The Importance of Effective Piano Practice

Is practicing a chore at your home? Developing consistent and effective piano practice habits is often the biggest struggle for those learning the instrument. Sometimes you just need a little help. If practicing is a struggle in your home, you could definitely benefit from our Practice Pals program. This program allows you or your child to have a Practice Leader actually practice with you three times each week! This is a great opportunity for beginning students as well as for those who have been playing for years.

Practice Pals can help teach a student how to practice the piano by walking with the student through his/her piano practice assignments throughout the week in a fun, engaging way. This will help lay a solid foundation for long-term musical success. It is crucial for a student to not only practice, but practice in such a way to make that time effective. If a student doesn’t know how to practice, much time will be wasted. Many students get discouraged due to ineffective practicing habits, leading to quitting private lessons. We have spoken with many adults who have had that experience themselves, only to regret their decision to quit music lessons.

We want to help! Practicing doesn’t have to be a chore! Give Practice Pals a try and see the amazing difference in your child’s progress! Don’t let your kid be the one who grows weary of the process and quits, only to regret that decision for the rest of their lives. Contact us today to get started with Practice Pals!

Repertoire List

Music lessons are most successful when you, the parent, are involved. We teachers are more than happy to help discover what will make your music lessons more successful. Sometimes a few small adjustments can make a huge difference. One thing that might be a good idea to discuss with your teacher is working on a repertoire list. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, repertoire (repə(r)ˌtwär) simply means the songs that the student has practiced and can perform well. Some students might be discouraged because they feel they can’t really perform if someone asks them to play. This can easily be remedied! Often students know many more songs than they realize, they just haven’t taken the time to write these songs down, so they simply forget what they are able to perform. Creating a repertoire list can be so beneficial!

  1. Writing down a list of songs that the student worked hard on and can play well works as a visual reminder of the students’ continuing progress.  
  2. Having a repertoire list makes it possible to have impromptu performances/recitals. Personal story: I was raised in a very musical family, and every type of gathering involved musical performances. As a kid I dreaded this because I never felt prepared. Oh, I had practiced plenty and had perfected many songs, but as I continued gaining new songs to work on, I easily forgot about the old ones. I didn’t know off the top of my head what I was able to play or sing. Once I sat down and made a list of all the songs I knew well, I felt much more prepared in the event someone asked me to play or sing something. And all the effort I had put toward my musical development finally started paying off.
  3. Adding songs to one’s repertoire can work as a great motivator. Maybe a student has 5 songs in his repertoire. Well, set a goal! Encourage him to get 10 songs on the list! Reward him for doing so! (This reward may or may not cost money, depending on what you prefer.) Adding songs to a students’ repertoire list can be such a feeling of accomplishment.

Don’t be afraid to set goals with your child! Was practicing a struggle last year? What can be done to turn that around? Of course Starlight has an incredible Practice Pals program that you can take advantage of. Practicing is non-negotiable when it comes to developing a skill, especially music. Have you ever met an amazing athlete who only participates in games? No, great athletes practice, practice, practice! What about spelling? What child wins a spelling bee without practice? What child learns to read well without lots of practice? Do you know a computer programmer, writer, dancer, gymnast, public speaker, actor, etc? These people don’t become great without much practice. Music is no different.

 

Not only will practice help the student progress musically, but the diligence that must be learned in order to commit and practice regularly will absolutely transfer to other parts of life.

So go ahead, have the courage, commitment, confidence, and persistence to make this year a better year! Make that repertoire list and start adding to it! Happy performing!

Piano Recital

So, what’s so great about recitals, you may ask?

Well, first of all, a piano recital is a great way for students to showcase what they have accomplished musically. Learning an instrument is tough! Becoming skilled on an instrument takes much dedication, hard work, and often goes un-rewarded. When a student has the opportunity to walk on stage to show off what he or she has learned, the sense of pride and accomplishment the musician feels is unmatched. Seeing the smiling faces and hearing the applause from loved ones and complete strangers reignites the passion and determination it takes to become a skilled musician.

