How often should students practice?
Ideally every day. Realistically 4-5 times a week. Setting your student up with a practice plan that has clear goals to accomplish, and explaining why their working on it is essential to have happy and motivated students.
How long should practice time be?
Depending on age and ability, anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, based upon breadth of the material and goals. Generally speaking more regular short practice session across the week will be more beneficial than a single 1 hour session the day before the lesson.
What content should be covered in practice time?
This varies greatly student to student. Generally speaking, practice material should be covering all essential skills, such as theory, reading, practical exercises and pieces. It should however be rooted in the students interests and ambition, and balanced with their age and ability.
How do you/how should you react when your student tells you they haven’t practised?
This will vary from student to student, however the simplest and truest response is that you get out what you put in. If you aren’t practicing much, you won’t progress much, and with diminishing returns comes a wane in interest.
What are good excuses and bad excuses for not practising?
In general, an excuse for not practicing is just that, an attempt to explain why they didn’t practice. Sure, life gets in the way, but most people can find 10 minutes every day or second day to practice. If your student is giving you regular excuses, perhaps you need to work with them and come up with a clear and executable plan that will help them to find the motivation and keep it.
Is warming up/cooling down important?
Yes, where the activity being practised demands it. In many cases it is necessary to avoid injury. This is instrument/repertoire specific, but essential across all disciplines.
Should we differ our expectations on our students based on their goals?
Yes. All students should be motivated to practise, but what they practise and for how long is determined by the student’s own goals and motivations.
For Younger students – should parents be involved in the practice session? If so, in what capacity?
This can certainly be helpful. Many younger students may not have developed time management skills, so the help of parents to encourage practice and setup times/routines around it will make it much easier. Conversely, having parents that are overbearing and treating practice like school work and a chore, can sometimes push younger students away from music. Finding the balance is key, and sometimes, that means having an honest conversation with parents about their involvement.
Should practice should be a mix of jamming/mucking around etc. and going over new material from lessons?
There’s an important distinction between practice and jamming, however both are essential. Practice is the process of learning and honing ones skills. Jamming, or playing is the act of music and is the culmination of the practice. Too much of one or the other will be a detriment to progress, but somewhere in the middle is the joy of music and learning.
Should it matter what students are practicing, as long as they are practicing?
Practice is only practice when it is targeted towards practising a specific skill, attaining a particular standard or reaching a particular goal. If the student isn’t practicing what is being aimed for in the lessons, perhaps the goal of the lessons needs to change to meet what the student is willing to practise.