Every so often a student will email me the day of their lesson and admit that they haven’t practiced since I last saw them. Perhaps they were sick or just too busy; whatever their reason they sometimes ask not to have a lesson because it would simply be a waste of time. Here you’ll discover that this couldn’t be further from the truth!
We’ve all had weeks where life just happened (as it tends to). You haven’t had the time to sit down at the piano let alone get your theory homework done. It was the week of your third cousin’s wedding and you all got lost in the Bermuda Triangle. While I haven’t heard that one yet there’s usually a complicated story involved.
In reality, having a lesson after an unproductive week can lead to some unique activities, discovering things you may not have had the chance to get into in a regular lesson.
Not that I recommend students avoid practicing routinely, but when it happens here and there it can be a gateway to new concepts and a spark for untapped creativity. So the next time you think of picking up the phone to cancel because you haven’t played your Mozart sonata in C major all week, consider the following list of things you and your teacher could do instead…
Sight Reading – I like to call it ‘broccoli for musicians’. Pick up an easy-ish piece of music. Read it. Repeat. It will make you stronger in the long run.
Improvisation – Obviously you don’t need to practice for this one! Make music up on the spot, perhaps as a duet with the teacher. Not as scary as it sounds. Make it beautiful or messy. Anything goes.
Scales and Chords – Practice those pentatonics. Formulate those formula patterns. Brush up on those 4-note broken chords.
Chord Progressions – The perfect time to learn the basics of chording, a skill the modern pianist must have in their arsenal. What are the 3 most fundamental chords? I, IV, V! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Case in point.
Piano Anatomy – Ever wonder what goes on under the hood of this musical beast? So many pianists forget that the keys don’t make the sound. A complex system of joints, strings and hammers create the magic – not little elves!
Rhythm Games – Today let’s build your own rhythm, improvise on a drum, or brush up on your Rhythm Cup skills!
Apps – There are a gazillion apps that we can explore. Apps for note reading. Apps for ear training. Apps for sight-reading!
Composition – What better time to get your feet and pen wet with some basic compositional strategies. Explore graphic notation, in which you get to draw how you want your piece to sound!
Deep Technique – Are you remembering to breathe? Do you have a clear sense of the physical space you are occupying? Lets review the alignment of fingers, hands, arms. Spending focused time on your body awareness is something that’s easy to forget in the flurry of notes of a regular lesson!
Ear Training – What about a perfect 5th? Do you remember which song you used to pick it out? Let’s review those interval songs!
Memorization – How well do you really know the pieces you are learning? Do you know what key they’re in? Can you sing their melodies? What do you know about the composer? Today’s a good day to review!
Just Talking – Sometimes sharing stories and ideas and reflecting on the wonders of the world can be just what you need to unwind. Why not spend some quality time with your teacher?
They say that practice makes perfect. Part of good practicing is approaching things from new perspectives. What better time to do that than when you haven’t practiced? I hope this list gives you a better picture of what we could do on the day when you leave your music in that hot air balloon you rode in on the weekend.
Come to your lesson – the sky’s the limit to what we can explore!