Piano recitals also play a big role in building a musician’s confidence in performing. It is so disappointing to a musician to put so much work into learning an instrument, yet be unable to share that skill with others simply because he or she is too afraid to perform for others. Starlight Music Lessons’ recitals provide a safe and supportive environment to help build a musician’s confidence in performing as he learns his instrument. She doesn’t have to worry about people laughing at her mistakes or judging her nervousness. We all understand that performing is difficult, and becoming a great performer takes practice, just like anything else. So Starlight students can feel confident to walk up on stage and do their best. Once they realize how great  it feels to perform and see the fruit of their labors, they will have more confidence in their own performing abilities. Even if a student does not aspire to be a professional musician, participating in recitals helps the student develop the confidence required to simply share music with others in small ways: playing for relatives at a reunion, singing for residents at a nursing home, bringing a smile to someone’s face by sharing a beautiful musical piece.

Piano recitals are rewarding for parents. You have spent good money on your child’s lessons. Nothing beats watching your pride and joy walk up on stage and perform. It is such a great moment when you are able to see the fruit of your own labor: paying for lessons, encouraging your child to practice, making time for the lessons. When you see your young musician on stage nailing a piece, the value of what you have been providing for your child is suddenly clear.

Along those same lines, recitals also become benchmarks for measuring the student’s progress. As a parent listening to the lessons week by week, it is easy to miss the subtle progress being made. But when you compare videos and songs from recitals, you will be amazed by the noticeable improvement in your child’s abilities from one recital to the next!

And finally, a piano recital is such a blessing to teachers. Your teacher puts so much effort and care into molding your child into a skilled musician. When we, as teachers, are able to see our students pull off those songs we and the students have been working so hard on, as teachers, our hearts swell with pride for our students! We love them dearly, and it means the world to see our students become skilled musicians.

Recitals have even more benefits, but we’ll stop there for now. We sincerely hope you will make time for a piano recital this year!

Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is a natural response to having to get up in front of others to showcase a skill. If you have a child preparing to perform? Are YOU nervous for your child? We’re going to share some tips with you regarding overcoming performance anxiety.

 

Before we get into tips for your child, lets talk about you for a moment. As your child prepares for a music recital, if you are experiencing performance anxiety on your child’s behalf, that’s perfectly normal, but what you decide to do with that anxiety can have an impact on how your child is able to handle his/her own nervousness. If you are stressed about your child performing, try to relax, at least in front of your child. Your stress is contagious, and if your child is already nervous, your stress will make it worse for him. She will pick up on your anxious cues and become anxious herself, even if she wasn’t really that nervous to begin with. And just remember: playing in a recital is a wonderful growth opportunity for your child, and even if he/she does make a mistake it’s not the end of the world. So try to enjoy the process.

 

Okay, so how can your child deal with his performance anxiety? Well, the first thing is to recognize that feeling nervous is not a bad thing! Most performers (even professional) get jitters before they go on stage. These jitters are from adrenalin rushing through our bodies. Musicians need to learn how to harness this adrenalin and use it to their advantage to power their performance with confidence, passion, and power. This adrenalin is a signal to the brain that it needs to “turn on” and work with excellence.

Here are a few tips to gain control over performance anxiety:

  1. Think positively. Don’t focus on what you might do wrong. Set goals for yourself, and repeat these goals to yourself. For example the student can say to himself, “I am going to play wonderfully.” Or “I will be calm and confident and give a fantastic performance.”
    • Don’t focus on negatives or timid thinking such as, “I hope I don’t mess up.” Or “I won’t forget my songs.” Make sure the thoughts stay positive, focusing on what you WILL do as opposed to what you WON’T do or HOPE you will or won’t do.
  2. Breathe! When we are scared we start breathing quickly. Focusing on taking deep breaths and slowing down the breathing will effectively help relax the body and mind.
  3. Rehearse. Obviously we all know practicing the songs is very important, but also important is actually rehearsing. Make sure to run through the performance routine many times in the weeks leading up to the recital. If the student goes through the motions enough times it will become second nature to her. Stress often comes from the fear of the unknown, or unanswered questions. As I was developing my music abilities, much of my stress before performances came from not knowing how things would play out. When do I bow? When will I walk on stage? Will I be in the audience or backstage, etc. I knew the music very well, but not being confident in all the other little things can shake a person’s confidence. So, rehearse many times so you don’t have to worry about the little extras. Click here to read Starlight’s Recital Preparation Tips.
  4. Visualize. Imagine (with a positive attitude) what it will be like to walk on stage. Imagine yourself playing the song perfectly. Visualize how pleased the audience will be. Hear the applause in your head. Smile! See yourself stand up and take a bow. Imagine the satisfaction and victory you will feel by working so hard and performing well.  
  5. On the day of the recital, relax. Get a good night’s sleep the day before, eat nutritiously, and relax. Try to allow extra time to get ready so you’re not rushing around. If the performer is stressed about other things, that will carry over into their feelings about performing.
    • Note on nutrition: parents, be mindful of the food you’re feeding your children on the day of the recital. It might sound fun to make a special breakfast or lunch loaded with white flour and sugar, but be mindful that sugar, white flour, caffeine, etc. will make the child feel more anxious leading up to the performance. It will truly help them if you feed them proteins, vegetables, and good fats.

