Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Steps & Details to Observe in Practice Sessions

Has a student ever had a difficult time mastering a piece?  Have you ever been at a loss as to how to organize a lesson and point students in a forward position toward successful goals accomplished in their practice times.  The following list is not exhaustive, but will hopefully be helpful to all of you as we strive to help our students develop a strong, well-rounded musical education.  This list is based only on the practice of one piece.  Theory, ear-training, sight-reading, application of duets, and much more are different subjects to be addressed at different times.  🙂

Name: ________________________________

Practicing Tips – Learning a new song/piece

Name of song/piece

  1. What does the name describe?
  2. Does the name give you an idea of what the song will be like?


  1. Who?
  2. When did they live?
  3. Look up the name and write down 5 important facts about him/her.
  4. Are there any words or terms or signs you are unfamiliar with?
  5. Look them up online or in a music dictionary and know them for the next lesson.


  1. What key is this song in?
  2. Are there sharps and flats in the key signature?  What ones?

Look at the notes

  1. Are any parts particularly interesting?
  2. Do any sections repeat themselves?

What is the time signature?

  1. Turn on your metronome, and tap out the rhythm of the entire song with both hands.

As you are playing, pay attention to the following…

  1. Fingering
  2. Accuracy
  3. Sound quality
  4. Rhythm
  5. Rests
  6. Balance
  7. Articulation
  8. Dynamics
  9. Phrase shape

Remember these practicing tips when nothing else works…

  1. Separate the hands
  2. Memorize the passage
  3. Slow down
  4. Work on a smaller portion
  5. Take a break
  6. Practice a different piece
  7. Sight-read for ten minutes, then try again
  8. Do more repetitions
  9. Use different practice tips
  10. Write in more fingering
  11. Change the fingering

Practicing Tips – Theme for January (in my studio)… a good way to start the New Year!  🙂

Practicing takes determination, patience, awareness, curiosity, and tunnel vision.

  1. Determination – we all know what this is!
  2. Patience – Learning to play the piano can’t be done in a hurry.  It takes time – every day, every week, and over the years.  Set aside a portion of each day for practicing, and keep the appointment faithfully.
  3. Awareness – Listen so carefully that you know exactly how you sound.
  4. Curiosity – Ask yourself questions.  How did that sound?  Was it better than before?  If so, how?  If not, why not?  Should I slow down?  Should I change the way I practice?
  5. Tunnel Vision – Set a specific goal for each practice session.  Focus on one problem at a time.  Work in small sections.  Even within a section, work on one hand (or one musical line) at a time or on one aspect only, such as accuracy, speed, balance, dynamics, or tone quality.


  1. Pencil or highlighter – write in visual aids like fingering, accidentals, pedal marks, dynamics, notes of encouragement, or danger signals.
  2. Music dictionary – Musical terms are a composer’s way of explaining how a piece should be played.  Use your dictionary to be sure that you understand every message.
  3. Metronome – Use the metronome creatively.  It can help you not only to track the beat, but also to unravel complicated rhythms, to raise a piece’s tempo bit by bit, to feel the phrase, or just to calm yourself down.  Make a habit of counting aloud, with or without the metronome.
  4. Microphone – To discover how you really sound, record your playing on good quality equipment and listen to it.

Reply and comment with your own tips here… I am looking forward to hearing more ideas to implement in my own studio.  🙂

About the Author

Kristin Phillips
Kristin has been studying piano since the age of 6 and with the guidance of her family and teachers, began teaching others by 14. After pursuing pedagogy in piano and business administration for a short time - to be continued at a later time, she transferred to studying church music ministry at Portland Bible College. She enjoys editing her website, writing in her spare time, teaching piano stud... [Read more]


  1. How To Practise

    Thanks for the tips Kirsten. I\’ll be linking to this from my blog. Lots of good advice in a simple list.

  2. Kristin Phillips

    Thanks for the comment and the link! 🙂 I am honored to have the opportunity to give some advise in some way. I checked out your website as well. Great work! 🙂

  3. Cynthia Hoover

    I’m writing an evaluation tool for my studio about practice. I’m just browsing for some ideas and encouragement. You did a great job, Kristin. Blessings,
    Cynthia in MD

  4. Kristin Phillips

    Hi Cynthia,

    Thank you for your comment! 🙂 I hope you are able to use this for your studio. Please keep us posted with any ideas you have on the subject!

    ~Kristin (from Oregon) 🙂

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