I used to teach in students’ homes and have even taught online lessons so I’ve gotten some pretty good glimpses into the home setups my students have for practicing…and they were not the greatest.
There was a wide variety of bad home set-ups: upright pianos that haven’t been tuned or serviced, upright pianos right against windows or in basements, keyboards in the middle of busy living rooms or on desks with no stand or bench, etc.
I’ve seen beautiful pianos in dark, cold and hardly-used rooms, and keyboards covered with laundry, school homework, and art supplies.
It was a wake-up call that my students and parents were not understanding my direction on having a proper home setup. So I decided to write a more in-depth explanation of what you should have, why, and how to create it.
You’ve probably heard the word “nook” before like in interior design where you create a living space that is warm, comforting, and inviting. I use the term “practice nook” with my piano parents and students because I want them to create the same kind of feeling: a place where you feel warm, comforted, and relaxed as well as a sense of privacy. So how do you create this practice nook?
1. When deciding where to put your piano, choose a space that is well-lit, inviting, and not too secluded
Your child will gravitate towards the piano more if it’s not too far away from everyone else and it’s in a readily accessible room, unlike a basement. Also consider noise, not only from the piano, but also from the family’s usual activities.
Your child will want to be around everyone else, but not have their playing compete with TV, kitchen appliances, yelling siblings, etc. This side noise will be very distracting and not allow your child to focus on the task at hand.
2. Make the space warm and welcoming
I encourage students to spend at least 30 minutes a day practicing at home so is their practice area a welcoming space that they’ll want to be in for that amount of time? Little tweaks to lighting and heating can make a world of difference. Natural light from windows is a great way to make the space inviting and warm so that they gravitate towards the piano.
3. Make sure they have all the materials they need
Sit down with your child and get everything together that they’ll need for practice time and put it in a bin, basket, whatever.
I like to use various pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes during lessons so it’s useful to also have those things at home so they can practice the same habits. This will give them a sense of organization that will carry over to practicing.
They’ll need their books, assignment notebook that I write their homework in, good lighting to see their music, and a proper bench at the correct height and distance to practice on.
4. You can even make the practice nook a mini hangout
Some children enjoy company while they practice so they don’t feel so secluded. Include a chair or other kind of seat around the piano so family members can stop by to help encourage or just sit and enjoy some music without saying anything.
Encourage siblings to pop in and listen quietly and make a point to pop in for a few minutes to listen to your child play/give some words of praise. It really does make all the difference!
5. Organization is key
Make sure your child’s practice space is uncluttered and organized. Clear out anything unnecessary that makes the space feel smaller. Get rid of extra knick-knacks, toys, books, papers that don’t pertain to practicing.
Avoid making the piano room into a dual-purpose room if you can. They should have all of their important books and materials readily accessible on or next to the piano without having to look for them. This saves time and makes sure that practice time is spent wisely.
Feel free to add a little surprise every now and then to their nook such as a note of encouragement, a fun pencil, or a music-related gift to show that you are proud of their hard work and appreciate them practicing. You want your child to associate the practice nook with positivity and accomplishment, not a chore or punishment.
Creating a consistent practice routine is more than just setting a timer and telling them to go play. Long-lasting practice habits that produce long-term progress come from making the piano a part of everyday life just like brushing your teeth.
Even though practicing can be hard and tedious, you want to make the piano a place where they look forward to going each day because they will become better than the day before.