Are you a piano player who wants to take your skills to the next level? Piano practice is a great way to improve your technique and become a better performer. However, it can be difficult to know where to start.
In this article, we’ll provide some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your piano practice. We’ll discuss the importance of creating a practice plan and using effective practice techniques. With these strategies, you’ll be able to make the most of your practice sessions and become a more proficient piano player.
How to practice the piano
Some say that Claudio Arrau, one of the greatest piano players of all time, could read music before being able to read words. This is a lesson to take to heart: piano playing, whether you choose acoustic or digital, requires you to listen, understand, and immerse yourself in the music before you sit down and play.
What else can you do to improve your piano practice routine and performance on practicing the piano? Acoustic piano players need to follow some rules, while digital piano players have a few different ways of becoming live artists. Today we will bring together the best of both worlds and see some tips and ideas on how to channel your inner pianist faster and better.
Understand the difference between acoustic and digital piano practice
This is a very long conversation, but we will keep it short. If you are just a beginner and you want to learn to play the piano for fun, you will probably get by easier by starting on a digital piano. You can buy a high-performing piano for under $1000 that comes with 88 weighted hammer action keys, pedals, and 264-note polyphony. Consult the reviews on brands, makes, models, sound, performance, size, weight, and connectivity.
When you realize you want to become a piano player, you can switch to professional digital pianos or even acoustic ones. For practice and learning, here are the main things to look for in an affordable but high-quality piano:
- Dual mode – if you intend to learn with the help of a teacher;
- Weighted keys – important for giving you the feel and the sound of an acoustic piano;
- Pedals – to get used to classic pianos;
- Built-in metronome – you will use to enhance your performance;
- The full range of sounds of an acoustic piano.
Such tips will mostly benefit beginners. If you do play the piano regularly, let us move on to the tips and suggestions you can apply to grow as a pianist and improve your skills.
Warming up how to practice piano
Before playing the piano, it is important to loosen up your arms, wrists, and hands. To warm up, you can work on your piano scales practice, and arpeggios or use the Hanon exercises which are available online. It is best to start with something slow and easy before progressing to anything more challenging. You can also start by playing a song that you already know at a slow tempo. If done correctly, playing the piano becomes an exercise for your whole body as energy is transferred from your body to your fingertips.
Exploit the metronome to its full potential
The metronome is there to help you keep the tempo. Play with the metronome to identify those pieces where you tend to slow down or rush up – those pieces where your tempo goes astray need more piano practice.
- Play with the metronome and without the metronome when you rehearse a piece. Adjust the speed to challenge control and master the tempo. Rehearse until you get the tempo right in the absence of the metronome.
Use the pedal creatively
The greatest performers of our time know exactly when to ride the sustaining pedal and when to balance their fingerwork with a slight touch of their foot. Beginner piano players tend to overuse the pedal.
- Try to play your pieces without the pedal; surely, the sound will seem a bit unnatural at first, but you need to master your fingerwork.
- One good idea is to practice at half-speed without the pedal, as you will have to think of the next note. In time, you will achieve a smoother finger legato.
- Once you are confident in your creation of beautiful sounds, slowly use the right pedal in short amounts to get a clean, crisp sound.
- Focus and understand how the right pedal changes the sound of ends of phrases, rapid passage work and piano chord practice passages, practising them with or without the pedal, until you feel when to press and when to rely only on your fingers.
Practice slowly and in short passages, daily
If you practice slowly, you will get a better understanding of each note, tone, and sound that you create. When you practice on a digital piano with weighted keys, keep in mind that the volume depends on how hard to strike the keys. Velocity is something to look for but practice slowly, to allow your brain to decode the music.
Practice in short passages as well – understand what your fingers do, how the pedals work, what key to strike and when. Imagine you are learning to dance – let each step sink in, coordinate in the bigger scheme, lead you to the next logical step, and offer room for creativity and improvisation.
Play daily and make sure each time you play, your piano is ready to take you where you want to arrive. This is important for digital pianos as well. Make sure you do a sound check, verify the cords, amplifiers, and speakers work properly, and check to see if the sound is clear and at the correct volume.
Structuring each piano practice session
If you want to make learning and staying motivated easier, try playing music that you know and love. Finding the right music can be a challenge, so take some time to experiment until it’s just right. Too easy and you may get bored quickly, too hard and it can be frustrating.
To start off on the right note, try a simple transcription of your favourite song or piece of classical music. You can ask your teacher for help or look for an easy piano song compilation in a store or online video tutorial.
