Practice Triggers

(This idea comes from the book The Practice Revolution by Philip Johnson)

Often students have good intentions to practice, but find that the week gets busy or they get side-tracked and come the next lesson they realise with dismay that they have once again forgotten to complete their practice routine. Another lesson without practice and they feel discouraged. Parents also tire of being Practice Police and nagging, “It’s practice time!”

Practice Triggers can provide that reminder, even making practice time a game. Events that become practice triggers can be random and fun, self-chosen and changed every day. They can help keep practice session focused. Here’s how it works:
The student, with a little help, chooses a trigger of an everyday, somewhat random event that is the signal for them to go and practice. This event might be the phone ringing, somebody sneezing, a computer game saving, a type of advertisement on TV, finishing a subject’s homework, or even somebody using the bathroom. Whenever this event occurs, they must quickly go to the piano for a selected short session (one piece, minutes, etc).
The practice session only needs to last a short time. During this time, the student needs to focus on one challenge in their pieces. Perhaps learn the notes of a particular section, work out a hand position that means they can play fluently, learn the rhythm or dynamics of a section, or anything else achievable in a short, focused session.
At the end of the session, the student can leave the piano so long as they can tell what they have achieved and learnt during this time. All the parent must do is ask, “What have you leant?”
At the end of the evening, the student needs to play their piece/s showing you how their work has improved through these short sessions.

While short moment triggers are probably not the most effective approach for a serious student, this approach could very effectively take some pressure off students and parents or even help create a practice habit. Often all it takes is for students to see the progress they can make from regular efforts, and the motivation begins to grow.