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School of Music Piano Pedagogy Lab School

Practice Suggestions and Tips

The PPLS is committed to making piano lessons a positive experience for you and your child, and to guide young students into becoming music lovers who will acquire skills that will have lasting value. To that end our teachers are prepared to offer individual and group learning experiences on quality pianos; performance opportunities on our Fazioli grand piano on the Kimbrough concert stage; a large variety of music literature choices to appeal to any student’s taste; a solid musical foundation of technical development, music reading skills, improvisation and composition opportunities, music theory and ear training; and adjudicated and competitive (optional) events. Our young and enthusiastic teachers are excellent role models for beginning piano students, and they all receive training within the Bachelor of Music in Keyboard Performance with Emphasis in Keyboard Pedagogy degree.

Now that we’ve outlined our part, no music teaching is successful without a cooperative commitment from students and parents, and we recognize that effective communication and mutually agreed upon goals are essential to steady progress and achievement at the piano. To help all our committed parents and students who want to ensure that music study is fully rewarding, we’re offering tips and resources below on how to effectively prepare for piano lessons at home.

PLSS student at piano


  • Read the lesson assignment book each week, and pace your music practice so every assignment is completed by the end of the week. Follow any specific practice instructions given by your teacher. Reserve time to practice at least five days a week, for at least the minimum time recommended by your teacher. Try to stick to a regular schedule, and be prepared to notice if a certain time of day is or isn’t conducive to practicing (mental focus needs to be fresh for effective practicing). Free the area from excessive distractions and noise. And remember, practicing should eventually become an individual discipline so although parental help may be needed at first, consistency and routine are going to help the student gauge his progress, understand his realistic capabilities, and cultivate pride in his achievements.
  • Make sure you have all the tools needed: pencil and/or colored pencils or markers, well-lit piano, metronome (when recommended by the teacher), and music dictionary (if recommended).
  • Repetition counts: muscle development requires repetition, but only correct repetition actually produces improvement. Work in small sections, focus on the tricky spots, slow down if needed, and repeat at least three times without mistakes before moving on.
  • Master the “basics” first: correct notes, fingerings, and rhythm have to be secure before increasing tempo or refining dynamics, BUT don’t wait until you’ve finished the whole piece before adding any of the details! Look carefully at the music to find articulations (slurs, staccatos, accents), tempo changes, dynamics, etc.
  • Parents can ask the teacher at any time (not just at the lesson) about any questions or concerns. We understand that piano lessons in the PPLS may seem to operate very differently from your experience, and we want to have open communication about everyone’s expectations and goals.
  • Music isn’t a science (thank goodness!), and although we practice for perfection, we know that mistakes happen and will never reprimand a child for a normal, human performance. We value a spirit of curiosity and adventure, and applaud all our students’ achievements!

For more tips on practicing,  see or the pamphlets by Nancy O’Neill Breth “The Parent’s Guide to Effective Practicing” or “The Piano Student’s Guide to Effective Practicing” (published by the Hal Leonard Corporation and available at