Most of us are not born with an innate ability to practice efficiently and effectively and can feel a bit overwhelmed while practicing. If you haven’t done so already, find a teacher and enroll in piano lessons in Houston. They will easily make the biggest difference in your playing ability and give you numerous practice techniques. Whether you are a brand new student or seasoned musician, here are 8 tips to keep in mind for productive and gratifying practice sessions.
No matter what speed a piece is meant to be performed at, practicing slowly is indispensable. Every time we practice, new neurological connections are made between our fingers and our brain. Although progress may feel sluggish at first, with slow practice these pathways are built securely and will stand the test of time. Gradually increase the tempo and you will find that you are able to play those tricky sections at any speed.
Create a consistent practice schedule
Making time to practice can be a challenge as we always seem to put too many things on our plate. If you find that you’re always wishing for more hours in the day, scheduling a consistent practice time is imperative. Some prefer to add practice to their morning routine, that way you’ll be off to a productive start to your day and you won’t be worrying about when you’ll have time to squeeze it in later. For others, practicing in the morning is not an option so you could try practicing right after you get home from school/work or while dinner is being made. The most important thing is that practicing becomes a part of your daily routine at a time that works best for you. Just like studying, with consistent practice you will grow exponentially rather than cramming before a lesson or performance.
Posture, posture, posture
While practicing on your own, it’s easy to let the basics slide. Although it is possible to play the piano with poor posture and technique, you will only be able to go so far on your musical journey. Practicing routinely with a beautiful posture and proper technique will lay a strong foundation for years to come and will allow you to focus solely on making magnificent music.
Upgrade your keyboard
If you’re making your way out of those beginner books, it’s probably time to enhance your set up. Starting out with a small keyboard is a great way to introduce yourself to the piano, but as you advance your instrument will need to improve as well. If you’d like to stay on an electric, make sure the keys are weighted so that you can properly practice dynamics and tone. It’s also a good idea to expand your keyboard to the full 88 keys and foot pedals if you don’t have them already. Although electric keyboards have come a long way, if you have the budget for it, nothing compares to playing on an actual piano. You’ll be able to truly fine tune your artistry and add a beautiful statement piece to your home. For upkeep, just make sure to have your piano tuned at least once a year.
This may seem counterintuitive, but taking regular breaks will greatly enhance your productivity while practicing. Studies have shown that musicians practicing more than an hour without a break have a sharp decrease in concentration and effective practice. It is recommended that every 50 minutes spent practicing should be accompanied by a 10 minute break and daily practice should never exceed 4 hours. Now, these numbers are geared towards professional musicians who need to learn hours of music. If you are not planning on becoming a professional pianist, you will probably never come near practicing 4 hours a day and should adjust practice times and breaks accordingly. The biggest takeaway is if you find yourself struggling to focus while practicing, then it’s time for a short break.
Singing is a practice technique that I always hated as a student but have seen the benefits time and time again. Now I have my own students sing regularly during their lessons. Singing is by far the most natural way we make music and requires no extra equipment. When practicing a tricky piece, if you can’t sing the correct notes and rhythms (don’t worry, we’re not looking for the full range and capabilities of the piano) how can you be expected to play it? This is also a helpful tool when tinkering with timing and phrasing. Many times we are too encumbered with technique and our playing becomes awkward and mechanical. By following your voice, you now have a much more natural path.
Set achievable goals for every practice session
Many of us when starting out simply sit in front of the piano and play through our assigned piece for the week a few times a day. This practice strategy might work out for a while, but it certainly won’t take us very far. As you progress in repertoire you’ll find that you have a harder time concentrating during practice and it begins to feel a bit mundane. Setting a small goal at the beginning of your practice will make each session feel like an achievement and will help steer your focus. Your goal could be anything from improving your dynamics to playing all the way through your piece from memory, as long as it is an achievable goal for the day.
Revisit old repertoire
Even though you’ve already moved on to more complicated music, reviewing pieces you’ve already learned is not only a great practice strategy, but it also guarantees you’ll always be able to play at least a few pieces at any given time. If you’re working on a new technique, instead of practicing it with music that is also unfamiliar, pull out a piece of music that you know by heart. You may also be surprised how much those pieces you thought you had completed will continue to grow every time you play them. It is incredibly rewarding to go back to old rep and play it through a new lens as you continue to grow as a musician.
If you are interested in learning more about the piano or if you want to sign up for lessons, contact us! Our teachers come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your family!
By Tracy Gibler