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How To Practice Piano Pieces

Updated on August 19, 2016

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There are Effective Ways to Practice Piano Pieces!

While it is true that piano practice can often be difficult, it doesn't necessarily have to be gruelling.
While it is true that piano practice can often be difficult, it doesn't necessarily have to be gruelling. | Source

Practice on a digital, upright, or grand piano rather than on an electronic keyboard

Electronic keyboards have semi-weighted keys that are not conducive to advanced finger work. Also, the size of each key on electronic keyboards is less than on a grand, upright, or digital piano. It makes sense to practice on a standard-sized set of keys rather than on a electronic keyboard that has been made for stage performing keyboardists rather than for pianists.

Finally, most keyboards have 61 keys. A pianist needs to practice on 88 keys.

Practice on a digital piano like this rather than on an electronic keyboard.
Practice on a digital piano like this rather than on an electronic keyboard. | Source

Be patient

It often takes many months to master a single piece. Do not be in a hurry, or you will end up sorely disappointed. Don't keep analyzing your progress on a daily basis.

Don't take it hard on yourself if progress is very slow

Be gentle on yourself. Do not beat yourself up under any circumstance. Playing piano pieces well is an extremely hard thing. Many fail at it. Just stick to practicing regularly and, eventually, you will attain your objective.

Frustration happens

As a piano student, you will come to realize over time that frustration is virtually inevitable. However, the fact is that your toil will not go in vain.

As a pianist, you are likely to get frustrated from time to time. It's normal. Don't beat yourself up. Take a break if required, and keep moving. In time, you will surprise yourself by how much you accomplish.
As a pianist, you are likely to get frustrated from time to time. It's normal. Don't beat yourself up. Take a break if required, and keep moving. In time, you will surprise yourself by how much you accomplish. | Source

Don't compare your progress with that of another pianist

Every person, and every pianist, is different. Comparison is a standard of people who are not willing to be unique and make their own paths.

Take breaks every 20 minutes or so

Smart practice is the kind of practice that delivers results. Take frequent breaks or you will risk burning out in next-to-no-time.

If you think you are getting nowhere, stop for the day

There is no point in trying to push yourself on a day that is clearly not productive. Do not waste energy. Try again the next day. You probably need a break to rest your mind and tired fingers.

While practicing, it doesn't make sense to push yourself to a point of breakdown. If you need a break, take it. Leave the piano by itself for a day if you must.
While practicing, it doesn't make sense to push yourself to a point of breakdown. If you need a break, take it. Leave the piano by itself for a day if you must. | Source

Warm up before you begin practice

Not warming up sufficiently puts you at risk of injury. Plus, a practice session without giving your fingers a decent workout will most likely end up without being very productive.Your hands need to glide on the keys. This should happen without you having to consciously force the issue.

Know the key signature of the piece before you begin practicing

Being aware of the black notes in the piece helps in remembering the notes better.

Understand the rhythm of the piece

For beginner-level pianists, rhythm can be a very tricky aspect of playing a piece. It makes sense to sit down and analyze the rhythm of a piece before actually trying to learn the notes. While playing, if you play the wrong notes, you can redeem yourself pretty fast. On the other hand, if you lose track of rhythm, you've basically got yourself in a soup.

Ensure you get familiar with the rhythmic structure of a piece before beginning to practice the notes.
Ensure you get familiar with the rhythmic structure of a piece before beginning to practice the notes. | Source

Practice at a very slow tempo, but not so slowly that you lose the rhythm of the piece

While it is not possible to always practice a piece at its full tempo, it also doesn't make sense to practice too slowly. Practicing a song with a tempo of 125 at a tempo of 35 will make you lose sense of the rhythm of the piece.

Sort out your fingering as you go, and stick to the finger positions that are most comfortable for you

Maybe your sheet music suggests your use your fourth finger for a particular note but because you have small hands, you feel the need to use your fifth fifth finger. Do so by all means. Just make sure you maintain this fingering every time you play the piece. It doesn't make sense to keep unlearning and learning ways of finger usage within a song.

Practice each bar separately

Aim for perfection. Don't try to bite off more than you can chew. For a moderately difficult piece, mastering only a single bar per session will suffice.

Give special attention to the transitions between bars

Many piano students believe they have mastered pieces only to struggle with finger movements at the point where one bar transitions to the next. Practice these parts specifically.

Look for visual patterns in the sheet music

Look for visual symmetry in the sheet music. It often means something. Also, see if patterns repeat themselves over the duration of the piece. Repeat patterns are an indication that you have less to learn.

Practice arpeggios as stacked chords

Arpeggios almost always sound great, but they aren't always easy to pull off. A critical aspect in playing arpeggios well is hand shape. Playing arpeggiated sections as stacked chords helps in cementing the right hand shape for a section.

Practice each hand separately

Very often, especially in passages that are a on the challenging side, practicing both hands together can be difficult. At such times, it makes sense to practice each hand separately while keeping to the overall rhythm of the section (hum the rhythm of the hand you are not using).

Don't ignore dynamics

A piece is not complete only with knowledge of the notes and finger position. Dynamics are what give feel to a song. Focus on them. If a section has to be played staccato, it will be a gross injustice to play it in legato.

Work on getting a decent flow before you think about dynamics

While it is true that dynamics are very important in making a song feel the way it should, it is impossible to get the dynamics sorted if you can't even play with a decent bit of flow.

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