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  • Bonnie

Consistency is the KEY to Mastering the Piano

I have been asked countless times what it takes to be more proficient on the piano. Be it sight reading, playing smoother/faster, better timing, etc. Of course, nothing comes easy. It is practice and more practice.

When I was younger, I remember seeing this proverb –

"To Play Like An Angel, You Need To Practice Like A Devil."

Come to think of it now, to a certain extent, it is so true.

Those of my students who are disciplined and spend a certain amount of time weekly on their practices generally have no or little problem progressing smoothly. If you need a more organized and systematic way, try using my Piano Practice Tracker.

It is ideal to plan a suitable and designated time for the practices - for example, three times a week, after dinner. I recommend doing it three times, 20-25 minutes each, instead of just one time for an hour. Repetition and consistency will be more effective. Also, especially for younger children, 1 hour can be too tiring. Once they lack focus, they won’t be able to concentrate or worst still, start to practice wrongly.

But what if the child is too busy to practice because of school responsibilities? Especially in Singapore, where the education system is competitive and challenging. With seven days a week and 24 hours a day, squeezing a 20-minute twice-a-week out should be pretty doable with some adjustments. Including the actual lesson day, the student will have contact with the piano at least thrice a week. All it takes is some commitment and prioritizing. Being able to prioritize the tasks effectively will help develop an orderly routine.

Some parents may suspend or terminate piano lessons altogether during major exams like PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination) or ‘O” and ‘A’ Levels. Thinking that doing so will give the child more time and focus for the exams. Obviously, suspending lessons will impact the student's progress. The longer the duration of the suspension, the harder it is to regain the same level of competency when the student resumes later.

Instead of suspending lessons, parents should look into the benefits of piano lessons in relation to academic performance.

For example

- Playing the piano can be a form of relaxation and help relieve stress, anxiety, and tension common during examination time. It will help to unwind and lessen the pressures of studying all the time and prevent burnout. Regular piano lessons can be enjoyable and contribute to overall well-being and mental health. When the child is more refreshed, their outlook on things, be it academic, communication with parents/friends can be more positive too.

- Piano playing involves various cognitive processes, namely reading the music score, hand-eye coordination, or memorizing the piano pieces. These activities stimulate the brain and enhance cognitive abilities like concentration, attention to detail, and problem-solving. As piano playing also requires memorizing skills, this can be particularly helpful when studying and memorizing academic material, such as vocabulary, formulas, historical facts, etc. The mental exercise of memorizing and recalling specific musical structures, patterns, and phrases can strengthen overall memory skills.

- Frequent piano practice also improves fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, agility, and response. These skills will eventually aid activities like typing, handwriting and doing science experiments.

- Balancing different commitments such as piano lessons and academics can also cultivate good time management and discipline, teaching the value of setting goals and sticking to a practice schedule. In the long term, these are good traits to acquire. These qualities can foster a strong work ethic and the ability to overcome challenges.

Suppose the student is already doing reasonably well in piano or is passionate about music. In that case, I strongly recommend that the parent discuss with the teacher and arrange the intensity or frequency of the lessons to suit the child’s schedule during busy periods. This will help ensure a manageable workload while reaping the benefits of continued musical education. I usually have another set of syllabuses that I use during school exams so that students can still learn and have fun when they have lessons with me, but not too demanding and overwhelm them.

With consistent practices, your piano playing is sure to improve in time.


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