For even more options, check out Flowkey – they offer a full range of difficulty levels with songs marked green being suitable for beginners.
If you are just starting out, it is best to look for songs that have a limited number of notes in the left hand, chords with three notes or fewer, and minimal hand jumps or fast finger movements.
Engage in physical exercise
No matter what piano you play, you need your body in perfect shape. You will move fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, legs, and back quite a lot. Piano experts recommend you control your movements, as they can produce harsh sounds, but never get a rigid stance while you play.
Smooth, flowing, natural piano practice means that you should engage in physical exercise to improve your body’s flexibility, resilience to tension, fluidity, joint mobility, and finger speed. When you play the piano, your shoulders should be down, your wrists relaxed and your arms moving in a way that allows your hands to fly over the keys.
To achieve, improve and enhance your music-body coordination, specific physical exercises will do wonders for your performance.
Piano practice rooms near me
Click here for a link to different piano practice room in London.
Click here for a link to a piano practice rooms NYC.
Piano practice chart
Click here for a link to a piano practice chart template for you to plan your practice out, week-by-week.
Piano sight reading practice
What is sight reading?
Sight-reading, also referred to as prima vista (Italian for “at first sight”), is the ability to read and play a piece of music that you have never seen or played before. This could be a song you have never attempted before, one you are familiar with but haven’t practised, or one that has been memorized but not yet committed to memory. Therefore, if you are actively reading the music and playing it as written without relying on your memory, then this is considered sight-reading.
Tips for sight-reading
Take your time when sight-reading and be gentle with yourself. Speed is not the goal here, but rather fluency; so focus on understanding the music instead of rushing through it. To help you get started, choose pieces that are one or two grades lower than your current playing level. Additionally, try to find pieces in which both lines of music are not too full of notes as this can be a challenge when reading two clefs at once. A great resource to use is Sight-Reading Exercises Op. 45 from Book 1 by Schaefer.
There is no room for mistakes in your piano practice
Do not allow yourself the “privilege” of making mistakes. If you do not like something, stop and repeat it until you get it just the way you want it or the way it is supposed to be. Letting a mistake go can become costly over time and some errors may be hard to fix.
If you make the same mistake, it is clear that you need to approach the piece from a different angle and piano practice it until you get it right. When you start making mistakes during practice, stop. Your brain may be tired, you may have something on your mind, or you are burning the steps of music learning too fast.
Do something else in this case to relax and rewire your brain and resume tomorrow.
- Take notes of your mistakes and put them into a journal. You will have a clearer perspective on what you need to work on more.
Practice piano keyboard vs piano
The piano and keyboard share many similarities, so the skills you learn while playing one will directly transfer to the other. Nevertheless, there are some subtle differences between them that should be taken into account.
Can you learn piano on a keyboard?
It is possible to learn to play the piano on a keyboard. The keys are arranged in the same way on both instruments, making it easy to transfer songs from one to the other with minimal adjustment for any slight variations in key width or pressure needed.
Do they sound the same?
When looking at the contrast between pianos and keyboards, the sounds each instrument can produce can vary based on their make and model. Many keyboards are made to mimic a piano however, they also have the capability of creating numerous other sounds such as horns, strings, organs, drums and percussion or electric pianos. Synthesizers are also often used in live performances to bring added depth and texture.
Pianos and keyboards may be able to produce similar sounds, but playing them is noticeably different. Pianos are large acoustic instruments that create a physical sensation when played, which cannot be replicated by the speakers of a keyboard.
Advice for parents
If you are a parent reading this, you should know that talented children need to practice their pianos and take their lessons seriously – but do not overwhelm them. While everybody understands that music exercises a child’s brain and makes it one of the best hobbies in existence, if performance is what you need, you should refrain from pushing the child into a frenzy. Kids need to focus on their talent, but they also need to play, have friends, laugh, sleep, and have little care in the world.
Advice for seasoned piano players
Many seasoned piano players tend to forget to make the acquaintance of their performance piano. If you do not play your own piano during the next gig, find a way to rehearse your pieces on the piano you are going to play.
For digital pianos, it is mandatory to perform a sound check in advance and make sure the piano you play will respond to you just the way you want it. Make a list of things to check: key action, sounds, tones, volume, connectivity, and so on.
One final thought about improving your piano practice
“Play always as if in the presence of a master.”
For musicians and producers an online metronome tool is essential when recording, try Music Gateway’s online metronome tool here.