The 2 pieces for setting up a piano practice routine that lasts.

How To Set Up A Piano Practice Routine

Whether you are coming back from a break or starting piano lessons for the first time, it’s time to set up a regular piano practice routine. Any skill we put regular, consistent, thoughtful practice into leads to progress. And, the great part is … it doesn’t have to take hours of your day!


Why Set Up A Piano Practice Routine?

A regular piano practice routine ensures that students make steady progress throughout the year.

Imagine back to when you or, if you’re a parent, your child was learning how to read. Which scenario leads to reading more quickly?

  • Making reading a daily part of the day. Some stories are read to the child and, once reading starts, having the child read small sections as well.
  • Once a week, the child sat down to review and learn new phonetic rules followed by practicing reading a story together with an adult.

I think we can both agree that the second scenario leads to a child who not only reads more quickly, but enjoys reading more often as well.

Thankfully, there are two factors that make setting up a sustainable piano practice routine possible!

The Easy Way Or Hard Way As Parent

I’ve learnt the hard way with my own children that not making the time to set up a routine takes the joy out of many activities. Why?

It is a normal part of a child’s development to question everything and is not a sign that an activity needs to be discontinued.

Of course my children would rather play video games than spend time reading a novel. Even though this is an activity that they enjoy and could spend hours doing once they start.

The easy way tends to be easy in the moment. Not in the long run.

When you choose not to set up a regular practice routine with your child, you are teaching your child to ask “Why?” every time they are expected to go to the piano to practice.

And, that is no fun for anyone.

But when you set up a regular practice routine, I promise it is worth it in the long run.


Build Off What Already Exists

Did you know that routines help children feel more confident and foster independence? When children know what the expectations are and what is coming up next, they can make mental shifts on their own. Instead of parents guiding everything for them.

The same applies to adults. We just don’t always realize it because we often have the choice in how much our routine changes from day to day.

We need balance. Especially with the sheer number of activities that clamor for attention.

A Simple, But Effective Exercise

Below is an exercise I did with all my students when I was an academic strategist at a college. It is also an activity that I do with my pre-teen and teen piano students when the week starts becoming overwhelming.

  1. Write out a basic weekly schedule. This includes school/work, extracurricular activities, appointments, etc.
  2. Look at the spaces in between all those commitments.
  3. Write in time to wind down. For children this may be right after school. For adults, it will be different.
  4. Write in when you, or your child, will practice piano.
  5. Give you, or your child, a 5 – 10 minute heads-up before piano practice.

Here are a few extra tips to get the most out of this exercise:

  • If your family schedule changes drastically from week to week, be sure to do this activity weekly as a family meeting.
  • Divide practice sessions into 2 daily sessions if there are days when practice time is extremely short.
  • Make use of time in the car or taking public transit to practice rhythms (so long as you aren’t driving) or listen to versions of songs being learnt. Yes! This counts as practice time as well! Though you still need time at the piano to make true progress.
  • Having a reminder before practice time allows for activities to be finished and prepare for a switch in focus.

Look At What Is Part Of Your Routine

When my children were younger they knew exactly what to do when they came home from school. Now that they are older, this routine gets thrown off a little since their lives are increasingly independent. But, most days my children come home knowing these are the expectations.

Rather than setting up piano practice as a completely separate routine, link it to something that already happens on a regular basis. This is the easiest way to create a sustainable routine.

Rosemarie Penner

What is something that happens in your home each day that is very familiar?

  • Before leaving for school or work
  • After-school snack (for kids)
  • While you are making dinner (kids)
  • After dinner, before screen time
  • Before bed

As an adult, I’ve loved practicing piano and composing while my twins are doing their night time routine. They don’t need as much supervision so it’s worked out well in carving out that time for me.

Choose something you do on a regular basis to make this piano practice routine stick!

Bonus Strategy For Parents

At first, your child will probably ask quite a few questions about why it is piano practice time. Remember this is completely normal. Just keep directing your child back to the routine and giving a “heads up” that piano practice time is coming up.

One of my “secret” strategies is to set the stopwatch on my cell. Letting my children know they have 5 minutes before we are moving onto something else has worked wonders. Especially when I let them hear the alert on the phone. This worked with our twins even as young as 2 years old! Though I did get some weird looks as I would walk through the playground with my cell alarm going off. I didn’t care though because my kids would leave the playground without fuss.

No longer are you arbitrarily making your child switch activities (at least in your child’s mind). The 5-minute heads up has ended and it is time for the piano practice routine.


The Value Of Reminders

Linking piano practice to an already existing routine is the first step. But, it can’t stop there. There’s a reason why so many New Year’s resolutions fail.

Expecting a child to remember they need to practice on their own is not reasonable. Especially when the routine has been different.

Even as adults we need reminders as we set up new routines. Even if it is a return to a routine after holidays.

So, why do we continue to expect otherwise?

Remind, Remind, Remind

While my children know what the after school routine is, there are things that routinely fall through the cracks if I do not remind them. These tend to be the chores they don’t like to do. As a couple, my husband and I strongly believe that our children need to learn how to independently do things and a big part of being a family is working together to get things done around our home. So, we remind, remind, remind.

As a piano parent, your responsibility is training your child to make piano practice a regular part of their day.

As a teen or adult piano studio, your responsibility is to create the time to get to the piano as many times as possible throughout the week. I know that is a big ask as life’s responsibilities begin to add up. One of my favourite ways to set reminders is on my phone in a calendar app. I can set it and trust that it will remind me when to get something done. Like watering my plants. Or, composing.

You need to set up a piano practice routine that works with your, or your family’s, schedule. Then you need to make sure it happens. There will be seasons in your life that it may only be for 5 minutes at a time. That’s okay! It isn’t about long practice times. It’s about focused, intentional and, yes, regular piano practice routines.

Public Service Announcement For Piano Parents

If I ever find a way to make my children do a new routine perfectly the first time I tell them, don’t worry. I will be sure to let you know as well!

If you find the secret before I do, please let me know.

In the meantime, take heart in the fact that your children will eventually have a piano practice routine that is not guided by you. You’ve got this!


Make a Piano Practice Routine

You are amazing. (As parents and adults, we don’t always get to hear that.) I know that you have a lot of roles and responsibilities. The fact that you are reading this article shows you want to best support your child as they learn piano. And, if you are a teen or adult student reading this article … I have a feeling you’ll be successful. After all, you are looking for tips to make your practice time work!

While learning piano (or any instrument) means you set up and, possibly guide, the practice routine during the week, it is well worth it.

Parents, before you know it you will be listening to your child happily create music and exploring the piano. Even they did ask why it was practice time initially.

And for teen and adult students, setting up a piano practice routine will help you maximize the limited time you have. And, that will lead to beautiful music and, hopefully, time at the piano being a time of discovery and joy!

What questions do you have about setting up piano practice routine that works for you?

Let me know in the comments below!

If this approach to practice and piano lessons looks good to you, click to set up an interview to join our online piano studio!

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