Getting the Most out of Your Piano Practice
By Team HC |
Getting the Most out of Your Piano Practice
Don't confuse "playing" with "practice"
by Ian R.
Piano practice can be an intimidating thought if you don’t know where to begin. Despite sitting down and playing every day, you might have lingering thoughts that you are missing out on something more important to practice.
Luckily for you I went ahead and did some research on how to make the most effective practice routines to help develop your skills in a quick manner. Follow along with the tips below and you’ll be on the fast path to mastering piano in no time.
Practice In Smaller Chunks, More Often
In a study conducted by UNSW psychology researchers Soren Ashley and Joel Pearson, it was found that studying for too long can actually impede progress. Since learning a task involves rewiring of the brain, you need breaks in order for this to happen.
If you don’t allow time for the brain changes to become consolidated by being transferred from short-term memory and locked into long-term memory, they can easily be lost.
Things like lack of sleep and learning other skills at the same time can also greatly slow progress. In fact, learning is still going on while you sleep as your brain uses this time process and make sense of everything you’ve learned and tie it in with your motor reflexes.
There is plenty of research showing that any practice session that lasts over 2 hours starts to quickly show diminishing returns, and anything over 4 hours barely shows any improvement at all. Because of these diminishing returns, it’s far better to practice for a smaller amount of time multiple times a day rather than all at once, since it gives your brain a chance to catch up.
Smarter, Not Harder
A pianist who has a clear idea of what to work on next will progress much faster than one who just messes around for the fun of it.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still make piano practice fun, but there needs to be a clear and concise plan of action along with dedication in order to make it truly work.
Most people think “practice” is sitting down in front of a piano and doing whatever they want, when in reality this is just called “playing”. There’s a big difference, and practice takes much more discipline, planning, and self control.
Set Some Goals
Setting goals is a great way to have something to look forward to, and it’s also a good way of measuring your progress. When you see that you’ve been progressing along nicely you’ll get a boost of motivation which is really important when developing a daily routine.
The best way to go about this is to set both short-term and long-term goals. The short-term goals are in place to help you quickly see measurable results and keep you motivated, and the long-term goals are there to help you reach those important milestones that may take months or years to reach.
Get A Teacher
The ultimate way to learn piano quickly is to get a teacher. I was absolutely shocked as to how quickly I progressed once I got one. Having somebody sitting right next to you allows them to correct your mistakes in technique and posture, while at the same time creating a custom learning plan that works specifically for you.
Be sure to let them know what YOUR goals and ambitions are and they should be able to help you get there. You are the one paying after all, so don’t be afraid to steer the lessons in the direction you want to go.
Some Practice Routine Ideas
If you can’t afford a teacher, here are some guidelines for a solid practice routine that will ensure quick progress on your own.
- Stretch Those Fingers!
Warming up properly will help protect your fingers from injury, and it’s also a good chance to help develop your dexterity. Keep it simple here - stick to very simple scales and riffs that you already know. This isn’t the time for music theory!
- Practice Technique
Here is where music theory comes into play. Use this time to learn things like scales, chords, inversions, triads, and modes. Try to see how the different elements like chords and triads fit inside each major and minor chord. Start simple with the essential piano scales and work your way up.
- Work On Sight Reading
You might not think that sight reading is an essential skill, but it can really speed up your learning experience by developing your hand-eye coordination and helping you learn new songs easier. Start with something fun and easy, and just do a few minutes each day.
- Learn New Songs
The key do this one is to not just play songs you already know. It’s important to challenge yourself and continually learn new pieces so that you keep your brain engaged. Pick one song that you love and learn it from beginning to end before moving on to the next one.
- Party Time!
This is your time to let loose! Do whatever you want in the last part of your practice session. Jam along with some songs, play your favorite songs and riffs, and experiment with new sounds and ideas. Having fun here will help motivate you to continue your practice routines day after day.
My suggestion? Set aside 1 hour each day before bed to go through this practice routine just mentioned. If you can do 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night I think that would be even better since you are giving your brain a break between sessions.
Even just practicing for 15 minutes each day can have a huge impact on your progress and help you get to where you want. There’s no need to overwhelm yourself and try practicing for hours-on-end every day if you don’t think you can handle it. You’ll end up wearing yourself out which will cause you to despise sitting down in front of the piano.
There really should be no excuse though to practicing a little every day. If you are too busy, try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier in the morning and play a little bit before you start your day.
Hopefully these tips can help you get on the fast path to learning. Good luck on your piano journey! -HC-
Ian R. is the founder of the popular piano website, www.thrivepiano.com - A website for piano players of all levels filled with buyer’s guides, how-to articles, tips for becoming a better pianist, and much more.