Practice Tips for Teachers, Students and Their Parents, Part 1

By Leila Viss

Leila Viss generates creative-based, tech-savvy instruction and resources for her private studio, the University of Denver’s Piano Preparatory Program,, 88 Creative Keys events, music industry magazines, and frequent speaking engagements. This article was originally posted here at on August 29, 2019, and is reprinted with permission.

As piano teachers, we tend to think that what happens between lessons is out of our control.

We can highly encourage but, we ultimately can’t demand that parents require their pianist to reserve time for daily practice. Maybe some teachers can, this teacher does not.

And, even if we could control home practice, we can’t manage the after-school birthday party or the rescheduled soccer game or the stomach flu that steals time away from those precious practice hours…well, more like minutes…

manage and motivate your music students banner

With the odds stacked against us, it’s amazing we don’t all throw our hands up in the air and give up. But we don’t because we are passionate about music and we know that the magnetism of making music draws people of all ages to the keys.

I believe that getting students on the home bench and keeping them there IS possible. Not because we have control but, because we have power. The power to transform the time between lessons with practice strategies that guarantee progress.

I was recently going through a number of old posts and noticed I like to post about practice: the power of solid practice skills and more specifically, the steps we need to include in our lessons to help students turn practice into progress.

In honor of the importance of practice, I’ve gathered specific past posts about practice to strengthen your grip on what happens between lessons. Today’s post will cover Practice Pouches.

Practice Pouches

I still give practice pouches (made with pencil pouches and various clever tools) to all new students. I had no idea when I wrote this current post that this was my first sentence from years ago…

As teachers, we have little control over what happens between lessons. Because of this, it's essential that we make time to teach purposeful practice strategies and use powerful tools that work at lessons and empower students' practice between lessons.

As I mentioned, we may not have control but we teachers do have power with … the help of practice pouches! You’ll learn what they are and how to stuff them full of tactile tools to empower your students with practice skills by reading this post: Turn Practice into Progress with Practice Pouches.

Click on this link for Heather Nanney’s practice pouch printable that she created after using practice pouches in her studio: Practice Pouch Printable

For those of you who already use practice pouches, here are a couple of new ideas:

#1 - Use pillboxes to track and reward practice

Give each student a pillbox filled with a few small candies or legos for each day of the week. Every time they practice, they get to eat the treat or stack a lego. Remind them to bring the pillbox back to each lesson (in the practice pouch) to record when practice happened. Every time they bring it back, have a fresh supply of “practice pills” for them to refill the pillbox.

Get these nifty pillboxes here. You get two per pack so the price is reasonable.

After every practice, add to your lego tower
After every practice, eat a tasty treat.
This week everyone received their pillboxes. Next week they must return with them and fill them up with a new treat or more legos.

#2 - Use jumbo paper clips to make practice chains

A while back, I found some jumbo paper clips, and students love using them for link and chain practice at lessons. Now I’ve found a whole pack of them at Amazon so students can borrow and take them home in their practice pouches. You can get the jumbo paper clips here.

How it works: Play a measure correctly to earn a paper clip. Play another measure correctly and earn another clip. Then play both measures together. Link the two paper clips together when both measures are played correctly. Continue and see how many paper clips can be linked together!

For those students who need help being engaged in their practice at home, these tactile ways of tracking practice can really help. We also know that effective, engaging practice often needs parent support and a belief in the importance of practice. I’ve gathered some really well-done infographics and materials to help with that, as well. I’ll be sharing links to those soon on this site as well. You can also read the full original article at this link.

Here’s to a great year of powerful teaching, practice, and progress!