Well, there you have it, hopefully some of these tips will help your child harness the adrenalin rush that comes from getting up on stage instead of experiencing performance anxiety. At the end of the day, focus as much as possible on making the performance fun and enjoyable!

The Importance of Effective Piano Practice

Is practicing a chore at your home? Developing consistent and effective piano practice habits is often the biggest struggle for those learning the instrument. Sometimes you just need a little help. If practicing is a struggle in your home, you could definitely benefit from our Practice Pals program. This program allows you or your child to have a Practice Leader actually practice with you three times each week! This is a great opportunity for beginning students as well as for those who have been playing for years.

Practice Pals can help teach a student how to practice the piano by walking with the student through his/her piano practice assignments throughout the week in a fun, engaging way. This will help lay a solid foundation for long-term musical success. It is crucial for a student to not only practice, but practice in such a way to make that time effective. If a student doesn’t know how to practice, much time will be wasted. Many students get discouraged due to ineffective practicing habits, leading to quitting private lessons. We have spoken with many adults who have had that experience themselves, only to regret their decision to quit music lessons.

 

We want to help! Practicing doesn’t have to be a chore! Give Practice Pals a try and see the amazing difference in your child’s progress! Don’t let your kid be the one who grows weary of the process and quits, only to regret that decision for the rest of their lives. Contact us today to get started with Practice Pals!

Practice Pals

Hi Parents and Students!
We have some VERY exciting news. We are re-launching our beloved Practice Pals program with a new amazing twist. This program will be an unbelievable resource for our students, and we are offering it FREE for current Starlight customers!

Each current customer will have the opportunity to have up to three 15-minute practice sessions with a Practice Leader per week (excluding studio vacation weeks). The practice sessions are done online to maximize convenience for you!

Here’s the amazing part: These practice sessions will be on-demand(first come, first served), meaning you can schedule the sessions:

  • when you need them
  • at a time that works well for you.

We will provide a link you will use to schedule your session between 3:00-8:00 pm M-F, and some limited weekend hours. You’ll schedule each session individually, so you can book out a consistent time a few weeks in advance, or simply schedule a session when you need help.

We know practicing can be the most difficult part about becoming skilled at an instrument. As a matter of fact, lack of practice is the number one reason students quit music lessons. We teachers hate to see great talent wasted (as well as the parents’ time and money gone!) when someone decides that consistent practicing is too challenging to accomplish.

But practicing doesn’t have to be stressful for parents or students! Practicing doesn’t have to involve tears or fighting. Practicing doesn’t have to be a drain on your energy and time!  It’s Time To Have:

Fun practicing (yes, practicing can be fun!)
Efficient Practicing (make more progress in less time!)
Practicing without a fight (yes, you can enjoy stress-free practicing!)

The Practice Pals program is designed to supplement in-person lessons, not replace in-person lessons. Your in-person teacher will still introduce new concepts, teach technique and skills, select the curriculum, and do all the things a teacher usually does. Your Practice Pals Leader will follow the teacher’s practicing assignments and guide the student through the assignments in a fun and energetic way. Working with a Practice Pals Leader will:

  • Make your practice sessions more efficient so you can practice fewer days and/or progress faster.
  • Make your practice sessions fun: meaning no more fights about practicing!

Our Practice Pals leader is super friendly, encouraging, and trained in many different instruments. Her job isn’t to teach new material — that’s the job of your in-home teacher. The Practice Pals Leader is there to provide help when you are struggling with something, encourage you through your sessions, and it gives you someone to practice with — a cure for those who dislike practicing in solitude.

We are expecting to begin providing this unbelievable perk within a couple of weeks. We are so excited!

Stay tuned for the launch!

