Keys to Success: Creating an Inviting Practice Space
Monday, July 31, 2023 by Caitlin Gervais | Keys to Success
As adults, we know that a pleasing work environment is a productive work environment. It's no different for students (young or mature). Creating a practice space that is warm, inviting and inspiring will no doubt aid in practice consistency and productivity. I wanted to share some ideas to help you create a practice 'nest' of sorts that students will be sure to gravitate to.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Trying to practice while surrounded by the hurry scurry of a busy family is distracting and certainly not ideal. On the other hand, being sequestered to a dark, cold corner of a basement isn't appealing either. Try to find a location for the piano that isn't right in the middle of everything and not so far removed that going there feels like a 'time out'. With acoustic pianos, you may be more limited as far as location goes, but try to carve out a good time for your student to practice that's not competing with the hustle and bustle of siblings, homework, phone calls, virtual meetings, and the television.
LIGHTING: Even though music is something we think of as an aural activity, it's also very visual. Make sure your practice space is well lit – both the keys and the music stand.
BENCH: A comfortable bench goes a long way in helping keep a student focused. It's also important that it be at the right height in relation to the keys (if unsure, pop into the lesson and I can demonstrate). Regular dining or desk chairs are generally not the correct height. I recommend purchasing a basic padded piano bench like these ones on Amazon if you don't have one already. If it's within your budget, an adjustable height bench is even better. Also, if your kiddo is still little and their feet don't touch the ground yet, it's a good idea to have one of those low kiddie stools for under their feet. They're the perfect height and you probably already have one still kicking around.
KEEP IT TIDY: Put away anything that isn't of use (old lesson and theory books, random toys that have made their way to the piano, decorations that take up space and make it difficult for the student to stay organized, etc.). A tidy space is less distracting and less frustrating. As I'm sure you already know well, kids can easily kill 15 minutes just looking for their books (or whatever) when they were right there under their nose! 🤪
TOOLS: Have an easily accessible pencil cup with sharpened pencils, erasers and ideally 5 different coloured highlighters (stay tuned for another post on why). Make a dedicated place to put their CURRENT books so that they're not clogging up the music stand and falling off constantly, and find a different place to store any other books that are not currently in use so they're not in the way either. A metronome – definitely a must-have whether it be a classic mechanical metronome or an app on a device. A timer – rather than leaving yourself open to the constant "Am I done yet?" question, set a timer that's right by the piano so they can see for themselves. Lastly, a water bottle – maybe not ON the piano, but somewhere nearby. One less reason for them to get up and wander away in the middle of practice. Plus keeping hydrated is ALWAYS a good thing.
INVITING ATMOSPHERE: A cheerful plant or two, a letter board or whiteboard where you can leave your student (or yourself) inspirational messages or encouragement, sunshine, nice aromas, whatever you yourself would enjoy in a cozy reading nook or study corner.
COMPANY: We are social creatures, and for some students, practice time may feel isolating. They may enjoy the company of a favourite stuffy, the family pet, or maybe even a visiting family member (my grandmother used to literally bask in the sound of me practicing my technical exercises ad nauseam). While it's not something you necessarily have time to do every practice, mom or dad being in the room once in a while is often enjoyed by your student too – just plan to occupy yourself with a book or some other quiet activity so they don't feel pressured or distracted. Please also don't feel you need correct or give help unless they request it. Unfortunately, in my experience, there are very few kids that respond positively to unsolicited involvement from mom or dad. But don't take it personally, that's just family dynamics and why you send your lovely kiddos to me learn! Compliments and gentle encouragement are always welcome, however.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. I encourage you and your student to make a project of it together to get them motivated and excited about practicing in their specially curated space! And it's a really positive and meaningful way for you to support their musical endeavours!