Piano Lessons Without Practice

Maxes at DPS


Week by week. Year after year. Students arrive at their piano lesson without practicing their assigned pieces.

Week by week. Year after year. Piano teachers try to find ways to entice students to practice.

Piano students are “let go” from piano studios because they do not practice.

Households are stressed because piano students do not practice.

Piano teachers are loosing students because parents are tired of weekly messages saying “Johnny needs to practice .”

On the other hand…

Playing sports is so much fun! Put on your t-shirt, join your team, play the game together, go home.

Next week? Repeat!

How many of these players will be drafted by a major league team? less than 2.9%.

How many will have a career in sports? Probably a few more.

How many will love the game for life and dabble in it when gathering with friends? I bet 99% of them will at least still enjoy the game.

What does this have to do with piano lessons?

Learning to play the piano has a tradition of discipline, repetition and loneliness. Students may love to come to their lesson every week, it may even be fun; but the daily practice at home… that’s another story.

Is there another way to learn to play the piano and love it?

Here is my vision.

Piano lessons are so much fun! Grab your music bag, join your team, play the piano, go home!

Next week? Repeat!

How many of these pianists will pursue the career of a concert pianist? Probably none.

How many will have a career in music? Maybe quite a few.

How many will love the game for life and dabble in it when gathering with friends?I bet 99% of them will at least still enjoy music the rest of their lives.

Do you see what I see? It’s a beautiful vision of my students  making music at the piano with others. For life.

Will you join me?

(Piano) Exercise with Your Child Week

Today is the beginning of  Exercise with Your Child Week (Aug. 8 – 14) which reminds parents and guardians of the importance to exercise with their children as part of a healthier lifestyle.  And now that I have reminded you  about this, allow me to turn this into a call to practice piano with your children.

Exercising (the piano) with your child will:

  • Improve their overall musical well-being – When you “send” your child to practice the piano alone in a separate room  you send a message of “I’m not interested”, “I need you to leave me alone”, or “My time on the computer is so much more entertaining”.  All of these might be true, but not helpful to their musical progress.  Most of the time children are taking lessons because you, the parent, want them to and being isolated in a room for 30 minutes is really a punishment, not a good thing.


  • Maintain a healthy love of music –  The weekly assignments that your child needs to review are vital nutrients for their musical development.  When these nutrients are enjoyed with someone special, a stronger connection is created.  A good example is my new habit of drinking a green juice of vegetables and fruit, every morning.  I am encouraged to continue because family and friends are happily expecting their cup of juice every morning.  We have created a special connection, a stronger bond.


  • Reduce the risk of dropout – Many of the complaints that I receive from parents have to do with practice at home.  “Johnny doesn’t want to practice”, is a weekly melody.  Most of my students love coming to their lesson, but hate to practice. If they do not practice, they make no progress.  A daily battle rages at home finally the parent gives up and another piano dropout is born.  However, when daily piano exercise following the teachers assignment of musical nutrients is combined with a strong parent/child connection, the risk of being a dropout is greatly reduced.

Make this week the beginning of a healthier and  musical lifestyle!

Why students don’t practice

As I reviewed “The Practice Revolution” by Philip Johnston, I thought it would be a good idea to share his reasons of why students don’t practice.  Read below and check to see if any of these could be lurking around your home.

  1. Time Management Skills – there is not a set time for daily practice.
  2. Reading Problems – note reading that is… for those who have started reading music. And for my students this is equivalent to not using the Practice CD.
  3. Lack of parental help– At Dorla’s Piano Studio (DPS) parents are required to practice with their child at least up to book 4. Those in book 4, 5 and 6 should have a parent check that they have accomplished everything on the weekly assignment page.
  4. Parental Interference – at DPS that would mean parents who fail to attend the last 15 minutes of class and then confuse the child at home.
  5. A week with wings – children are soooo busy nowadays that it seems as if time flies.  If piano practice is not on the schedule it will not get done.
  6. Impossible Workload – if you feel the weekly assignments are too much for your child – make sure you let me know ASAP!  Your child might be in the wrong class.
  7. Not clear on what they are hoping to achieve – have you checked the assignment book?  If you do not understand – give me a call!
  8. Discovering that practice doesn’t work – WHAT!!? If your child comes to class excited about his/her practice at home and leaves class unhappy, and you do not know why….then we need to have a parent/teacher conference today!  I need to make sure you are both understanding what is required at home each week.

Practice is 50% of the learning process. If things are not working out at home – let’s talk about it soon.

Intelligence and Music Lessons

Music lessons at Dorla’s Piano Studio involve love of music, love of nature, composition and improvisation.  But did you know that improvisation requires a special kind of intelligence?

First of all, what is improvisation? it is simply creating music “in the moment”, coming up with a new idea “right now”.  Some children are naturally creative that way with music.  Think of your child singing his “own song” based on a song he already knows, or sitting at the piano and making up a tune that you think is really weird.

Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned Brain Science Educator tells us that “Schools feel driven to produce high test scores and to do that, they coach children on how to take in and understand factual information.  This helps them develop “fixed” intelligence which is great for recalling correct answers.  However, it is not very useful if the challenge is to come up with new ideas, or solve problems that have more than one right answer.  For that, a child needs to develop “fluid” intelligence and the very best exercise for that is learning to improvise.  It asks a child to stay focused, to be aware of the overall form of the composition and then come up with a fresh idea that can fit in!  They key to success with fluid intelligence is “flexible persistence”, a special blend of paying close attention to the form (the persistence part) combined with an ability to think outside the box and come up with a new idea (the flexibility part).  Fluid intelligence lets us think for ourselves and bring new ideas to old problems, so it is usually regarded as the highest form of intelligence we can offer our children”. (from Musikgarten Delivers! Partnering with Parents, Set 3 #3 Please Inspire My Child to Improvise)

Next time Ms. Dorla’s asks you/your child to improvise think HIGHEST FORM OF INTELLIGENCE!

Don’t interfere with your child’s lesson

Why not: The student needs to be able to focus entirely on the teacher, and the teacher needs to be able to focus entirely on the student. Parental interference, no matter how well-intentioned, interrupts the lesson flow, takes up precious lesson time, and causes student and teacher to lose their train of thought.

What to do instead: Listen intently to the lesson with a goal of understanding the concepts and the manner of presentation so that you can provide meaningful guidance at home. You should ask questions about anything you don’t understand at the end of the lesson or in an email or with a phone call later that evening.