Musical Preparation for Holiday Fun

web-1018832_960_720Do you ever dream of bringing the gift of live music to family and friend gatherings and celebrations? You have kids in music lessons! That dream can become a reality! Now is the time to prepare. Don’t worry, I won’t be guilting you into adding more stress to your holiday calendar! Here is what I’m suggesting:

img_2521Pick 3-5 of your favorite songs from your child’s piano books. (Or ask your child to do this.) These should be songs your child has already learned. Then encourage them to practice these songs every week. By Thanksgiving the songs should be adequately perfected, and your child can perform a mini recital for your family and friends. And… voila! Wasn’t that fun?

I’m doing this with my own kids, and they are so excited! This has even encouraged my kids to spontaneously join forces at the piano and create their own duets.

What event is not made more delightful and memorable by the addition of live music? Especially from the kids! So I would encourage you to put your children’s lessons to good use and see if they would like to play a few songs during special gatherings. It’s so enjoyable for all.

Be blessed this holiday season!

Practice Recitals at Home: A Great Way to Prep for Your Performance

dorothyWe are so looking forward to Starlight’s upcoming costume recital! This is going to be a blast!

Practice these steps at home to help your child prepare for performing in front of others.

Please review with your child that while backstage, they must be quiet and listen to instructions.

1. From backstage, walk up to the piano or mic, as appropriate. During this time, the teacher will be announce your name and song title. Place your sheet music on the stand if you are not playing memorized.

2. Piano players: sit down and place your fingers on the appropriate keys to start the song. Non-piano instrumentalists: Get your instrument set up and in playing position. Vocalists: Focus on breathing and finding good posture.

3. Perform your piece just like you did in practice. If you make a mistake, don’t stop and start over. Just keep going and pretend it didn’t even happen. More than likely, the audience won’t even know!

4. When you finish, stand up, leaving your sheet music/book on the stand. Do not bow with your sheet music in your hands. Step away from your instrument and/or stand so everyone can see you.

5. Bow or curtsy. Look out at the audience and SMILE!!!

6. Get your sheet music/book and return to backstage area.

 

If you have any questions about Starlight’s upcoming recital or would like to talk to someone about starting music lessons, please contact us today!

How to Practice While Away From the Piano

Is your child in and out a lot this summer and having difficulty finding time to practice? While I can’t stress enough the importance of spending time at the piano practicing, did you know there are some things a piano student can do to improve his/her skills even when away from the piano?

POSTURE

Good posture is very important for a piano player. Even when the piano player is away from her beloved instrument, she can practice correct posture. This practice away from the piano will make it easier for her to have correct posture while sitting at the piano.

HAND SHAPE

To play the piano correctly a student must learn to keep her hands in the proper shape while at the piano. Many students like to rest their hands flat on the piano, but this is a bad habit that negatively effects the playing and must be corrected, sooner, rather than later. Encourage your child to practice holding an invisible ball or bubble. This creates the hand shape necessary for playing the piano. The more a student becomes familiar with this hand shape, the better equipped he will be at playing the piano with the correct hand shape.

FINGER CONTROL & RHYTHM

Obviously, playing the piano requires much hand/eye coordination and individual finger control. While away from the piano a student can practice gaining control over his individual fingers. Here’s a simple game that can be fun to play when you have a few minutes to spare. Think: Waiting room, car trips, grandma’s house, etc.

To Play:

  • Have the child hold up both hands, with fingers spread.
  • Call out different finger numbers for the child to wiggle. (Ex: Left hand #4!)
  • The goal is to help your child remember piano finger numbers and practice moving fingers individually.
  • For older/more advanced students you can call out one finger from each hand. (Ex: Left hand 5 & Right Hand 2!) They should practice responding quickly and accurately, and wiggle both fingers at the same time.

This game can be fun and lead to lots of giggles while sneaking in extra practice. 🙂

To add rhythm practice into this game, you can bring along your child’s piano book. Have your child “play” his songs with the correct fingering and rhythm. The child can practice playing the rhythm on a table or on his lap. The fingers will gain practice which can help a student improve, even while away from the piano.

FLASH CARDS
Ah, flash cards…. Some people love ’em, others hate ’em. Frankly, whether a student enjoys or hates flash cards often is a reflection of the attitude they’re presented with. If it is presented as a boring but necessary task, the child will trudge through flash cards only when forced. This doesn’t have to be so! Flash cards can be loads of fun and something that your child actually requests to do! Easiest way to make flash cards an enjoyable task? Make it fun! Make it easily accomplished. Don’t just hand your child a stack of flashcards and say, “Learn these.” Start with 3-5 flashcards. Have the child spend 5 min (or less if they catch on quickly) with those few cards. Then you’re done for the day! The next day have them do those first few cards again. Once they are strong on those, add 1 more card. Now the child only has 4-6 flash cards to work with, but most of them are easily recognized.

