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Piano Practice

Struggling to structure your piano practice?

Practice is the element of playing a musical instrument that’ll make or break you.   That’s why we have created these dedicated proven piano practice tips that you need to know as part of our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Piano’ series.

Piano Practice
Piano Practice

Proven Piano Practice Tips You Need to Know

Practice. If you do it regularly enough, you’ll be great. We all know this. So why is practice so difficult?

Motivation is the key. Without motivation, you’ll not push yourself to go back to the instrument day after day. So how do you get motivated?

By winning. Yes, that’s correct. Winning. You’re in constant competition with yourself, and when things go well, you feel like you’re winning. When you’re in this state of mind, it’s easy to practice. It’s the circle of life – winning more gives you more motivation, so you practice more. Practising more means you win more, so it gives you more motivation. And that goes on and on exponentially.

So if it’s that easy, why is practice still so difficult?

The answer? Because it’s not that easy! Just practising isn’t good enough. You could practice for ten hours a day and not progress.

So if it’s not the quantity of practice that puts you onto the circle of life, what does?

Quality.

Practising for 15 minutes per day, focused, useful quality practice is far more beneficial than ten hours of unfocused, ‘auto-pilot’ practice.

So all you need is quality practice to be able to jump aboard the circle of life train?

Nope! Nothing is that easy. Combine quantity and quality, and you’ll finally be a first-class passenger.

Read on to find out how to buy your first-class ticket, and how to stay on the train for as long as you want…

Piano_Practice

Structure

How long should i practice piano for each day?

15 to 20 minutes is a great place to start, and probably no longer than 45 minutes at a time. After this length of time, us humans have a tendency to zone out – and then the practising becomes less efficient. As a rule of thumb, when you feel your concentration waning, stop. Be proud that you just showed up to your practice session, and don’t worry how long you practice for.

How often should I practice the piano?

This one is an easy answer – practice daily. That way, you’ll turn your piano practice into a habit. A concise, focused daily practice is much more beneficial than twice per week an hour at a time. And remember, if you’re thinking “but how do I find the time to do 20 minutes a day?!?” – just steal some of your time from social media over to the piano. We do after all, spend on average 142 minutes on social media per day!

When should I practice piano?

It makes no difference when you practice, just as long as you do practice. Experiment with creating a fixed schedule for yourself vs being ad-hok. See which options work best, and stick to it.

Top Tips

1. Remove Possible Distractions

Think of your practice time as ‘you time’. You are hopefully playing the piano because you want to; so switch off your phone, tablet, computer, watch, and any other gadget that’ll distract you!

2. Get Comfortable

Cumulatively, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the keyboard, so get comfortable.  Set things up just how you like them.  A glass of water close by.  A pencil and paper for making notes.  Then just like a Jedi Knight, zone in and focus.

3. Set Goals

Choose what you want to accomplish, and make it something you can achieve in the session. By concentrating on the outcome, you get there faster and more efficiently.

Perhaps Monday you’ll learn the first twelve bars/measures.  Then Tuesday you’ll learn the last twelve.  Wednesday can be the difficult bit in the middle.  Thursday can be reminding yourself of everything you’ve learnt so far, and Friday can be trying to play the sections without the music (from memory).  Whatever you need to do, set your goals in writing and make them happen.  And when you achieve your goal, celebrate! I recommend a nice bottle of red…

4. Say Hi To Bad Habits

Nobody is perfect the first time. Consciously know that until you’ve repeated a section a few times, you’ll make mistakes. Be as methodical as possible resolving these mistakes, because if you don’t, you’ll find bad habits start to creep in.

So when you notice a terrible habit – say hi to it. Acknowledge it’s there, and crush the little blighter before it’s too late…

The same goes for fixing technical issues with things like posture and fingering. Although it takes longer upfront, it’ll pay dividends later on and will save you a ton of time.

5. Keep It Fresh

Have you ever driven to a place, and when you arrived, you had absolutely no memory or recall about the journey. You drove completely on ‘brain auto-pilot’. The same thing can happen when practising the piano.

If you practice the same way every time, your progress will slow, your motivation will shrink, and the piano will end up a chore. You can fight this little gremlin by alternating your practice techniques.

This can be as simple as playing with your eyes closed. Doing one hand only. Missing out every other note. Skipping every note that your thumb plays. Playing everything really quietly, or extremely loud. The list is endless. Be inventive. And whatever you do – don’t ‘just’ play the same thing again, and again, and again…

6. Be Your Own Teacher

We all learn best when we have someone over our shoulder, giving us their feedback. Sadly, unless you own Amazon, you’re unlikely to be able to afford a personal piano teacher 365 days a year. But Mr Bezos can keep his squillions because we don’t need them. We have our own personal teacher right inside us.

Firstly, it’s more than possible that at least 50% of the time you are playing the piano, you’re too busy concentrating instead of actually listening to what you’re playing! It sounds silly, I know. But it’s true… So now that you’re aware of it, fix it! Listen to your playing WHILST you play…

Secondly, we live in an age where you can make a decent recording of your playing with nothing more than your phone. So do it. Watch it back and self-critique. Keep doing this until you improve.

And even if Mr Bezos wanted to hire him, he couldn’t afford my personal teacher!

7. Starting From The Beginning

It feels right to start a piece at the beginning. The problem is if you do that every session, your first ten bars will sound amazing, and yet be disproportionately practised compared with the rest of the piece. Mix it up. Start at the end! Or in the middle! Or close your eyes and randomly pick a section. Just don’t always start from the beginning!

8. Don't Just Play The Easy Bits

It feels great to play sections we know well. However, if that’s all you ever play, you’ll have half of the piece to a fantastic standard, and the more difficult half will be a disaster. And yes, you’ll naturally be drawn to the easy bits, which leaves the problematic bit out in the cold. All alone. Shivering for some warmth and love.

Now think about this logically. If you were to consciously choose what needs more practice, it would be the tricky part. Right? That requires more love and attention. The easy part will look after itself.

So don’t ignore this. Go find that difficult part and warm it up…

9. Try Something New

Sight-reading is an excellent exercise to round off your practice with. There’s no pressure to perfect the piece, and it can be a lot of fun too! It also allows you to test your piano playing skills out on a completely different piece – and even a different genre.

10. Metronome

The metronome is there as your friend, not foe. So use and abuse.

For faster, difficult passages, set your tempo at half the ‘finished’ speed. Practice the section every day, and every day increase the speed by 5 points. You’ll have so gradually increased the tempo, that before you know it, you’ll be at full speed.

And here is a bonus tip – always try and overshoot by 10%. If you need to be at 150bpm, make sure you can play it at 165bpm – that way 150bpm will seem easily manageable!

If you need a good metronome, we highly recommend the Wittner Metronome below.

11. Set Rewards

Remember in number three I mentioned a nice bottle of red?  I thought this was important enough to mention it twice!

Give Yourself A Reward
Piano Practice
Best Multi-function metronome
DESIGNED FOR: Keeping Time and Practice Tempo
COMES WITH: A Winding Key
FEATURES: Produces The Visual Pendulum Signal Along With An Audible Tick
8.5/10

Wittner Metronome

When you check the price above, you’ll see there are loads of great places to buy this item.  Our personal favorite is Gear4music.

It is the largest music retailer in the UK and fast becoming the most respected online music shop in the US too.  Their customer service is excellent, they have competitive prices, really fast shipping, and usually have the longest guarantee.

Most professional musicians use Gear4music, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t too!

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