Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Just because a student is not practicing every day does not mean that they are not making progress. What is the ideal practice schedule? A daily habit, even for just a few minutes goes a long way in building coordination, skill, and reinforcing techniques slowly but steadily.
But what if they only play at their lessons? If this is the case (and it happens much more than you may think) here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Schedule a longer lesson time.
If students are only getting their practice in at the lesson it may mean that they are not independent enough to practice on their own. This means they may need more time with the instructor to learn a piece well enough to feel independent by the end of the lesson.
A longer lesson doesn't mean it has to be boring. It means that there is time to add other enjoyable elements, like rhythm work on the drums, and ear training games to develop their sense of pitch. These elements help to reinforce deeper understanding of the material.
When students have good musical foundations they become more inclined to practice and play around with music. When students leave a lesson knowing a song very well they become more inclined to play on their own at home because it does not seem like such a big hurdle anymore.
2. Focus on doing one thing very well.
If the student is way too busy during the week to practice then the focus of the lesson needs to shift. Instead of doing several things that work together to build technique and skills, the student should be spending their lesson time learning to play one piece very well.
When I am teaching these students they usually do the same warm-ups each week so that we can focus on technique and skills, and not waste time learning new material. Then we work on one song, it is usually a song the student really likes and wants to perform so they are motivated to learn.
Students have their peaks and valleys when it comes to practice, so when students go through periods of not playing at home it is important to make adjustments and ride the wave without quitting. They will come back around, and in the meantime they are still learning, growing, and benefitting from music lessons!