If you stay consistent with this method and have your child work on flashcards just about every day, he/she will have the entire stack of cards memorized in a couple of weeks! That might not sound like a great accomplishment, but IT TRULY IS! Usually what holds beginning students back like nothing else is a struggle with identifying notes on the staff. If they can learn to identify the notes with ease, learning new songs and progressing to bigger and better pieces is SO much easier! Click on the picture below in order to print out free flashcards for the Treble Clef and the Bass Clef.

You can also turn flashcard practice into a game: a race against the clock! Set a timer and see how many flashcards you can do in that amount of time. Then see if you can increase your score every day. Encourage your child to tell his/her teacher about the progress he is making in his flashcard time. His teacher can be a cheerleader and extra encouragement to get those flashcards learned!

If you have a child that can easily identify note names, don’t think they are done with flash cards! Oh, no! You can use this same simple method to help him/her quickly master a plethora of crucial music theory concepts such as intervals, dynamics, and other important theory. Hint: This method is also a great way to study for tests in all subjects. Remember, rather than trying to soak it all in at once, break the subject into smaller chunks. Go over that small chunk multiple times until it’s imprinted. Then add another small chunk. This is the best way to retain large amounts of information quickly.

Other ways may be used to improve music skill while away from the instrument, but this is a quick overview of a few ways to get your child practicing today! Don’t let the busyness of life get in the way of improving!

Want to hear a fun piano prodigy? Click on the video below. Hint: If you just want to hear the piano playing, skip ahead to 3:20. Do you think this child was born with incredible skill? Perhaps. But what is more likely is that he practices every day. If you want your child to improve on his/her instrument, even 15 minutes of practice per day can make all the difference! Consistency is key. Enjoy your summer, and enjoy that practice! 


Pssst! Did you know that Starlight Music Lessons offers a Practice Program that makes practicing fun?

Practice Pals
We take the dread out of Practicing!
Practicing is a must. Period. But practicing can also be fun! Our Practice Pals program is an add-on program available to those taking lessons. When you enroll in Practice Pals, your practice leader guides your practice sessions three times per week online via webcam. Practice Pals makes your practicing fun, engaging, efficient and motivating. Students who practice regularly will progress faster, enjoy learning more (since they can quickly see progress) and are more likely to build a life-long love of music.

Win a Free Month of Practice Pals & Makeover Your Practice Routine!

Hey everyone!
We have a free month of Practice Pals to give away, and I wonder, could you be the lucky winner? Our Practice Pals contest is an easy way to test drive Practice Pals to see what Practice Palskind of improvement it can make in your child’s musical progression and enjoyment. All you have to do to be eligible to win a free month of Practice Pals is complete a short survey! This contest ends Monday, June 8th. Below you will find the instructions for the contest as well as a link to the survey. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Not familiar with Practice Pals? Read about the Practice Pals program HERE.

You’ll receive one entry for filling out the questionnaire.
EARN A BONUS ENTRY for “Liking” our contest announcement on Facebook.

You will receive one entry for filling out the questionnaire HERE. (Mandatory entry.)

EARN A BONUS ENTRY: We have posted this contest on Facebook, and you can receive a BONUS entry for “Liking” that post. CLICK HERE TO LIKE THIS POST.

 

Contest Rules:
One winner will be chosen based on the quality of your answers and on how much we believe Practice Pals will help your child. So tell us why YOU need Practice Pals!

The winner will receive one month of Practice Pals sessions for one student, which is three 15-minute Practice Pals sessions per week, for four weeks. Sessions must be used in four consecutive weeks, in conjunction with regular in-person lessons, and must be redeemed in full by July 31st. Practice Pals sessions may not be shared with other students in the household or other families. If you win and have siblings, we will offer a second person’s Practice Pals sessions for half off.

Winner agrees to provide SML with prompt and complete feedback regarding their experience with the Practice Pals program, via a survey online or over the phone.

Regular Practice Pals cancellation/makeup policies apply. See our Practice Pals Page for policies specific to this program (what to do if you need to cancel, how technical difficulties are handled, etc)