Since you’re spending your time and money on high-quality piano lessons, presumably you want to get as much out of the instruction as you can. Here are a few ideas to help you get the most value out of your piano lessons.
Before you arrive, prepare yourself– gather your thoughts, consider any questions you have for your teacher, and spend a few minutes thinking about what you hope to get out of your lesson.
Be sure to bring along any materials you need, or that might be helpful. This includes pieces of music you are currently practicing, as well as those that you are interested in learning in the near future. You might also consider bringing a CD of a piece you are interested in. Your teacher can likely obtain the sheet music for you, or even help you find a piece of music that sounds similar, but is more appropriate for your skill level.
Clear your mind– take care of any tasks or situations that might distract you during your lesson, so that you can be fully focused.
Be Focused At Your Lesson
Since you’ve already taken care of everything at home, this should be relatively easy to do. Stay engaged with your teacher, asking questions whenever something is not clear.
Pause before you play each piece so that you are able to really give it your best.
If you receive your lessons at home, do whatever you can to minimize distractions. Close doors, and ask family members to be quiet or in a different part of the house. Provide adequate lighting so that it is easy for you to stay alert and focused.
Ask Questions At Your Lesson
Your teacher wants you to fully understand her instructions. If something isn’t clear, or is confusing, ask! You’ll find your teacher very willing to give explanation. Make sure you understand what songs you should be practicing, as well as how to play the songs correctly. Ask how often and for how long your teacher recommends for you to practice. Ask if there’s anything you should do differently from last week.
Make Sure Everyone Involved Understands the Weekly Assignments
If the student is a child, it is imperative that both the parent and the child fully understand the weekly assignments. Children need help understanding, remembering, and being motivated to practice their songs during the week. Without parental guidance, children often forget to practice, or practice the wrong songs. Children need someone to help keep them accountable, and to remind them to review their assignment throughout the week. Parent should also make sure they know how they can best help their child (and how they should avoid trying to help).
This one is probably obvious, but to get the full value of your lessons, you will need to practice. If you don’t practice, you’ll be improving one day each week. If you practice, you can be improving up to seven days each week. It makes a big difference! It is not an exaggeration to say that students who practice daily progress seven times faster than their peers who do not practice. However many days per week you make time to effectively practice, that completely dictates how quickly you’ll progress.
Practice the Right Exercises and Songs
Playing the piano is fun, but if you aren’t careful to practice the correct pieces, then you won’t see the improvement that you hope to. Practicing the pieces you teacher instructs you to will insure that you are practicing material that is both at your correct level, and also that you are developing the skills you need to advance to the next level. LISTEN to your teacher at your lesson, and REVIEW your assignment several times during the week so that you stay on track.
Practice doesn’t make perfect– practice makes PERMANENT. Whatever you practice will become a habit. If you “practice” wrong notes, than you’ll develop a habit of playing those wrong notes. Be sure to play your songs as carefully as possible, right from the start. Practicing should not start off sounding ugly and eventually becoming more and more beautiful. Practice should start off SLOWLY and beautiful, and gradually become faster (and beautiful), until the pieces are able to be played at the correct speed and in completion. Start by playing small sections slowly. Gradually increase the speed and string longer and longer sections together.
Review Your Assignments
Don’t just trust your memory! Several times (even daily) throughout the week, refer back to your written assignment to review what and how you are supposed to be practicing. Do not just read the titles of each of the pieces to make sure you’re covering them all– actually read the individual notes you teacher wrote about what you need to improve.
Did you teacher assign you any pages in a theory or activity book? If so, make sure that you complete these during the week, before your next lesson. Failure to do so will mean that you’ll have to spend valuable lesson time filling in blanks, when you could be progressing to the next song, or learning how to improve the songs you are currently practicing. Complete the workbook pages during the week, so that when you come to your lesson your teacher can quickly check it, and you’ll have time to discuss anything you didn’t understand, with plenty of time still left for your songs.
If you really want to get the most out of your lessons, then work ahead! SO MUCH lesson time is wasted on slow sightreading of new songs. Imagine what would happen if you did that at home before you came to your lesson! There would be much more time for your teacher to help you improve your pieces and develop new skills. By simply sightreading the next piece in each of your books before you come to your lesson each week, you would get around 50% more out of each lesson, and progress significantly faster.