We all agree that a new skill can not be learned without consistent, regular, quailty practice. Whatever age we are, practising can be one of the most rewarding or the most frustrating things about learning a new skill.
Learning a skill has three main stages
1. Initial learning, information and skills taught by a teacher and assignments given for practising.
2. Repetition of that particular skill, sometimes as many as ten thousand times
3. Mastery through repetition and review
When we practice we want to be organising ourselves so that each of these stages are attended to and so that we don't get stuck in a particular stage.
Practice needs to happen daily. Children and adults alike stand a much better chance of actually mastering a skill if they attend to it regularly. Every time we skip a day of pracitce we spend another day remembering all the things we forgot on our day off and so effectively lose two days.
Parents are expected to practice with their children daily, this means making regular time to spend together at the piano.
The most important thing to do is make practice enjoyable so that it can happen every day smoothly and without fuss.
The piano should be in an accessible part of the house. If the piano is out of the main stream of things it causes two problems. Firstly it makes practising a very lonely business: the child is sent off to do their work, often alone, and will feel like they are missing out on other things. Secondly it means that the instrument is not immediately available - if a child walks past the piano fifteen times a day he or she is far more likely to actually sit down and play it than if they have to make a special trip.
Remember that you are the adult and, as the adult, need to stay in control of the situation without emotional involvement. Lots of parents tell me they can't "make" their child practise without a fight and it shouldn't ever be about having a fight. As soon as a request for practice descends into a shouting match you have lost. Children are only children and can't be expected to be grown-up about such things so we have to be instead.
When to practice?
Suzuki said to practice only on days you eat. Daily practice (seven days - on weekends and on lesson days) is desirable because it then becomes part of the daily routine and there is no question that it will happen. Seven days of consistent practising will make anyone's playing better and seeing the results of practice will give motivation to keep practising and a virtuous circle is born. Practising at the same time every day is best and I find that the people who build the best habits are the ones that practice in the morning before school - they aren't tired then, there has been no time for anything to go wrong and it's out the way so anything that might happen later doesn't interfere with it.
For beginners practice should be between five and ten minutes of CONCENTRATED work, it certainly doesn't need to be the length of a lesson and there will be days when there is more or less time available. On days when you run out of time, have children play you two songs - their favourite and their least favourite and call it a day. On other days, do a complete practice session
Where do we start?
Take good notes at lessons - pay attention to what the teacher says, what specific instructions are given and what the teacher does - how does she solve particular problems in lessons, be they musical, technical or behavioural. Write things down in a dedicated notebook, no one expects you to remember everything but if you write it down you don't have to.
Consult the notebook together and decide what will be practised first: reviews or new work? which reviews? Which new assignments? Sometimes the notes might be in a sort of "code" which your child will understand but you may not - ask them to explain, and if you don't read music then learn as your child does, by listening and watching - ask them to teach you how to play the song they are learning. They will practice it without even realising that is what they are doing and delight in teaching you something.
Make a plan
Have a plan in your head for what you need to/want to achieve in your practice today, know what you did yesterday, what went well and what needs to be re-done. Make a new plan every day by putting notes in your book