Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Make it EASY, then Practice HARD

Use PRACTICE to Make it EASY

What should practice accomplish between lessons? Progress.

What is progress? Improvement, betterment, advancement.

To simplify, progress is when what was perceived as HARD becomes EASY.

Use SUPPLIES to Make it EASY

The Staples “Easy Button” has set next to my piano for years. Every Fall I make a point of revisiting practice strategies–they can always be refreshed. This summer, Staples featured an “EASY Stamp” and I was smitten. So, my goal was to somehow incorporate the EASY button with the EASY stamp for a new-fangled practice strategy. Little did I know how successful this combo could be with Post-its–yet another favorite office supply.

Use a THEME to Make it EASY

This year’s Fall studio theme is Make it EASY, then practice HARD. A bulletin board next to the piano, a picture frame with a picture of an EASY button, an EASY button screen saver and of course the EASY stamp AND button have fully immersed students in this latest theme.

Use ISOLATION to Make it EASY

Playing HT (hands together) is difficult or “HARD” for pianists at any level. After EASY stamping a post-it, the pianist (let’s call her Melody) and I discuss a practice prescription for “Carefree Stroll”.

Section A:

  1. Play RH (right hand) 3x, counting aloud
  2. Play LH (left hand) 3x, counting aloud
  3. Play HT (hands together) using EASY Post-it practice

Melody and I then briefly review the prescribed practice routine to ensure correct reading and counting, and then we give the EASY Post-it practice a try.

The Post-it is placed so that beat one of a measure is isolated and Melody is asked to play it–perfectly (fingering, rhythm, pitches, etc). To her amazement it looks EASY and yes, she succeeds at beat one HT. It is important that Melody (not just me) recognizes success, so she is asked to make her own evaluation of how she did. If she declares victory, we move on to the next beat.

The Post-it is moved to reveal beat two. Melody plays beats 1 and 2 HT. Melody evaluates the attempt and usually wants to try it one more time to ensure confidence.

Within a few minutes a measure can be mastered HT and Melody happily pushes that EASY button. In addition, she is eager to continue this strategy at home because success was discovered at the lesson. (Hint: this also works well with backwards practice!)

As you know, if it’s hard, it will most likely be avoided on the home practice bench which means no progress. Make it EASY and it will get practiced, HARD!

“That was EASY”

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8 Comments

  1. […] Viss talks about why having an EASY button in your studio can make your students work […]

  2. […] Make it EASY, then Practice HARD – “What should practice accomplish between lessons? Progress. What is progress? Improvement, betterment, advancement. To simplify, progress is when what was perceived as HARD becomes EASY…” […]

  3. Jennifer

    What a great idea for a theme! I use the EASY button in my studio but had no idea they had an EASY stamp! This is a must do for sure! Thanks for sharing!

  4. […] came across this blog article, Make it EASY, then Practice HARD over at Music Teachers Helper written by Leila Viss. I thought it was such a great idea for a theme […]

  5. Amanda Furbeck

    I like your strategy! You are so right – we all balk at things that are hard. Thanks for the great idea!

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  7. Robyn Pfeifer, NCTM

    Breaking down music into clear concise steps is so important for student practice. I have been using this method for years. For younger students, I add a practice chart to keep them interested in practicing at home. Older students who need encouragement for practice, I encourage with setting small goals of accomplishing parts or complete songs by a certain time.

    Also recording student’s music on to CD encourages them to practice, because they get to take the CD home with them to share with friends and family

  8. […] Make it EASY, then Practice HARD – “What should practice accomplish between lessons? Progress. What is progress? Improvement, betterment, advancement. To simplify, progress is when what was perceived as HARD becomes EASY…” […]

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