Learn How to Play Piano: How Often Should I Practice?

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“I’d love to learn how to play piano, but I just don’t have the time.” Does that sound familiar? If you say you’re too busy to learn, think again! Check out this advice from Hyde Park, MA teacher Marie-france M

Many people are under the impression that there is no point in learning how to play piano unless you are able to practice a minimum of one hour a day – but nothing could be further from the truth. When you learn how to play piano, even at a rudimentary level, it’s a multi-faceted undertaking best accomplished in small steps. I have watched a great many people grow into fine musicians simply by making a commitment to practice a total of 25 minutes a week, dividing that 25 minutes into five, five-minute practice session. So, what can you do with that five-minute session?

Here is a typical five-point, five-minute beginner level practice list:

  • Finger Clenches

Finger clenches can be performed either as “Tennis Singles” (squeeze a tennis ball five times with each hand) or “Double Dutch” (partner with someone facing you with outstretched arms and clenched hands, and squeeze their clenched fists five times, both hands simultaneously).

  • Two-Hands, Five-Finger Exercises (CDEFG)

Play the first five degrees of the C Scale in ascending order, using the following fingering:

Right hand is thumb (1) on C, index finger (2) on D, middle finger (3) on E, ring finger (4) on F, and Pinky (5) on G.
Left hand fingering is the reverse 5 Pinky, 4 Ring, 3 Middle, 2 index, and 1 thumb.

Master each hand separately, then put both hands together. When that is mastered, increase your speed.

  • C Scale, Right Hand

Play the C scale with your right hand only Ascending use this fingering: 123,12345. Make sure your tone is even.

  • C Scale Chords

Play the C scale chords in ascending order, speaking their names as you do so: C chord, D minor, E minor, F Chord, G Chord, A Minor, B Diminished, and C chord.

  • Michael Aaron Red Book Page 7, measures 1-4

For my students, I recommend this Michael Aaron Primer/Performance Book. The song is “Shoo Fly!” in 4/4 time, and it is a work in rhythm utilizing quarter and half notes in both treble and bass clef. The hands alternate in playing the melody and the lyrics are provided for singing along.

In these five minutes you’ll work on strengthening and stretching your hand muscles , fingering techniques, speed, dexterity, harmony, ear- training, sight reading, and more. And because the session only lasts five minutes, you will be ready, willing, and able to come back for a repeat session tomorrow.

Repetition is key for developing the fine motor control required for our five fingers to land on exactly the right notes at exactly the right time. The best way to ensure your success is to return to the keyboard and mindfully practice the same thing over and over again. And the easiest way to do that is to think of your practice in five-minute increments.

What if I want to keep practicing past the five-minute mark?

With the understanding that five-minute practice sessions require full concentration, when you feel ready, try increasing your practice time by additional five-minute intervals. Some students are fully capable of concentrated practice of an hour or more, but it is a thing best worked up to, like running a 10K.

While practice makes (almost) perfect, it is during free time at the keyboard where the magic happens, where the true musicians and composers emerge. To do this, make sure to balance your practice time with copious amounts of free time to explore your musical inclinations. Have fun!

Marie-franceMarie-france M. teaches piano, singing, acting, and songwriting in Hyde Park, MA. She draws on a wide range of materials in The Holistic Piano (and voice) method, which is especially effective with Autism-spectrum students. Learn more about Marie-france here!

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Photo by gagilas

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