Newsflash! You do simply wake up one morning and become a concert pianist. If you are searching for piano lessons in NYC, you probably already know that working with a qualified teacher is one step towards becoming a better musician. What you may not be sure of is the time commitment. A common question that many parents and beginning music students ask us is: “How much time should I practice in between piano lessons?“
Every student should have a plan for how much time to invest weekly for independent practice time. Some students, both children and adults, are afraid to ask because they are fearful they would be told the practice time would be overwhelming. Some students don’t ask because they are not even aware that they should practice at all.
The truth is, playing piano requires a very long list of skills: music theory, technique, interpretation, sound quality, dynamics, and more! It took hundreds of thousands of keyboard players and 400 years to create the craft of playing the piano. Beginning piano lessons with an accomplished teacher is just one step of many. One of the most important parts of your piano instructor’s job is to help you develop a practice plan that works for you.
The question “how much time should I practice in between piano lessons?” does not even cross the mind of young children. At this age, children need their parents’ guidance as well as their teacher’s guidance. An adult always needs to be there to practice with the child. Taking piano lessons and learning to practice regularly is a great learning experience because it helps children prepare for other responsibilities, such as homework, projects, chores, and more.
Anything longer than 25 minutes will cause most children to become tired and not be able to focus. If you are serious about piano lessons for your child, the key is to have daily practice of at least 10-25 minutes. A common mistake parents make is to “forget” to remind their child to practice for the entire week andthen try to sit at the piano for a whole hour right before the lessons to compensate for the lost time. Don’t make this mistake! Be sure to have your child sit down to practice at least 3-5 times per week (or more if you can!)
It’s 8pm, you are finishing dinner, all tired after a long day and ready for some down time and all of a sudden “my goodness, we forgot to practice the piano!” Most commonly in this situation 9 out of 10 times you will decide “Oh well, we will have to do it tomorrow.”
If you have a child 7-10 years old, you already know that managing time between school, homework, sports, playdates, and other extracurriculars is tough. If you don’t schedule specific times to practice it will simply not happen. At this age, scheduling a specific time to practice piano daily is crucial.
Depending on how busy your child’s life is: schedule three 30 minute practice sessions per week at a minimum. You are paying for the piano lessons, and you are investing in your child’s future. Don’t waste your money and efforts. Without practicing at home, your child will be making very minimal progress, if any progress at all.
If you and your child are serious about piano lessons, you can practice more each day. It’s important to break it into smaller, manageable blocks of time.
For example, if you are planning to do a total of 1.5 hours in one day, then schedule breaks after each 30 minutes. While your children can do many piano assignments alone, still check what and how they are doing them. Ask your piano teacher to explain to you how to help your child to practice.
More school, more homework, more friends to hang out with. At this age many children who took piano lessons previously begin to shift their interest from piano to other things. One of the biggest reasons for this shift is the lack of progress due to previously not practicing. When kids find themselves stuck with the same piece of music for 6+ months, or a song that they just can’t finish and play fluently, the sense of enjoyment from playing the piano begins to fade.
This is a good time to ask your piano teacher to talk to your child about the importance of home practicing and how all this amazing work that was done for years may become nearly useless if the student doesn’t keep up with practicing. Talk to your children about it too–they need your help with continuing to master the amazing skill of playing the piano. They are not grown up enough yet to do it all by themselves. Use the “30 minutes 3 times a week” as a rule for minimum practicing time.
The older kids who are new to piano, on the contrary, usually feel very enthusiastic about practicing. If they want to sit at the piano for 2 hours, let them do it! But still, it’s always better to practice several times a week then several hours all in one day. Help your children to create a routine – a habit that is good in life for many other things as well.
If your child is thinking about going into professional piano playing, then the aim should be 2 to 4 hours a day. Yes, that’s a lot! Closer to the time of auditioning for college, piano students often feel the need to sit at the piano for as long as possible.
As a parent this is the time to convince your child that the quality of practicing is more important than the number of hours spent daily. While it is possible to spend 8 hours practicing in one day, the results of this type of practicing might be very questionable in the end. Many piano professors argue that focused and goal oriented practicing for 3 hours a day yields better results then mindless repetitions for as long as possible. Over-practicing may also lead to physical injuries, some of which may not ever fully heal. Be careful! Keep talking to your teacher about the smart way to practice.
From college age to 70 or even 80 years old, you can start learning piano from scratch and get your skills to the level that you want. We actually had a student who started our piano lessons in NYC in her early 20’s with no prior experience. She is now a professional concert pianist! This is an example of extreme progress and we are very proud that she was our student! Most adults, of course, start their piano lessons as a fun hobby that they can keep for life.
So how much should you practice in between piano lessons as an adult?
We are all busy with life at different degrees between the workload, family, and friends, so each person’s situation is different! As a rule, think that you need to spend at least twice the amount of time practicing by yourself as the time of your weekly piano lesson, and ideally not at once but at least two separate times a week. If you have more time to practice, great, please do more! Same reminder as before: don’t do your weekly practicing time all at once. Space it out- you will feel the real results from your lessons.
If you are getting better and better at piano as an adult, then it is obvious that you truly love it. You stuck with it! When you love it you want to do more and more of it. We encourage you to practice as much as you want to, but we must also warn you about the potential for injuries. Playing musical instruments involves very active use of muscles and connective tissues. Think about yourself as an athlete who needs to be careful with exactly how you practice. It’s important to take breaks after each hour of practicing and to be aware of what your body is doing when you are practicing. Make sure you have a great piano teacher who can address how you should be practicing when you practice for longer amounts of time!
If you are looking for more guidance on how much to practice and how to better practice piano, Riverside Music Studios offers piano lessons in NYC and online with professional teachers for students ages 4+.