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Follow These Piano Practice Tips and Improve More Quickly

Updated on February 15, 2011

Do you feel that your improvement at the piano is too slow?

If your answer is yes, perhaps you need to rethink your approach to practicing. I’m sure your piano teacher has already given you some practice tips, which have helped you to develop your skills to what they are now. Of course there are a lot of different ways to practice the piano, and you will have to find out for yourself what suits you best. With growing experience, you will be able to tell what makes you learn new pieces really quickly and solidly.

Here are a few very basic and general tips, that might get you started on the way to establishing your own practice routine. They’re the kind of practice tips that most if not all pianists would agree are among the most important for making quick progress. They are all rather obvious really, but take time to read them through anyway, because this article also deals with why most people don’t follow them and how you can become one of those who actually does.

1. Practice every day, or as often as possible!

This is probably something that you already know. If you are going to learn something as difficult as playing the piano, practicing just once or twice a week or so won’t get you very far. The problem for most people here is finding time. For all of us, there are always a lot of things that seems more pressing and important than sitting down at the piano to practice. Work, school, eating, sleeping, being with your friends and so on.

But we’re not talking hours of piano practice here. It’s better to practice ten or fifteen minutes every day than an hour once a week. Schedule a practice time for yourself every day to get into the routine. Of course there will be days when you will miss it, but as long as you practice most days, those other ones will only be well-earned little breaks.

2. Practice right after every piano lesson!

In addition to your scheduled practice session every day, you should make sure to find some practice time as soon as possible after your piano lesson. This is important to make the most of the advice your teacher has given you, while it’s still fresh in your mind. Sit down and go through the important things you talked about during the lesson. Write them down in your score or somewhere else, if you didn’t already do that together with your teacher.

The reason people don’t follow this particular piece of advice is because piano lessons can feel rather exhausting. Perhaps you’re just a bit nervous or worked up when you go to your lesson, and when it’s over, you want to have a real rest. But again, you don’t need to spend hours doing this. It doesn’t even have to be a proper practice session. Just sit down and make sure you remember what your teacher told you, and draw up a simple plan for your week’s practice.

3. Be serious about fingering!

Make sure to decide early on which fingerings you are going to use when you learn a new piece. There might be printed fingerings in your score, in which case you should begin by following those. In case you want to change any of the printed fingerings to something that works better for you, write the new fingering down in the score. The important thing here isn’t which finger you use, but that you use the same finger every time. This will make your playing really secure and solid.

This procedure can be quite time consuming at the start though, which is why most people often ignore their fingering. Especially when there are no printed ones, the process of finding good fingering can be slow and frustrating. But it’s well worth the effort to do this work carefully with every new piece. Really good fingerings are learned by experience - ask your teacher for smart ones if you can’t find any yourself.

4. Practise one hand at a time!

Here is another piece of advice that should be really obvious. But the fact is that many pianists, even really good ones, forget to do this far too often. Perhaps they do it with really tricky places right at the beginning of learning a new piece, but after that stage most people tend to think that this kind of work is not needed. What do they do instead? They probably practice the difficult bits slowly, which of course is an excellent way of practicing. But on its own it isn't all that efficient.

Don’t get me wrong – of course you have to practice slowly hands together. But remember to give each hand separate attention as well. This often has the additional benefit that you can practise in tempo, which gives you a better idea of exactly which hand movements are needed, and brings you faster towards your goal.

5. Beware of too long practice sessions!

With experience, you will learn to recognise the point at which you had better go and do something else. It’s easy to understand why pianists sometimes ignore this advice. It’s impossible to learn to play a complex piano piece in one session, but we always tend to think that “If I just try this passage one more time, it might work”.

The truth is that at a certain point, you are more likely to do harm to the learning process if you continue. Your brain as well as your muscles need their breaks to sort out the new things that you are constantly asking them to do. So when you begin to feel tired, have a break. If you don’t want to to stop practicing altogether, practice some other piece, perhaps something less demanding. If anything hurts – your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders or back – stop immediately!

When you start following these tips, it may at first seem like they are actually slowing your work down quite a bit. Working out fingerings, taking breaks, concentrating on one hand at a time – why can’t I just keep on playing, you might ask. But what may at first look like time-consuming procedures will in the end actually save you time, if you really want to improve. If you follow these practise tips, I am sure great things will soon start to happen with your piano playing.

Do you agree?

I am sure many of you have your own ideas about which strategies work best to improve your piano playing. This list of a few basic tips is of course not in any way complete. Perhaps you even disagree about one or two of the tips in this Hub. Please use the comments section below to add your own thoughts and continue the discussion!

What is your best practice tip?

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      Niels 4 years ago

      This tips are great...

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      miguel 6 years ago

      i agree with this one comment , you can lay down your knowledge on weekends when things around seem to be slower.the point is that it will give you the expected calm to enjoy your own music. congratulations! and keep your way to enjoy piano sessions.

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      ruel 6 years ago

      Thanks..This gives more adjustment for the beginners. But most important is patience..

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      Carlton 6 years ago

      Great advice here. I would add something that has been working well for me is to not be afraid of long sessions. With limited practice time during the weekdays it can make wonders to sit down practicing for several hours during the weekend. Especially if focusing on they same pieces. After 2x4 hours of practicing the same piece (in various ways of course) things really start to come off very nicely in a way that would take ages if practicing just 30 minutes a day.

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      marc 7 years ago

      Thanks much for this article. these tips are indeed proving effective. Indeed, i'm among the one who find things go too slow. I've put almost 2 hours a day in the practice for 7 seven years (started at 36 !). I'm now learning the K333 Sonate of Mozart to give u an idea. Can't play real Chopin yet. So, here are the things I noted :

      - more than 2 hours...and i get to have Mozart overwhelming my day !

      - practicing the scales that appear in the piece you learn help much and suddenly give an interest to the scale itself.

      - I start with the left hand...because I hate that ! (it proves very efficient for Bach especially).

      - I tend to always play from the beginning...but i know it's not good. I try to just play it once and then working one page per session, sometimes two at most.

      ...and when I think that Richter learned the Well tempered Clavier in one month...I get immensely frustrated ! Ha.

      thanks again.