Five Key Practice Tips for Playing the Piano or Keyboard
A tourist in New York City asked a local resident “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The passerby answered, “practice, practice, practice”. Have you ever watched someone playing the piano with incredible skill and wondered how they do it? The answer is simple – P R A C T I C E.
Learning to play the piano is the same as learning any skill. After acquiring the necessary knowledge, it then becomes a matter of practice, using repetition to gain the skill required to be successful. I often ask my students “How is a great basketball player able to shoot the ball with incredible accuracy?” The obvious answer is that he spends countless hours working on the skill of shooting the ball. Over and over again he practices shooting the basketball. That applies to learning to play the piano or keyboard as well. The skill of playing the piano will develop after the repetition of quality practice.
I have compiled this list of the Five Key Practice Tips for Playing the Piano or Keyboard as a tool to help you get the most out of your practice time. Let’s look at these keys.
KEY #1: BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Practice must be INTENTIONAL and CONSISTENT. In order to maximize your efforts, it is important to set a regular practice schedule that works for you. I have found that those students who set a regular time each day to practice the piano have the most success. How much time and how often should you practice? That depends on your goals for learning the piano. If you are just wanting to learn for your own enjoyment and do not have intentions of “performing” then 30 – 45 minutes a day should be sufficient. If you have a loftier goal than that, then you obviously need to practice much more each day. Professional pianists practice several hours a day.
KEY #2: WARM-UP: Begin each practice session with a WARM-UP time. Just as an athlete will stretch and slowly build up to the full effort, one should develop a warm-up routine before each practice. One excellent way of warming up, is to play various scales, both major and minor. Newer students can play one octave scales ascending and descending.
This should be done using each hand separately. Once that is achieved, the student should begin working to play the scales with both hands at the same time. A more advanced student can play the scales in multiple octaves (3 or 4) with both hands together, ascending and descending. There are many piano exercise books available that can also be used as warm-ups.
KEY #3: SPEED KILLS. One of the mistakes that many piano students make is to practice at too fast a tempo. As you begin work on a selection, remember that slower is better. You can begin to gradually increase the speed at which you practice as you become more familiar and comfortable with the piece. Slower practice makes for better accuracy and smoother playing.
KEY #4: SMALL BITES. Someone once asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer was “One bite at a time”. I have often seen students plow their way through a piece of music from the beginning to the end, all the while making numerous mistakes along the way. I recommend that optimum practice should consist of perfecting a small bite (measure or phrase) and then moving to the next bite. After getting the second bite perfected, go back and combine the two. Then move to the third bite. You will find by layering the entire piece a bite at a time, you will achieve the results you want.
KEY #5: 70 % - 30%. The final key to maximizing your practice is to use the 70-30 rule. You should use 70% of your practice time working on new material. The last 30% of your practice time should be spent reviewing and playing selections already mastered. This review time each day, helps you to develop better musicianship and touch in your playing. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment and confidence in your playing ability.
Consider the tips in this report as you practice playing the piano. I am confident that you will achieve success.
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