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Top 10 Piano Practice Tips

Updated on May 31, 2013
JohnMello profile image

JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

Make your piano practice time worth the effort
Make your piano practice time worth the effort | Source

Practicing the piano can be exhilarating or it can be painful. If you want your playing to improve, however, it's crucial.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned before deciding to teach music was that children - and learners of all ages - don't necessarily know how to practice. That is to say, they don't naturally understand the best way to get the most out of a practice session. This article will give you ten tips on how to do just that.

Tip 1: Approach Piano Practice Positively

Practice because you want to, and not because you feel you have to. If you approach your practice sessions with the right attitude you'll get a lot more done and feel better about it.

We all know that practice makes perfect, but practicing should be a joy and not a chore. Ten minutes of focused practice that is enjoyable will produce better results than two hours of what appears to be drudgery. If practice becomes hard work or depressing, stop and come back to it when you're feeling more in the mood.

Think positively when you sit down to practice the piano
Think positively when you sit down to practice the piano | Source

Tip 2: Plan Practice Sessions Carefully

When you sit down to practice, have a plan in mind. You might want to practice a scale, part of a new piece, some chord patterns, or whatever. Decide on the one thing you want to concentrate on, or make a list of items and tick them off as you achieve them.

It's always easier to focus on improving one skill at a time. It helps you to zoom in on specific elements of your playing which will allow you to make progress more quickly.

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Tip 3: Warm Up with Scales & Chords

Most of the music you play contains chords and scales. To make sure you feel comfortable with them, practice chords and scales separately. Set aside a few minutes a day, or use a couple of scales as a warm-up to your session. Pick a different scale or chord every day for variety and to make sure you play them all.

Playing the piano exercises your fingers, and like any good athlete you might find it easier to perform if you get those finger muscles loosened up before you begin.

Start your practice session off gently with a few simple warm-up exercises
Start your practice session off gently with a few simple warm-up exercises | Source

Piano Practice Session Planner

Day
Warm-Up
Practice
Monday
Major Scales
Piece 1/ right hand
Tuesday
Chords
Piece 2/left hand
Wednesday
Minor scales
Piece 1/left hand
Thursday
Arpeggios
Piece 2/right hand
Friday
Cadences
Hands together small sections

Tip 4: Practice With Someone Else

The piano can be a solitary instrument, but it doesn't have to be.

Practice with another person to make the session more interesting, more engaging, and more fun. Learn a duet with another student, accompany a singer or other soloist, play in a band, or join a local orchestra or music group. As long as you're playing you'll be learning something, and working with other musicians helps you put the music into a wider context.

Practice with other people to make sessions more engaging
Practice with other people to make sessions more engaging | Source

Tip 5: Practice Slowly and in Small Sections

One of the hardest things to do when practicing the piano is to remain patient. It's tempting to try to rush through the music to learn it as quickly as possible, but that rarely produces the results you're after.

You can't learn everything at once, so don't even try. Get one section under your belt, or one hand, and then move on. Work slowly and efficiently to avoid frustration and to make sure your practice session brings results. They may only be little results for each session, but keep at it and sooner or later it will all fall into place.

Tip 6: Break Piano Practice Sessions Up

If you can, try to practice in small chunks of time throughout the day, rather than in one long session. It's easier to stay focused for smaller time periods, and there's less chance you'll get bored or frustrated.

For instance, it might be possible to practice for ten minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the early evening. That way it doesn't take up too much of your time, and you'll be less likely to run out of steam.

Practice small sections, one hand at a time, articulation etc.
Practice small sections, one hand at a time, articulation etc. | Source

Tip 7: Build Variety into your Piano Practice

To keep your practice sessions from getting stale, be sure to add an element of variety.

Practice things in a different order. Try playing a piece you know well in a different key. Find out what it would sound like in a minor key rather than a major one. Play scales as fast or as slow as you can, or all staccato, or with a jazzy rhythm, or leaving out every fifth note. Use your imagination to put some pizazz back into your practice routine.

Tip 8: Don't Give Up

What's the biggest single reason why people fail to learn an instrument? In many cases it's simply the fact that they give up too soon.

It takes time and effort to learn something new, especially when it also involves learning a new language. Playing music involves a whole bunch of skills, from hand and finger coordination to reading notation to making sense of beats and rhythms. There's a lot to learn, but if you're patient your efforts will be rewarded.

Keep practicing and you'll reap the rewards
Keep practicing and you'll reap the rewards | Source

Tip 9: Be Easy On Yourself

Aim for perfection, by all means, but don't beat yourself up if you don't achieve it. Perfection is almost impossible, so there's no point making your life any harder than it has to be.

Do the best you can in the time you have, and then relax and forget about it. As long as you've done your best, you can be sure that your brain and fingers will have taken something from the experience.

Tip 10: Reap the Rewards

At the end of a practice session, treat yourself by playing a favorite piece. Spend a couple of minutes making up your own music. Do something that's not necessarily related to practice as a reward for all the hard work you've put in.

Practicing the piano has an obvious purpose, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. Finish your session off doing something just for you that will lift your spirits and put a smile on your face. That way it might be a bit easier to force yourself to sit down and practice when the next time rolls around.

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