Bentz Music Studio

Introducing the 50 Day Practice Challenge!

  Monday, July 13, 2020 by Andrea Bentz | Practice

This challenge will start August 3 and finish at fall break. There are more than 50 days in this time period, so there is a little wiggle room for students. In addition, look below to see all the ways your child can practice when they are not able to be at the keyboard. Your student will have a copy of this sheet and a daily practice log. These materials are also available in Online Resources--look for the Practice Challenge folder. 

50 Days of Practice!

What can I play?

  1. All of this week’s assignment (at least 45 days must include this)
  2. Extra practice for anything tricky
  3. Old pieces that you love
  4. All the scales you know
  5. A new piece you haven’t started yet
  6. Improvise (make it up as you go)
  7. Compose (make it up and write it down)
  8. Work out a tune by ear
  9. Sight read from a book a few levels below your current book
  10. Teach a friend a song or play a duet with a friend

 What about when there’s no piano?

  1. Sing your pieces instead of playing them.
  2. Listen to your pieces (YouTube, my online resources, or Piano Safari )
  3. Have a rhythm clapping challenge with another person.
  4. Practice note naming: 
    1. Flashcards or worksheets from your teacher
    2. NinGenius app for older students (Apple only) (purchase)
    3. Flashnote Derby app for any students (Apple or Android) (purchase).
  5. Play Piano Maestro app using the on-screen keyboard (Apple -free).
  6. Explore Garage Band app (older students) (Apple – free).
  7. Borrow a music theory game and play it with a friend or family.
  8. Write down every dynamic and tempo mark you know and bring to lesson.
  9. Name all the intervals in your pieces.
  10. Learn at least 5 facts about a famous composer.
  11. Learn about music time periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic).
  12. Compose music on staff paper. Sing it to yourself to see how it might sound. 
  13. Fun sites: Incredibox ; Classics for Kids ; Rhythm Trainer ; PBS Kids  

Downloading from the Parent/ Student Portal

  Thursday, April 9, 2020 by Andrea Bentz | Online Lessons

  1. Many materials are now available online through your student/parent portal. 
    1. I sent a mass mailing for new portal logins on 4/4 -everyone will get one even if I sent it to you recently. If you would like your student to have their own login, please send me their email. 
    2. How do you find the files to download?
      1. Log In to the portal
      2. Scroll down the page until you see "New Downloads". You may see the file there. If not:
      3. Hit the blue highlighted "View All" on New downloads. This brings up a set of files with descriptions. Hopefully you can find your document or video from there. If not, let me know and I will help you.  
    3. Some portal materials are limited access. This is usually because I have limited ecopies and want to protect the composer’s hard work/income. I can add more copies if needed. 
    4. I add materials often. This is the best way to get you good quality prints in the least amount of time. My scanner doesn't always provide the best quality prints and is very time consuming.  
  2. Instructional videos  are especially good teaching tools for younger students. I am happy to make short teaching videos and upload them. You can watch directly from the portal or download if you wish. 
  3. Lesson notes are in the portal too. These are more important than ever. I often add a link to youtube in them (especially Piano Safari students). If you are in the portal you can access these links directly. Also, students really have a hard time remembering the assignments without written confirmation. They are easy to print out from my email sent after lesson. 
  4. Still searching for the perfect stand for your device? Try an ironing board if you have one. Also, this lampstand holder works pretty well for a phone!

Thank you so much for your help. I know you have a lot of changes and a lot to do for your children educationally right now. I hope I am making piano as easy as possible. 

Practice for Advanced Students

Saturday, August 4, 2018 by Andrea Bentz | Practice

Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.,  author of The Bulletproof Musician blog, writes about practice and performance concepts for more advanced students and musicians. His goal is effective, efficient practice and confident performances. 

His advice? Don't  practice rather mindlessly, meaning always going for a certain number of repetitions, or playing until you hit a stumbling block, working on the tough spot, and moving on. This causes problems:

1. It wastes time More can be accomplished with a focused effort of small goals (maybe improving just one measure!) and active listening. Mindless practice usually reinforces bad habits. 

2. It makes you less confident  We don't know exactly why we keep missing that one note in the middle of the passage because we haven't stopped to analyze it. "We tend to practice unconsciously, and then end up trying to perform consciously — not a great formula for success." 

3. It is tedious and boring  "What we really need are more specific outcome goals — such as, practice this passage until it sounds like _____, or practice this passage until you can figure out how to make it sound like _____."

 What are some ways to stay productive in a practice session?  Kageyama suggests students try the following:

1. Duration

Monitor when your focus starts to drop. This may be 10 minutes, it may be 45 minutes. Step away when you start to lose your focus, do something else, then come back to the practice session. You will accomplish more in less time at the keyboard. Research has found that more effective learning consists of reviewing a small section of music about three times, then moving on to 2-3 more small sections (each maybe only a measure or two) and working on these sections about three times before circling back to the first section again. Try this method - it should help keep your mind focused. 

2. Timing

When do you have the most energy during your free time? This may be the best time to fit in a 20 minute session. When do you really wish you could sit down and express yourself at the keyboard? This might be a great time to play through a completed favorite piece, then tackle one tough problem in a new piece.

3. Goals

Have clear goals for each week, broken down into practice session goals. Try using a practice notebook. Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions. This will help you be mindful of your practice and remember what works and doesn't work. A more advanced student learns so much over the course of a month or two that they will need a record for referral.

4. Smarter, not harder

Intense practice is usually good, but ".. There are also times... when we don’t need to practice harder, but need an altogether different strategy or technique." Step away from your practice and think over the problem. Is there a practice technique you have learned in the past which you might be able to apply to this situation? Could you find a good online performance of your piece that might give you new insight? You might want to skip practice of this section altogether as you think about a new practice approach. When you have some new ideas, go back to the section and experiment.

5. Record Yourself

It is difficult to hear every nuance of your playing as you work through rhythms, hand positions, and more. A recording will give a student several new ideas about ways to improve. If there is no way to hold the phone for a picture, just set down the phone and record the sound. Play back while you follow your music and be your own judge. Write down measures you want to improve and work through them one or a few at a time during upcoming practice sessions.

In summary, advanced musicianship requires a depth of focus only possible for more mature students. Your life experience, maturity and discipline are a great advantage as you tackle more complicated pieces. One of Kageyama's favorite practice quotes is from Master violin teacher Leopold Auer:   “Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours.”. My students are not at a university or professional level - yet! I might change the quote to say: "Practice with your mind and you will accomplish your weekly goals in much less time, with less frustration, and a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment".

All quotes from :