Not sure where to start when you sit down at the piano? Just remember these 10 piano practice tips from Austin, TX teacher Tosin A…
All right, students. Relax your shoulders, keep your back straight, and let’s begin our scales. Just kidding. Practicing is the most important part of becoming a piano player. Here are a few things to take your practice time to its highest potential.
1. Set a Clear Goal
If you sit down at the piano and say, “I’m going to play for a bit,” you aren’t going to to learn anything. Instead, set a goal: “I’m going to learn how to play the opening song in Frozen.” Since you set a goal, you are going to keep at it until you reach it. You also have to make sure that your goal is achievable in your practice time frame. If you have only two hours, you probably shouldn’t try to learn the entire “Planets Suite” by Holst, maybe just the pretty part in “Jupiter”.
2. Warm up
Seriously, I know it’s boring, but I’ve had carpal tunnel and tendonitis because of not warming up. I’d rather spend 10 minutes warming up than be in pain for six months. This is one of the most important piano practice tips because it also gives you the opportunity to get into the right mindset.
3. Set Aside Time for Fundamentals
Make sure at least 15 minutes of your practice time is set aside for things like scales, runs, accuracy, and timing. You only gain technical skills by repetition – uncomfortable, annoying, boring, focused repetition. Just build in 15 minutes of fundamentals to every one of your practices and you will be able to play insanely technical pieces.
4. Slow Down
The trick to learning hard songs is learning them at half-speed and then slowly speeding up. Slow down to whatever speed you can play it perfectly. Then, when you can play it perfectly at that speed three times, speed it up a little bit. A LITTLE BIT. “What’s a little bit?” I’m glad you asked…
5. Use A Metronome and Slow Down Again
If you can’t play a song in time, then you can’t play the song. “Flight of the Bumblebee” is played, depending on how you count it, at about 500bpm.
But do not start trying to learn the song at 500bpm. You start at 50bpm. When you can play it at 50, speed it up to 60, and so forth until you can play at the correct speed.
6. In Case You Didn’t Hear it, Slow Down
I cannot stress this piano practice tip enough. I truly believe the difference between average musicians and great ones are people who know how to practice a fast song at a tenth of its speed and slowly start to speed it up.
Name your top 10 favorite pianists. If you don’t have the list, you haven’t listened to enough pianists. You have to know what great sounds like to sound great yourself. Since it’s 2014, it’s a lot easier to discover great pianists and great music – try just a simple search on YouTube!
8. Imitate, then Innovate
After you listen, try to copy great solos you love, and then try to make them better. This is where you find out who you are and what is special about your piano playing. This is the opportunity to go from being great to being unique.
9. Take A Break
You’ve warmed up, spent 15 minutes on fundamentals, learned how to play “Jupiter”, and now you are on to “Mars”. You spent 20 minutes listening and copying Fats Waller solos. What do you do next?
… and breathe. Then get back into it.
10. Start and End With Fun
Make sure you play something you love when you start to practice and something you love when you are done, preferably something you are great at playing. This will keep your confidence up!
The most important thing to remember is that all this hard work gives you the ability to entertain, uplift, and touch people with your talent. It’s also way more fun playing piano when you are great at it. Now go make some beautiful music.
Tosin A. teaches piano, music theory, music composition, public speaking, and various academic subjects in Austin, TX, as well as through online lessons. He has been playing piano for 14 years, and currently plays for his church and 3 bands (La Vida Buena, Savannah Red and The Blueberries, Jackie Venson), and for Improv Comedy Shows around town. Learn more about Tosin here!
Photo by HannahWebb