Frequently Asked Questions
What is good practice?
Practice is the process of travelling from problem to solution. To do this well, it is important to understand what exactly must be improved and what the final product should be. Practice one does to reach that goal. This includes exercises, metronome work, practice methods etc. All of this will be understood with guidance from your teacher. Each lesson should be finished with a new understanding of what should improve, a realistic weekly goal to reach, and practice method(s) to achieve that. After this, practice is up to the student to progress through the next step of the learning process.
Signs of good practice: slow, controlled repetitions in small sections. The temptation to play pieces very fast in its entirety over and over again in hopes of hearing the final product will always remain, but learning to control that urge will be most rewarding in the long run. The most efficient way to reach your goal is to make sure you take small steps in the right direction. If you are doing this correctly, practice should be free of, or consist of very little errors and wrong notes. Practice should be goal oriented and consist of many repetitions. Each repetition is a reinforcement of what you are learning - ensure you are reinforcing the correct things. As such, everything you practice should be as close to perfect as possible. This is possible at any stage of learning a piece with a controlled tempo in small sections.
Highly RecKIMmended articles regarding practice:
"The Practice of Practising" by Concert Pianist, Stephen Hough (External Link)
"8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently" by Noa Kageyama, Ph.D (External Link)
How much should I practice?
Daily practice is recommended. Consistency is key to developing any skill. Learning piano also requires learning discipline. Making practice a part of daily routine will ensure optimal progress, as well as provide motivation when students can see themselves constantly improving and overcoming challenges.
Practice time will vary depending on level and goals of students. Practice must increase at each level of musicianship to ensure substantial progress.
RecKIMmended minimum daily practice times:
Primer level students (the first months of lessons): At least 15 minutes daily
Early Beginner (Prepatory RCM to Level 3): At least 30-60 minutes daily
Beginner (RCM Levels 3-5): At least 1-1.5 hours daily
Early Intermediate (RCM Levels 5-7): At least 1.5-2 hours daily
Intermediate (RCM Levels 7-9): At least 2-2.5 hours daily
Early Advanced (RCM Level 10 and up): At least 3 hours daily
*Practice length alone does not ensure quality learning. It is important to remember: quality over quantity. Students looking to greater enhance their progress can increase the quantity of their practice while ensuring the quality is maintained as well.
Seeking out practice length may seem intimidating initially. It is beneficial to focus practice on many specific goals which you want to achieve. This is given in the form of weekly assignments and exercises by the teacher. Goal oriented practice often feels more purposeful and productive. This is the best way to ensure and maintain a high quality practice session.
Practice as much as necessary to reach the improvement you seek. Learning anything requires much time and consistent effort. Keep in mind that learning music is a process and realize after each practice session, you are one step closer to your goal.
How can parents contribute to a student's learning?
Parents play a vital role in the learning and success of younger students. Even without a formal music education, parents are able provide guidance in practice sessions - separating/differentiating practice and playtime. Parents also provide moral support in overcoming obstacles - something that is often brand new to young students.
Parents can provide significant support, guiding the student's practicing, given they do not directly give answers which is often counterproductive. Parents of young students are encouraged to join in on lessons. Here, parents learn to take part of a student's practice by doing exercises and games of: learning the white keys, recognizing the notes on staff, or even simply naming different note values.
Concepts that may require more time for a young student to grasp are often more easily understood by parents who can provide a watchful eye for many things during practice, such as technique, timing, or simply ensuring focus at the piano.
How early can I begin learning piano?
The minimum age for beginning private lessons with Kim is 6 years old. However, all students are different and it depends on the individual student. A student younger than the age of 6 may be prepared for private lessons and a student older than the age of 6 may not. Students are often better prepared and more successful in lessons after having some experience in school where they must listen, take direction and follow instructions from teachers.
Some things to consider when getting into lessons: willingness to learn, ability to focus, ability to follow direction. Students should also know the alphabet, as well as right from left. Learning music through private lessons requires these qualities in a student as well as consistent, daily effort. Be sure that students and parents are ready to take this on before beginning lessons.
How can I get inspired?
A great way to become inspired in music is to listen to others.
