Struggling to get through the fast piano songs you’re dying to play? Here, Helendale, CA teacher Sylvia S. shares her tips for success…
Piano is an easy instrument to learn. You push a key, and a note sounds. Compared to instruments like the violin, which can take months and months of dedicated practice before a pleasant sound comes out, piano seems like a walk in the park.
But because of this, it’s also one of the easiest instruments to learn to play poorly. Many piano students become so enraptured with the idea of moving forward quickly that the idea of playing piano fast becomes a goal. We want to play fast, to really show we can do our stuff, but often what happens when we take on all that speed is the quality of the playing is compromised. Most piano players don’t learn patience with the process.
If you’re struggling to master songs with faster tempos, you’re not alone. Here are some tips for learning fast piano songs:
1. Be patient… start with the basics, and find the most difficult part of the song. Find out how slow you need to go to play that part accurately. Use a metronome, and set it at that slow pace. If you don’t have a metronome, you can search for one online. I like this one. Play the entire song at that slow pace. Yes, even the easy parts. Play it perfectly again and again.
2. Watch your fingers. Are there places in the song where your fingers are tripping over each other? Even the best pianists need to come up with specific fingering for certain passages. Go ahead and write in the finger numbers like a beginner … 1-2-3-4-5 … and don’t forget the left hand!
3. Don’t practice in front of an audience. If you’re practicing at home and your family listens in while you practice, remember that your song isn’t going to sound anywhere near as good in the beginning as it will in the future.
4. Don’t practice the same mistake twice. Practicing mistakes teaches you to play inaccurately. If you notice you’re having trouble on certain passages, stop and slow down even more. Work on those specific passages, and give the rest of the song (which you play well) a rest. If you practice perfectly, you’ll learn to play perfectly. Yes, even the hard parts.
5. Celebrate your accomplishments with feelings of confidence. While practicing your “fast” piano songs at a snail’s pace, you’ll slowly and surely become more confident about all the little details of fingering, dynamics and, yes, specific notes. You will become enlightened about those complicated places, and before long they will become easy. When you can play smoothly and slowly, you’re ready for the next step.
6. Let your metronome be your best friend. By now, you’re used to that tick-tick-tick and keeping a slow pace throughout the song. Now, push the metronome speed up one notch. You probably won’t notice you’re playing any faster, because metronomes are calibrated to very small increments. If you can play the song at that pace, push the metronome speed up one more notch.
7. Continue working on speed, one metronome notch at a time. If you start going faster than you can play accurately, move the metronome speed back down one notch. Work on smoothing out those hard parts, and then playing the whole song at that speed.
8. Set your goal speed, using the metronome. Slowly work up to that goal speed, one notch at a time. You’ll know you’re ready when you’re at your goal speed, and playing accurately and confidently.
Need some more help? Check out this helpful tutorial from our friends at Living Pianos for some additional tips on how to play the piano faster.
By now, you have access to all the tools you need to be able to perform that fast piano song. And remember: your audience doesn’t sit in on your practice sessions. Nobody but you (and maybe your family) will ever know how hard it was for you to learn that fast song.
If you can make all that hard work look easy, then mastering your fast piano songs will be easier than ever. Good luck and have fun!
Sylvia S. teaches singing, piano, theater acting, and more in Helendale, CA. She comes from a musical family of several generations, and her experience includes playing an electric keyboard and singing vocals in a professional, working band. Learn more about Sylvia here!
Photo by RobertJinks