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Simple strategies to improve your piano playing

simple strategies for learning to play the piano

Like many pursuits in life, progressing in your piano practice requires consistency and discipline. It can feel easy at the beginning to make huge leaps in your skills. However, after some time you may feel like you start to hit certain plateaus. Feeling like you are hitting plateaus in your practice presents a chance to examine the ways in which you practice and identify points that can make a big difference in your playing.

This week, we will explore some strategies you can use to reflect on your playing. No matter where you are with your piano practice, these strategies will be a useful jumping off point to make fresh progress in your playing.

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How to make progress in your playing

Making progress in piano playing is a combination of consistent practice with adequate challenge and novelty. Primarily this means:

  • Try to have a consistent time for your practice and maintain some consistent elements.
  • Provide yourself with adequate challenges. This means you should practice some things that are difficult for you, but not too difficult.
  • Provide yourself with adequate novelty. If you only practice the same things over and over again, your playing can begin to feel stale. Your brain needs novelty to develop, so make sure you include some new elements every few weeks.

Tips that will significantly change your piano playing

Try to implement some of these strategies into your piano playing over the coming weeks and try to keep track of how they affect your playing. All of these strategies are simple and effective at improving your piano playing.

Create a warm up routine

Creating a warm up routine is a great way to introduce a layer of consistency into your piano practice and provides you with a firm foundation on the piano keys. Your warm up routine does not have to be complicated. For example, a basic five-finger exercise up and down one or two octaves works perfectly:improve your piano playing

Of course, you can get much more detailed and complicated with your warm-up routine. But, keeping it simple and easy is best to start.

 

Get rid of distractions

Multi-tasking is extremely common these days and is often hard to avoid. However, having distractions around while you are trying to practice piano is detrimental to your progress. Try to eliminate distractions as much as possible while you are practicing. 

Of course this can be difficult, especially if you are using your phone or laptop with a piano learning app, videos, or to read sheet music. But, if you find yourself too distracted while you are practicing, try to eliminate some of the unnecessary influences and see your progress improve.

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Set short, medium, and long term goals

If you find yourself reaching a plateau in your piano playing, re-evaluating and setting some fresh short, medium, and long term goals is an effective way to generate fresh momentum. 

Finding some way to connect your goals can be helpful as well. For example, a long term goal could be to learn all 12 major piano scales. A medium term goal could be to learn the six of the major scales and a short term goal could be to learn the notes of the C major scale comfortably with two hands. This way, your success builds upon itself and your practice has more purpose and direction.

Try recording yourself

Recording yourself practicing is another strategy that you can use to develop your skills. It can be difficult, and also distracting, to try and evaluate our practice in the moment. Recording yourself allows you to focus deeper on your playing, leaving time to critique and listen more objectively afterwards. Try recording yourself playing something simple this week, like an easy chord progression or melody. It does not have to be complicated.

Additionally, recording yourself adds a unique element of challenge – suddenly there is a record of your performance. This act creates a unique and challenging situation that you should experience for yourself. 

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Perform for people

Another strategy that pairs nicely with recording yourself is to make some habit of performing. You can perform for your friends, your family, or for random strangers at an open mic or on the internet. 

Much like recording yourself, performing for people introduces a new element into your piano playing. If you have not performed very much, you might find yourself a little nervous or uncomfortable. Pushing yourself through these types of moments and gaining the confidence to handle these situations will certainly improve your piano playing.

Use a metronome

Using a metronome can also be an effective way to make improvements in your piano playing. A metronome is a tool that keeps a steady beat. In general, metronomes can be set from about 40 beats per minute to over 200, with some electronic metronomes having an extended range. 

Using the metronome helps to build coordination between the hands and aids in building a solid rhythmic foundation. Try to practice your warm-up exercise with a metronome set to quarter notes at 80 beats per minute or try practicing a piece of your repertoire with a metronome set at an extremely slow tempo like 25 or 30 beats per minute. Diving into slower tempos like this helps us to examine exactly how our hands move, which is a great way to improve your piano playing.improve your piano playing

Explore a mix of genres

Finally, a great way to expand your skills as a pianist is to explore a wide mix of genres. Each style of music presents its own unique challenges and skill sets. Playing classical piano music requires a much different touch than playing jazz chords on piano or blues or rock. 

Try to open your repertoire to new possibilities and watch your piano playing progress as you develop new skills and techniques. Additionally, this will turn you into a much more well-rounded musician. 

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Summing it up

If you feel like you are struggling to make real progress with the piano or feel directionless in your practice, try out some of these strategies to get your playing moving in the right direction. Remember, the most certain way to make progress on the piano is by consistent, dedicated practice that includes adequate challenge and novelty. 

Keep things interesting and freshen up your routines with some of these strategies this week and explore Skoove’s exciting program of lessons ranging from beginning to advanced repertoire, technique, theory, and ear training. 

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Author of this blog post:

Edward Bond

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.