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The Art of Piano Practice

piano practice

Some people practice piano or other musical instruments for long hours each day, and some practice only 20 minutes a few times a week.  Does this mean those who practice for hours are guaranteed to get better faster?

Not necessarily.  In fact, how long you practice has little to do with how much progress you make.  Any great musicians know the importance of practicing efficiently and with a great concentration.

Practicing is an art, and it’s vital you get this right. Check out our article “How Long Does It Take To Learn Piano?”

Here are some important tips to consider for your practicing session.

1. Set a goal for your piano practice session

Don’t just dive into practicing without knowing what you want to accomplish.  Before you sit at the piano, decide what you’re going to do and what you want to achieve.

This could be:

-Be able to play the right hand melody precisely in tempo

-Coordinate left/right hand together. Here are a few ways to achieve hands-coordination

-Learn the keys and recognize the notes on the treble/bass clef.

-Memorize the first portion of a song

-Play at slightly faster tempo

The point is to set your goal that you can accomplish within a short amount of time of your practice piano session, and aim toward it.  That takes away the wasted time and keeps you focused.

2. Have a warm up routine

Warm up

No professional athlete will start a practice session without a warm-up.  Same goes for pianists. It is important for you to have a routine to get your fingers and your head warmed up.  

If you’re just starting out, try “It Takes Five”.  A great starting point for your right hand warm-up.

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Every time you sit at the piano, do a few minutes of warming up with the same material. Nothing complicated nor nothing too new. Something you already know how to play and requiring no straining of your fingers.

Warming up is also about getting in the right mindset.  While warming up, calm your body and mind, get in the “practice mode” with concentration and focus.

Discover our suggested warm-up exercises for beginners.

3. Break down your task

Now that you’ve set your goal and you’re warmed up, take a minute to make a simple plan of how you’re going to practice piano. You want bite-size pieces of practice material.  Step by step and one small step at a time.

With Skoove, each lesson is well structured and broken down into smaller steps.  This methodology is the most efficient way of achieving your goal.  

Even with this methodology, it may be necessary for you to break it down even more.

For example, instead of 4 bars of melody, try practicing just one bar at a time. Make a mental note of “from here to there”, and practice only that portion.  Repeat until you’re able to play it with ease. When you feel sufficient with the first part, then take the next small portion, after that you combine the first and the second portion together, and so on.

4. Practice slow

To avoid making mistakes you should only feed the brain the correct information – this way your brain will remember faster. It’s called: brain synapses consolidation. By practicing too quickly you are more likely to make mistakes making it harder to learn the song. It takes time for your fingers to learn the correct movement. Practicing slow will make you feel relaxed, takes away the pressure, and lets you internalize the finger movements much quicker.  This also helps in learning the melody itself as a musical expression and not just as a mechanical task. Do it slow and take your time.

5. Limit your time and get some sleep 😉

Clock

The most important thing to remember when you’re practicing is to remain focused and concentrated. Concentration is limited, generally up to around 45 minutes max at each session before taking a break.  

If you’re just beginning to learn to play piano, then set 20 minutes as your practice session.  It’s sufficient enough to learn something new everyday and make significant progress with just 20 minutes of concentrated practicing. Your brain will do the rest, forming and strengthening the synapses. Relaxation and a good night sleep will support this effect.

Know how long you can keep the high concentration and focus. Limit your practicing to this time frame.  

If you set your practice session to more than 20 minutes then make sure to take a break half-way.

6. Aim toward your goal

Goal

When you set a goal for each practice session, you want to achieve it by the end of your session.  It also means you need to set a realistic goal that you can achieve.

You will get better at setting the right goal with time, and be able to anticipate the time and skills required to achieve it.

Each practice session should aim toward a higher goal – but not too high!  Learn to make small progress each time.

7. Appreciate your progress

Once you get used to practicing with a clear structure as described in this blogpost.  You’ll feel more confident as you finish each session with goals being achieved.

Ending your practice session with a good feeling is very important.  Therefore, notice your progress and appreciate it!

It may sound funny but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of feeling good. Practicing should be fun and enjoyable, and a big part of that comes from knowing that you’ve achieved something, however small the progress may be. Learn more about the psychology of achievement with this article from the American Psychological Association: Frequently Monitoring Progress Toward Goals Increases Chance of Success.

8. Make a note for the next piano practice session

Before you leave the piano, make a note for yourself for the next practice session.  Write down what you’ve achieved and what you want to practice next.  Some students keep a log, and some will just take a mental note. However you do it, know what you’ve done and where the next step is.

Be organized!

The bottom line for practicing is to be well organized and structured with clear goals, while making sure you make small steps and internalize each step firmly before moving on. Doing it with a set amount of limited time and with concentration, is the key to success!

If you didn’t hit your goal then consider following:

-practice even slower!

-practice smaller portion next time

-re-consider if the material is too difficult

It’s okay to practice the same material over a few sessions, and sometimes it’s necessary.  Even then, set a different goal each time.

At Skoove, we emphasize the importance of effective learning and practicing, and you’ll find that each lesson is already well structured for you. Combined with tips in this blogpost, you’ll accelerate your progress on playing the piano. Try it out!

I hope this post was helpful for you, please feel free to give us a feedback and comments.

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You need more tips? Check out these articles:

  • Beginner tips for good piano posture
  • 4 Tips to Learn Piano Effectively
  • 6 Tips to Learn to Play the Piano like Ryan Gosling from La La Land
  • Understand piano scales

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