Incremental Practicing

I recently had a chat with multiple students’ parents about making their kids practice every day. This “no time to practice” along with “my dog ate my piano book!” type of excuses seem to be a common theme among piano students. Then, I gave a suggestion of “incremental practicing”, and for them, it is working very well so far.  

“Incremental Practicing” – which means to spread practicing into multiple short 5-10 minutes per session throughout the day (and make it as a daily routine)

Here are some examples (but not limited to):

 * practice 5-10 minutes during school recess (if any and if allowed)
   – or –
 * practice 5-10 minutes during lunch time (if allowed)
   – or –
 * practice 5-10 minutes right after the school finished
   – or –
 * practice 5-10 minutes before the dinner
   – or –
 * practice 5-10 minutes after the dinner

 … and so on

The key here is splitting the session into small segments, so that student can focus practicing small tasks (listen to the music, practice one page of the music per session, 4 measures of one music, last line of the music, etc.) within the short period of time. This plan looks very tedious, but it can be effective to focus for 5-10 minutes on a small task rather than one 30+ minutes session handling big chunks. With school being online these days, I discussed with parents that this is not impossible.

If this is too much to manage, no worries. This is just one example of practicing that worked for some people. It’s not a mandatory approach.

Another student of mine started having a regular short Zoom meeting with their grandparents to play their piano pieces to entertain grandpa and grandma weekly. This activity can be one of the segments of “incremental practice” and this approach is motivating them to practice regularly:)

Another student started sharing her piano playing to her friends via FaceTime. This is another activity of “incremental practice” and really motivating her to practice:)

I’ll keep you posted if I come up with other creative ways to get students motivated to practice.


When is the best age to start piano lessons?

“When is the best age to start piano?”

I get this question a LOT from parents and prospective customers. Then my answer is usually “it depends”.

Obviously, you don’t want to start your 1 year old on piano. However, here are some prerequisites that my studio has:

* Child can read numbers 1 to 10
* Child can read alphabets A to Z
* Child can sit still for at least 15-20 minutes
* Child’s fingers can bend and handle the weight to push the keyboard all the way down

Emiko is currently teaching piano at her Mercer Island piano studio

If a potential client can meet these criteria above, I will take him/her.

Think about it. No matter how musically genius a child is, if he/she cannot physically handle piano keyboard, it will defeat the purpose of teaching it. Seriously, piano playing is much more physical activity than you may think.

For kids who cannot meet these criteria above, I recommend doing a lot of musical activities first.

*Listening to a variety of music at home (classical, jazz, pop, wrap, you name it)
*Go to live concert
*Dance with famous tunes on video / TV / movies, etc.
*Clap rhythm with famous tunes as well
*Sing! Singing doesn’t require finger muscle! It’ll be fun activity!

Ideal age to start piano would be somewhere between 5 to 8 years old. I myself started when I was 5 years old.

Occasionally, I have students who start a bit later, say 9 years old. They are actually not too old! Since physically equipped, established mature thinking, already had experience in social activities, these kids usually surpass younger one with a good care and attention.  So, please don’t discourage if your kids want to learn piano at 9, 10, 11, even older! Let them try it out and see if it is a good fit!

Let me share my story how I started piano. As a little girl growing up in Japan, I was extremely shy and not socially active. My kindergarten teacher told my mother that I should be doing some activities aside from school. One day, my mother asked me (actually I don’t remember this) that “Would you like to start ballet lesson or piano lesson? Either way, it will be fun for you.”  Well, If I said “ballet” at that time, I wouldn’t be teaching piano now!

Takeaway is that you’ll never know how / when / why you’ll meet piano. Hope you will have (or did already) a wonderful encounter with piano and have fun with it the rest of your life!