In case you missed it, the synopsis of my American Music Teacher magazine article, "Let Them Eat Cake: The Pros and Cons of Layered Practice for the Elementary Piano Student," can be found here. In a nutshell, the practice cake is a visual reminder for students that each piece of music is made of many layers of detail, and that each practice session should have a purpose!
For students that struggle with focus issues or have difficulty processing all of the visual details in their music, you can literally learn a piece of music one layer at a time. Start from the bottom of the practice cake and work your way up until the entire piece is learned.
For other students, the practice cake can serve as a checklist. Help students to assess their progress by asking questions:
- How did you practice the rhythm for this piece?
- Did any notes sound incorrect? Did any fingerings feel awkward?
- Did you play with a smooth legato touch? Did you bounce your staccato notes with a supple wrist?
- Did you observe all of the dynamics in the score? What story do you think the composer is telling by choosing these dynamics?
- Did you listen carefully as you used the pedal? Did you use good pedal technique?
Finally, remind students to refer to the practice cake at home and choose one layer each day to focus on for that particular practice session. How many different ways can they think of to practice the rhythm, for example? Encourage them to mark their music so they know that no detail has been overlooked, no matter how small.
Click HERE or on the image above to download your practice cake printable.
What do you think? Any tips you use to help your students become more efficient practicers? Please leave a comment below!