Go to concerts, listen to different styles of music, as well as different pianists/artists for their individual style and approach to a piece. Hearing fine artists play can open up a world of possibilities to explore and apply to your own music in practice. The detail and quality found in live concert performance is unmatched by any recording or technology. It is thrilling to experience the performance: seeing the pianist’s flying hands painting a blur in front of you, feeling the vibration of the music your feet on the ground, being able to see exactly where that tiny detail in a concerto is coming from in the orchestra. There is nothing like riding the rollercoaster of a live performance, seeing the music being created in the moment, all within arm's reach. Witnessing musical masterpieces come to life in front of you offers a spark of inspiration for even the most accomplished performers.
Another source of inspiration is participation: performances, recitals, masterclasses, festivals, etc. It is possibly even more inspiring to rediscover this through the music of a fellow student – one whom you can identify with and put yourself in the shoes of. It is powerful to see that musical magic is capable every step of the way, and not only from a professional pianist. Kim's students can stay updated on student events through the events calendar on the current students page, also keeping an eye out for any RecKIMmended Events.
How can I stay motivated?
The first step of maintaining motivation is to understand you will not always, constantly be motivated. What is motivation? Motivation is not the foundation which we rely upon for success, but a bonus - a boost that accelerates us towards it. Motivation is fickle and unreliable - even those who are the best at what they do experience days where motivation is nowhere to be found.
Habit is the number one factor of success. Habit does not take a day off. Habit keeps you moving forward even when all you want to do is relax and do nothing. It is in habit that we are able to maintain constant forward momentum, and in this, spurts of motivation occur which will offer us a boost in our practice. Our work ethic – our habit – creates the forward momentum and best environment to create motivation. Our work habits are what we must rely on. Motivation is the bonus. So, how can we create good habits?
Set a goals. What do you want to achieve? What is a realistic point to reach in a month? What is a realistic point to reach this week? What step can you take to get there today?
Set a daily practice time. These are blocks of time every single day dedicated to achieving our goal. This can be the exact same time each day or a different time. Setting a schedule and sticking to it is step number one.
Have fun. It is always nice to have a fun aspect in your work that you know you will enjoy. For some students, it may help to have this – a dessert at the end of your meal. Understand this is the cherry on top – a bonus – not the sole purpose of your work.
Practicing all aspects of your learning may not be 100% fun 100% of the time, but parts that you don't enjoy are are to be expected, and working through this is part of the learning process – and you will learn a lot.
Create a schedule, build good habits, and stick to them. This is the best way to create success for yourself and spark a motivational boost.
What piano should I practice on?
An acoustic piano is necessary to learn to play the piano well. An upright piano will be suitable for most students. When studying advanced repertoire, a grand piano becomes the recommended instrument. As a general rule, grand pianos are superior to upright pianos, which are superior to digital pianos/keyboards.
An acoustic instrument is vital for learning to play the piano well. Learning on a real instrument allows students to develop not only proper technique & strength, but also to build an awareness of the sound they create and develop the listening skills required to play music. Due to the favourable sound & experience of a good instrument, students often find practice more enjoyable and in return, are also more motivated.
Keyboards/digital pianos do not have real piano actions and function entirely differently from acoustic pianos. This is apparent in the touch/action of the keys, as well as the tone produced. Recreating the sound of an acoustic piano is a feat even the most expensive keyboards have yet to match. Keyboards offer minimal benefits in the first few lessons, only when students are learning the basic, visual aspect of recognizing white keys. Even with weighted keys, students primarily trained on keyboards often lack sound, strength and control when performing on an acoustic piano. This is even more apparent when performing on a grand piano, which is the primary instrument for recitals, rehearsals, and examinations.
Upright or Grand? Upright pianos will be suitable for most students from beginner to intermediate level repertoire. Grand pianos are usually superior to uprights, largely due to the action, which is heavier and more responsive. This allows for enhanced control, as well as faster repetitions of notes. The tone quality and volume produced is also superior due to much longer strings. When students reach advanced repertoire, upright pianos can be limiting. Once students reach this level, a grand piano is the recommended instrument. Grand pianos offer a greater range of expression, with a wider range of dynamics and control
Having a good instrument to practice on opens up a world of possibilities musically and technically, and is vital to learning to play the piano well. In addition, students are often more inclined to practice when playing on a higher quality instrument because of the many favourable qualities and expanded possibilities. A good instrument is an invaluable investment. A grand piano may allow an intermediate level student to explore new levels of artistry, breaking through to an advanced level. An acoustic upright over a digital piano will undoubtedly allow a beginner to develop foundational skills correctly from the first lessons.
More coming soon . . .