Everybody--including children--needs to practice efficiently. When you do this, you feel doubly proud of your effort expended.
First and foremost, -have a goal- for each piece of your assignment for each session. If you have a goal you can evaluate whether or not you reached it. If you don't reach it, your goal was too large. Your goal wouldn't be "play the Beethoven sonata better," it would be "fix fingering in measure 18."
Second, go to the piano -ready- to practice. Don't go when you've just had a disagreement with your spouse/parents and are still physically/emotionally upset about the altercation. Go when you're prepared to pay attention to what you're doing. Don't go when you're absolutely brain-dead or physically exhausted. Bring some energy to the piano--or simply go and dabble with something not on your assignment list: something that relaxes you. Your goal for such a session is not meeting a goal!
Third, work in an organized fashion. As my daddy, the rocket scientist says, "Plan the work and work the plan." Here's the plan I often suggest to my students: devote 10% of the practice time to technique (Hanon, Czerny, Schmitt, Herz, Phillipp), 10% to keyboard harmony (scales, arpeggios), 10% to sight-reading, 60% to literature, and 10% to fun (playing by ear, playing old stuff, poking around for new stuff). Of course, this division is flexible. You may need to spend extra time learning a new scale or more time on literature if a performance is on the horizon. But don't leave out the fun! That's the main reason you're doing this!!
Fourth, if you have an inefficient day, don't sweat it. Re-focus and try again tomorrow!
copyright 1996, Martha Beth Lewis, Ph.D.
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