What does 200 consecutive days of practice look like?
We wanted to take time this week to celebrate a Better Practice student, Meryl, who reached a 204-day practice streak! That is no small feat - anyone who practices an instrument should know! Meryl kept motivated and found a way to practice every day, no matter where she was (you’ll see that she found a way to practice from a variety of places including Costco, in the mountains, and even on vacation!). She sets a wonderful example for budding musicians everywhere, so we wanted to share her story on how Better Practice helped give her the tools to become and stay motivated.
(Seriously, she’s making the rest of us look bad.)
A big thank you to Jenn of Pied Piper Studios (J) and Meryl’s mother, Beth (B) for taking the time to let us interview them! If you’re looking for piano lessons in the Des Moines area, Pied Piper Studios specializes in enriching fine arts programming for every age and every stage of life, from birth and up. Visit their website at www.piedpiperstudios.org to learn more.
The Journey to 200 Consecutive Days of Practice
"She knew her piano music like she knows her best friend. At that point, it wasn't just about 'practicing the piano' anymore. It was about making music part of her daily life because she wanted to, not because she had to."
How long had Meryl been a student of yours before introducing Better Practice?
J: I have known Meryl since she was just a few months old. She joined our studio’s Kindermusik program as a tiny baby and I’ve had the joy of watching her grow and develop her musical abilities over the course of many years. She entered our piano program 3 and a half years ago and started using the app when we introduced it in the fall of 2015.
What were her practice habits like before introducing Better Practice?
B: Well, piano practice was not exactly high on her "favorite things" list. We struggled off and on with not having a great practice routine, getting "too busy," and lack of interest. She enjoys piano lessons (we have a fantastic teacher and sweet friends in the class), but the at-home part of piano was a struggle.
How did Meryl’s practice habits change with the use of the app?
B: It was a gradual change for Meryl, going from a paper-tracking method to using Better Practice. There were still times when she would go several days without practicing. But having a way to track her progress was fun for her as well as the ability to earn ribbons (for being the first in the program to practice each day, or longest practice session, for example). Meryl enjoys a good competition, so getting a "win" here or there increased her excitement. Once she fully realized what all the app tracked, she was excited to get to the piano each day. I don't think she started out with the intention of having a 100+ day streak. She just started practicing daily, then she noticed that she had a 7 day streak - which had NEVER happened before! She thought, "Well, I'm 7 days in, I don't want to lose my streak now!" So she kept on practicing. Then seven days turned into a month, then one month turned into two, and so on. Day 100 was celebrated with a bouquet of her favorite candy bar, the 100 Grand bar, and a visit from her fantastic piano teacher, complete with a bouquet of flowers. She just beamed! Fast forward about 7 months. Meryl voluntarily ended her Streak on Day 204. She knew that there would come a day when she wouldn't be able to practice (it couldn't go on forever!) and that she had already accomplished something that most kids had not. She had found just about every piano around town during her streak (the piano display at Costco, outdoor pianos, pianos at her friends' houses, at church, everywhere! Which, by the way, having the BPA on your phone makes tracking practices on-the-go so convenient).
Did you hit any hardships in keeping a streak?
B: In the second consecutive month of practice, we were on vacation in California and had arranged for a digital piano to be at our vacation home (Meryl didn't want to end her streak!), but had an internet issue and couldn't log her practice one day. She was heartbroken when she logged into the app the next day and saw that her 50+ day streak had reset to 0. Knowing that seeing her number grow each day was a huge motivator, I contacted Better Practice and asked if there was any way possible to manually enter her last practice. Ben was able to move mountains and manually reset her streak! She was SO excited and grateful for him taking the time to do that. I was so impressed that he cared enough about a little girl's piano practice streak that he figured out a way to fix the problem. Amazing person and amazing customer service!
Did her interest in music/engagement in lessons also change with her increase in practice?
J: Meryl’s confidence soared as her practice habits became more consistent. She is in a group lesson and is always one of the first to jump up to get to the piano to demonstrate or play a review piece. Meryl was always excited to share her growing streak number and her fellow lesson-mates loved following along and cheering her on.
Recently, we had a big event which included a Blues workshop with a local band and Meryl was one of the students who eagerly and excitedly took advantage of that special opportunity. She played one of the Blues pieces she had worked on during her 100-day streak with the band. And it was a blast! She was so prepared and confident.
B: Music has always been a part of our lives, but she LIVED piano during her streak. She knew her piano music like she knows her best friend. Her fingers found the notes effortlessly, she was able to add her own musical flair to the pieces, and her confidence at the piano was beautiful. At that point, it wasn't just about "practicing the piano" anymore. It was about making music part of her daily life because she wanted to, not because she had to.
How did you transition your studio into using the app at first?
J: The transition was very smooth for Meryl and all of our students. We provided login information and walked parents and students through the app in the lesson, encouraging them to bring their own mobile devices so they could try it out immediately. We demonstrated how students and parents would have access to their weekly project notes on each assignment just as they had previously in their written notebooks, but now they would gain five extra minutes of instruction time within their lesson section because those notes are pre-loaded by their teacher and we do not have to spend lesson time writing down assignments. Plus, there were so many wonderful extras! Parents love the intuitive playlist that helps keep previous pieces alive. And students love messaging me and the other teachers in our studio. The experience is very user-friendly, and I found that families were quickly very consistently using the app.
What do you think was the most helpful part of the app for Meryl to get her practicing?
B: We loved the way the playlist showed both current assignments and songs she's mastered and having the ability (in-app) to message our teacher if we stumbled upon something we didn't understand. The streak feature and the fact that practices can be logged anytime, anywhere on your cell phone were also very helpful.
What was the most helpful part of the app for you, the teacher?
J: There is so much to love. As a teacher, I love that I can plan and schedule my lessons ahead of time. Having the Simply Music books preloaded is wonderful! It is helpful to see the progression of the content and how each part of the program interacts along a suggested timeline. I also adore interacting with my students via the messaging function. I get lots of wonderful notes from them. And I’m able to answer questions and send encouragement as needed. As a program owner, it is invaluable that I can see the engagement of our piano students as a whole, even those students who study with another teacher.
See what difference Better Practice can make for your studio.