4 Somewhat Counterintuitive Tips on How to Practice the Piano

Whether you crave to play “technically impossible” pieces composed by geniuses like Prokofiev; or you “merely” aspire to be the next singer/songwriter in the vein of Billy Joel, Regina Spektor or Tori Amos, you need to start somewhere. But the prospect of learning to play well may be daunting, even if you have experience under your belt.

There is so much to learn. There are so many wonderful pianists out there. Here are a few tips to help you make decisive, effective progress:

1. Understand the purpose of your playing.

Far too many pianists (or would-be pianists) push themselves beyond their limits – stripping out free time, falling behind in school, etc – without really understanding what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. Is your goal to get into Julliard? Do you want to become a concert pianist? Do you just want to master the piano well enough to play and record your own music?

If you haven’t explored and articulated the purpose of your practice in crystal clear detail, invest time and gain that clarity. Understanding your purpose is important not just for abstract reasons: when times get tough – and they inevitably do, even for the best pianists out there – you need an anchor to “reground you” and focus you on improvement.

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2. The “small decisions” you make about practicing will have the biggest influences over your performance.

Do you thoroughly practice your scales before starting a session? Do you get feedback and change how you play/practice based on that feedback? Are you consistent? Are you having fun – at least generally speaking? So many would-be pianists focus so much on the “golden ring” — winning the Big Recital, recording a best-selling album, playing with a professional symphony orchestra, etc — that they forget that the journey is a million times more important than the destination. If you do the small things correctly, over time, they will add up to big things. There is no “big push” that will transform you into a brilliant pianist tomorrow.

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3. Set goals based on your purpose.

If your ultimate goal is to be a ridiculously talented jazz pianist, along the lines of a Brad Mehldau or Keith Jarrett, your big goals should be “jazz-oriented” piano goals. If, on the other hand, your dream is to record the most dizzyingly complicated pieces ever composed, you need to improve your technical proficiency.

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4. Understand your strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t have inherently powerful hands and stamina, you’re going to be at a permanent disadvantage versus those who do have those assets. You can’t be the “best pianist” in every domain – so pick aspects of playing that you really love to do and that you could be great at, and focus your energy on getting better at the “stuff” you love, rather than simply getting “decent” at all skills.

To select a great piano for your needs, look to the professionals at Pianos Plus. For over four decades, our team has equipped and supported budding pianists like you and helped to make their musical dreams and ambitions come true. Find out more at www.pianosplus.com. Or call 510-581-1660.

1 thought on “4 Somewhat Counterintuitive Tips on How to Practice the Piano

  1. As are correct about practicing. We don’t always think when we practice but we should. As a private piano teacher and the owner of Lessons In Your Home (a music school without walls:) I am faced with these challenges daily.

    As music teachers we have to keep ourselves fresh to the ideas you presented about practice and not forget that practice can be taught. I’ve always believed that relating to your piano student is the way to do that.

    The director of our Orlando market Jordan Gatenby recently posted an article on our blog that may also help. It addresses practice from the emotional point of view. The article can be found at: http://lessonsinyourhome.net/news/scaffolding-not-just-for-buildings/

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