Your Guide to Getting Through Tough Piano Passages

Kid practicing pianoDoes this sound familiar?  You sit down to practice the piano, sheet music placed in front of you. This is it.  You’re going to dominate this song.  You rest your fingers gently on the keys, and then begin playing.

Everything is going great!  And then suddenly, like black clouds rushing into a sunny sky, the measure is filled with never-ending runs of sixteenth notes and accidentals galore.  And just like that – your fingers freeze.  You think, “Wait, where was I again?”

This “start and stop” habit is something that many pianists face, even if the piece is something you’ve played before.  While you’re not always going to be playing a song perfectly, that dreaded pause when you hit a tough passage can be pretty unnerving.

Here are a few tips to help:

Tip 1 – Practice sight reading strategies.
Before you even begin your practice, it may help to take a look at the piece as a whole:  the time signature, genre and even the style of the composer. Understanding these basics will help you get into the right mindset, as opposed to racing through etudes, exercises and then songs without recognizing the differences.

Tip 2 – Practice slowly.
Practicing with a metronome is a great reminder to slow down – and sometimes, that’s all you need to master a tough phrase.  Take a good look at where you’re tripping it up – is it a certain accidental or one chord that catches you off guard?  An entire measure? One line that’s particularly scary? Once you’ve pinpointed it, simplify.  Start by practicing just a few notes.  Then, start at the measure before and work your way in. You can also simplify further by practicing one hand at a time.

Tip 3 – Practice effectively.
This might be the most important tip to keep in mind, so lazy students, take note!  Running through a song and ignoring the tough passages isn’t effective practice.  When you hit a roadblock, attack it right then and there.  Otherwise, you’ll just be practicing the same mistakes over and over, and they may become harder to fix once they become habits.

Moreover, the way that you think is also a huge part of effective practice.  If you’re so nervous about a certain section that it’s all you can think about, you won’t be playing at your best.  Stay positive and relax – your fingers will follow suit!

How do YOU avoid the “start and stop” habit when practicing the piano?  We want to hear your tips!  Stop by our Facebook page (don’t forget to “Like” us!) and leave a comment.

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Photo by Victor Bezrukov.

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