Practicing the piano should be a fun, exciting, and enjoyable experience. However, it is useful to take a step back on occasion and examine the habits you develop around piano practice. How often do you do this?
This week, we will explore a range of bad habits that you can develop on the piano so that you can take some time to reflect on your practice and observe your own practice. Criticizing your own playing is always difficult, but it is one of the strongest strategies to developing as a musician. By sharpening your inner critic, you can make great strides in your piano playing. Let’s take a look.
The dangers of bad habits on the piano
Developing habits is a natural human tendency. We all have habits around eating, sleeping, exercise, and, of course, piano practice. Learning to identify where we are developing bad habits, however, can be a bit more challenging.
If you are not paying attention to how you practice, you can easily develop poor habits. Examples of poor habits that we will explore include poor posture, mindless practice, lack of awareness of breath and tension in the body, and imperfect technique.
If you are not diligent and aware during your practice, you can easily slip into any of these pitfalls!
Steps to avoid bad habits of piano playing
If you feel like you might be developing some bad habits, or are just curious to examine your own playing, check out these examples. If you feel like you are developing any of these habits, try rectifying your habits with some of the strategies presented here.
Practicing scales mindlessly or with bad technique
Practicing scales is one of the basics of piano technique. If you are not practicing piano scales, then you should definitely consider starting.
However, it can be quite easy to fall into mindless practice with scales. They can certainly be monotonous if you do not have strategies to make them interesting.
Additionally, you can easily learn scales with incorrect fingerings. There is a reason that certain scales have certain finger patterns: it makes them easier to play!
All the information you need to learn how to play scales with proper fingerings is readily available for you on the internet and there is no shortage of books or piano learning apps that will help you along the way.
If you feel like your scale practice is slipping, re-invigorate it with some fresh patterns and exercise and revisit your fingers to make sure you play with correct technique.
Not breathing well
A simple way to re-engage yourself and build awareness into your piano practice is to pay attention to your breathing. When was the last time you noticed your breath while you practiced? If you are feeling tense and uncomfortable when you practice, chances are your breathing is erratic and uneven.
Next time you sit down to practice, keep in mind the speed of your breath. Does it feel comfortable? Does it feel stressed? Of course, there should be exaggerated moments in your piano playing that call for heavy breathing, especially while performing. But, in general, you should strive to maintain a calm, even breath while practicing.
Practicing with poor posture
Practicing piano with poor posture is one of the easiest bad habits to slip into. Posture is important to pay attention to all day, not just when you practice. Good piano posture will improve your technique and tone on the piano and decrease any body pain you might have from practicing. Next time you sit down at the piano, pay special attention to your posture at the instrument.
Playing with the wrong speed
A common error among beginning to intermediate pianists is to practice everything extremely quickly, even if the piece is not a fast piece. The sheer fun of playing fast is exciting and it can be motivational to show off technique to others.
However, practicing music at the wrong speed can create mechanical issues with your technique and lead to poor performance and tone. Make sure you practice slowly and with good hand coordination and articulation in music before speeding the piece up. Your music will sound better.
Playing with the wrong fingers
Another surefire way to develop bad habits regarding piano technique is to practice pieces with the wrong fingers. It can be easy when you are learning how to play piano to simply use whichever fingers feel intuitive. Of course, there is a time and place for intuitive piano practice and you should make time to explore it.
However, if you find yourself practicing a piece with different finger positions on the piano each time, you will develop bad habits. Your technique will sound sloppy and you will make less definitive progress.
Find a finger pattern for your pieces and practice them consistently. It might seem more difficult at first, but you will be happier with the results over the long term.
Abusing the pedal
The pedal is your friend. However, too much pedal can make your piano playing sound muddy and indistinct. The pedal should not be used to gloss over sloppy technique or coordination.
How is your relationship with the sustain pedal? Have you ever considered it before? Next time you press down on the sustain pedal, take note of how you use it.
Skipping your exercises
Skipping your exercises is a simple habit to fall into. Once you skip exercise one day, it is easier to skip them the next. Before you know it, weeks have gone by without practicing your exercises and your piano playing has become sloppy and weak. Do not let this happen to you!
The simplest strategy to break this habit is to begin your practice with your exercises. Treat them as your warm-up routine. That way, you ensure that you practice them at every session. If you get bored, switch them up. There is no shortage of piano exercises you can learn.
Finally, disregarding expression is another bad habit that can be easily developed. If dynamic markings are not notated in a piece, you might forget them entirely. Music thrives from expression. If you disregard the expressive element in your pieces, then your performances will not be as strong and captivating as they could be.
Make sure you engage with your expressive capabilities every time you sit down at the piano. Sure, playing piano is a technical skill. But, making music is an artistic and expressive skill. In order to be successful, you need the right combination of technique and artistry. Make sure you pay attention to how it is you are performing your music the next time you sit down to practice.
Breaking the habits
Developing bad habits on the piano is quite easy to do. A simple slip of forgetfulness can set you down a path to developing a bad habit. The simplest way to escape bad habits on the piano is to pay attention to what you are doing.
How is your technique when you play? Do you feel calm and relaxed? How is your breathing? Are you sitting with good posture? Do you feel artistically engaged with the music you are playing? Are you playing expressively or are you playing like a robot?
Ask yourself these types of questions when you practice the piano. You will be able to identify any bad habits you might have and be able to rectify them quite easily if you are honest with yourself.
And, as always, Skoove is here to help guide your piano journey. If you need a little motivation or a new direction to practice, check out any of Skoove’s lessons this week and have fun exploring the piano!
Author of this blog post:
Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.