketball, math, or piano. Practice! And practice some more.  But how do we structure practicing? How musicians or math students organize their practice and study time is not frequently discussed or thought about in great detail. Mus...
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Amy Glennon
This is absolutely fascinating. Looking forward to implementing these ideas. Thank you!
Saturday, 15 June 2019 07:04
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Whose Assignment Is it Anyway?

It happened again this week. I had used the word "heartbeat" to suggest the way the left- hand chords in the B section of Burgmüller's Ballade should sound. Every teacher knows the usual klunk-klunk sound most students first make when playing them. Owen had immediately responded to this image with exactly the right two-chord phrasing. Ah, success,...
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Preparing Students for Peak Performance Through Centering Practice

Healthy Playing, Healthy Teaching , Vanessa Cornett, Editor Many teachers are unsure of the best way to respond when a student first utters the words, "I feel nervous!" Young students experiencing anxiety for the first time may mistakenly feel that their symptoms should be eliminated entirely. Yet, in order to perform ...
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Purple Days

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Yesterday, Andrew came into his lesson scowling. He stomped her to the piano bench, sat down, and crossed his arms in front of his chest, still scowling. I  first met five-year-old Andrew when he was a baby, sitting on his dad's lap during his older brother's piano lessons. During all of his eight months of piano lessons, I have never seen him...
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100 Days of Practice?

Cartoon Graphic Cartoon credit: Suzanne E Carpenter
Our student, Maria Willertz, recently stood on the stage of Steinway Hall in Cincinnati proudly displaying her certificate for having practiced 100 days in a row, an accomplishment we achieved together by providing a positive environment in which to practice, conveying clear expectations of how to practice, and evoking encouragement to help keep he...
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May/June 2018: Questions and Answers

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Q: Is it OK for a student to continue study if they don't practice? I have a student who reads well and enjoys her lessons, but honestly, each time I see her, our time is spent practicing.  A: As a rule of thumb, I believe that the more music and music-making in the world, the better. On that basis, even if this student makes music only once a...
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Jan/Feb 2018 Variations: A nickel for every mistake

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Seven-year-old Serena's mother describes her daughter's first piano practice of every week. "We always have tears! If she makes even one mistake, she is ready to give up. She expects herself to be able to the play the piece perfectly the first time. No matter what I say, she gets upset. Eventually, she turns her frustration on me, which means she e...
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Parents attending lessons: rewards and challenges

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Why would teachers want to encourage parents to attend lessons? Although some teachers—Suzuki, Yamaha, or preschool, for example—routinely invite parents, not all music teachers find that children or their guardians benefit from a shared experience. The following is an overview of some of the rewards and challenges of parental attendance at lessons...
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My meeting with the man in the ebony and ivory tower

Man in the Ivory Tower
The following account may be fiction. It may be true. It may be both. I had been a piano teacher and performer for nearly a decade. At the age of twenty-eight, I was plagued by a persistent "hollow" feeling, especially after giving yet another mediocre lesson or anxiety-driven performance. Performing was always an ordeal, and a perpetual affront to...
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Having fun with scales

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Yeah, right! Is it really possible to have fun playing scales? For many students, practicing scales is a chore. In fact,it is a big chore and seems to be boring and confusing while taking too much time away from practicing pieces. "If my piece does not have a scalar passage, why should I play the scale of this piece's key? That is a waste of time!"...
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Practicing double-thirds scales

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Why study double-thirds scales? Practicing double-thirds scales facilitates the performance of similar double-thirds passages encountered in the piano literature. 1 Routinely practicing the double-thirds major scales readies the pianist for major and minor scale fragments, as well as challenging chromatic double-thirds passages. 2 Some complet...
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Letter to the Editor: September/October 2017

Dear Editor, The Editor's Page ("Who will save the guitar?" July/August 2017) commented on the 10,000 hour rule of thumb. This has been rumbling around in my mind for a little while as a confluence of discussions that all reference this "law" have been keeping the idea active in my head. The comment about taking 10,000 hours to reach expert or mast...
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The art of practicing: Broad principles

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Have you ever thought that, from a young student's viewpoint, practicing is counterintuitive? Think about other skills you learned as a child: tying your shoes, for example. An adult shows you how to do it (I used the "Bunny Rabbit Ears" method with my nephews), you practice clumsily at first, then with increasing mastery, until finally there is no...
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The art of practicing: I really should be practicing well

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I do apologize to Gary Graffman for filching his title as blatantly as I have, but let's face it—although the quality of one's practice may be just one factor in determining how fast and far one progresses at the piano, it's a critical one. In the studio lessons and piano classes I teach, a large percentage of the time is devoted to how to practice...
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Who will save the guitar?

In recent years, there's been a lot of discussion about the state of the piano teaching industry. We know that piano sales have declined dramatically, but has there been a decline in the number of people studying piano? In the absence of thorough data, we can only look to anecdotal evidence, which seems to be highly variable. I hear from teachers w...
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DIGITAL-ONLY CONTENT: 20 reasons students don't practice, part two

​Bonnie Blanchard set out to discover the reasons students don't practice in the last article. Here are some of her remedies!
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DIGITAL-ONLY CONTENT: 20 reasons students don't practice, part one

Here are the reasons . Click at the bottom of the page for Bonnie's superb ideas for engaging students!  ​ ​ They didn't sign up to practice. They don't think you care. They don't believe they can succeed. They don't know what to do. They don't know where to start. It doesn't work. They can't figure out how to fit it into their already bu...
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Perfectly managing imperfection

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. ---Vaclav Havel I am listening to seventeen-year-old Olivia play her college audition pieces: a Chopin Ballade and a Bach Prelude and Fugue. I am not her teacher; Olivia has an outstanding mentor at a renowned ...
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Practicing with backing tracks

Most young musicians learn to play their instruments with peers in a student orchestra, concert band, or group class. Student pianists, on the other hand, because they typically practice and perform alone for many years may miss out on learning essential ensemble skills such as: Steady beat—keeping a steady pulse and avoiding pauses to fix notes; L...
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Immersion

My bookbag struck the floor with a thud as I closed the door to my house. I made my way over to the piano and slumped down on the piano bench. Another exhausting day of tests had drained my energy, yet again. Practicing piano would be strenuously difficult for me, if not impossible. After running through my scales, I sighed and opened up a pie...
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