Piano Practice Games
Piano practice games are essential to your student's enjoyment of the piano. Without them, a child may feel that learning the piano is simply drudgery. A piano teacher is faced with a difficult choice.
Like a prison warden, you have to decide whether to be strict about practicing and risk rebellion. Or you can devise other methods to get the child to repeat the piece and keep peace in the barracks.
The Strict Warden
The strict warden approach is laden with drawbacks. It's suitable only for students who have decided to take up the piano seriously. And a child of six does not take up the piano seriously. So don't expect them to practice unless you have shown them how to practice, and have given them a song they like.
Show Them How To Practice
In fact, a better approach is to never mention practicing. You can say, "Play that song over a few times before I see you again." If it's a song the child likes, it might happen. The only game I have found that works is to totally discard feelings of resentment about not practicing. In fact, expect them not to practice. Don't say, "Don't practice."
Don't Use Guilt
Most likely they won't practice, and you'll save yourself and the student a lot of needless stress if you assume that and move on from there. If a child assumes you will help them even when they don't "practice," they will be more open to trying things during the lesson.
This amounts to practicing during the lesson. I have taken a multitude of kids through that stage, and seen them come out on the other end with skills and the desire to practice. All because I didn't insist they practice. I always appear amused when they don't practice, and I never ever ask if they have because I know the likely answer.
The Old School Prefers Forced Practice
Not enforcing practice rules is piano heresy to piano pedagogues from Shanghai to Steinway Hall. The standard view is that a child must be forced to practice or they won't assimilate all the skills needed to be Vladimir Horowitz .The view is that, even if such forced practice makes the child quit, it is still needed and important.
Listen to that idiocy. Forced practice causes a child to quit, so you insist on more forced practice. Making a child quit piano is the result of poor teaching and leadership, not of carefully planned curriculum. That's why nine out of ten kids quit, and that's why pianos are being dumped in landfills.
What Future Is There For Piano?
You want a future for the piano and piano music? Then you better start finding ways for people to enjoy the piano in the present day, on their own terms. So the game I play is to have them "practice" while they are at the lesson. And it is fun for them, because I disguise it so skillfully that the kid never knows it's work because it seems like play.
Instead of it being a rote experience, they learn how to practice, by osmosis. As they get better at a piece and feel good about it, they begin to realize why we practice.
Most Kids Have No Idea How To Practice
So before you ask a child to practice, make sure they know what you are talking about. Make sure they have experienced practicing in a way that eventually teaches them how and why to practice by themselves. It takes years. A large part of the lesson is finding what part of the piece to practice.
The Section Game
A general rule of practicing is to work in sections, not the entire piece. This makes it easier to concentrate. I never let a kid play a piece all the way through unless we have decided to give it a run-through. Unless it's a run-through, we are picking it apart.
We laugh at the hard bits while we try to figure them out. I am always aware of the fatigue factor in playing this game. You have to know when enough is enough, and that is usually when their eyeballs start to do circles.