We’ve all heard the age-old adage of “practice makes perfect” and with the Piano, this is especially true. Whether you’re wanting to improve your finger dexterity on the keys or tune your ear to be able to pick up music quicker, practice gets you there. The emphasis is so great on practice that it can become overwhelming. One study suggests that 10,000 hours of practice is what is required to truly master an instrument.
While all of this is obvious, what you should be practicing and how you should practice is not. While practicing with a piano teacher will give you the fastest results there are times when an in-home music teacher isn’t always available. It’s for those times that we’ve put together this list of 5 Practice Techniques To Improve Your Piano Skills.
1. Assess Your Objectives for the Session
At the beginning of every practice session, you should set the objectives for your time. It could be as simple as wanting to reproduce the title theme from your favorite movie, or as difficult as flawlessly playing Debussy’s magnificent Clair De Lune. If your practices scales, for example, then you could set up a goal for a certain number of repetitions.
By having a goal, you have an endpoint towards which progress is being made. This ensures you will keep playing until you are satisfied that certain improvements have been achieved. Work out in advance whether the session will be utilized to perfect your timing, fingering, or improve your “play by ear” skill for noticing variations in notes. These are measurably technical and physical abilities, which have to be worked on if you seek to master the piano.
2. Utilize the Metronome
An important skill that novice pianists overlook is learning to keep time, and regulating pace on the piano. The metronome is an important aid that helps you maintain your tempo, and was designed to produce an audible beat indefinitely; this helps musicians play songs with accurate time signatures and the right paces.
Additionally, the device allows you to focus on your rhythm. Certain segments require a change in playing speed; fast or slow. Novices will run through the first part correctly, but fail to adapt to the consequent fluctuations in pace. By utilizing the metronome, the musician is forced to pay attention to the time and will vary their speed accordingly. Metronomes work well during practice because it helps you develop the muscle memory to different tempos.
3. Master the Pedals
Beginners use the pedals with great exuberance; they tend to fear the lumpy, unnatural sound that is produced when the pedals aren’t utilized to complement the finger work.
By practicing at half-speed while completely refraining from using the pedals, musicians force themselves to think of the next note that needs to be struck. This also results in them developing a finer finger legato (more on this later).
Once the musician is pleased with the creation of sounds, they can begin to use the pedals in bursts to produce cleaner and crisper notes. The aspiring pianist can begin to understand how varied pedal usage changes the end of phrasal, and chordal passages. By adopting this practice in their sessions, musicians will learn to alternate between the pedals and their fingers.
4. Playing Legato
Legato, is an Italian word that literally translates to “bound together”. It refers to the seamless playing of notes, which is to say that the pianist transitions from one note to another without any intervening silence.
A sizeable portion of your practice session should be devoted to practicing this technique. It allows musicians to master their instrument with a strong grasp over fundamental finger techniques.
How is this achieved?
Simple – one key is released and the following key in the sequence is pressed. This necessitates prudently choosing fingering patterns in difficult passages and the musician must display acute dexterity utilizing their wrist and upper arm muscles. It seems like a challenging task but by practicing legato techniques on different musical pieces, you can greatly refine the motion of your arms, and enhance your abilities.
5. Record yourself
Practicing by yourself will yield noticeable bonuses if you remain dedicated. Having said that, it is important for a musician to be able to distinguish between developing practical improvements, and frowned upon habits such as an overuse of the pedals.
A young performer that is looking to improve their skills needs critical feedback from a seasoned professional that can inform them of minor mistakes being made whilst playing. These could be playing too fast, incorrect fingering, wrong hand posture, and even something as basic as sitting too far from the piano.
If you don’t have anyone you can immediately rely on for constructive criticism, you should record yourself while playing the piano. Watch this recording to analyze any mistakes that you regularly make, and work to eliminate them in the future to help enhance your piano skills over time.