You know practicing is important – but how should you design your ideal piano practice routine? Check out these helpful tips from Brooklyn, NY piano teacher Liz T...
In order to be prepared for your weekly piano lessons, you must spend your time wisely practicing on your own at home! In this article, I’ll review some tips to help you figure out what you should be spending your time practicing.
But first, how much practice? If you are taking a weekly 30-minute to an hour piano lesson, and are serious about sharpening your piano playing and theory, then I suggest sitting down at the piano 3-4 times a week, for an hour at a time. You’ve heard the phrase before, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice!” It’s true – the only way you can improve your sight reading, ear training, and performance is by practicing. Now here’s what to practice:
1. Scales and Finger Patterns
Pull out your favorite method book, and practice your scales. Practice them slowly, really fast, piano vs forte, and so on, making sure to get all of the fingering down correctly. Practice until you can play without looking at the sheet music, and you know which scales have which sharps and flats. Practicing scales and tricky finger patterns will help you pick up your finger dexterity and learn to read new pieces faster. (Do these exercises for about 10-15 minutes.)
Next, work out different chord progressions, which is great if you want to play jazz or accompany singers! Start out with your simple chords, and each time you practice, learn a new chord (major, minor, 7ths, 9ths, Sus4), different voice leadings, and inversions. While your scales will most likely be in the classical realm (major or minor), you can also try switching it up a bit and enhancing your knowledge with learning how to play some jazz chord progressions! Feel free to start improvising and practicing your soloing. You may have to do it live someday, and now is the time to get comfortable “soloing” on the piano. (Do this for about 10-15 minutes.)
3. Composition Analysis and Performance
Whether the piece you’re currently working on is Bach, Gershwin, or Menken, first go through the piece and analyze it slowly. Assuming you have previous piano knowledge, ask yourself: What key is the song in? What is the time signature? Is there a chorus, or reoccurring melodic motif? Are there suggested fingerings I should use? Then start to go over just the rhythms of the song, clapping them out. If it’s a tricky rhythm, go ahead and write it into your sheet music.
Then start playing – go through the melody from start to finish with just your right hand, then do the same with the left. It is important that you really get comfortable playing the right hand and left hand separately before putting the two hands together. (Work on this for about 20-30 minutes.)
4. Practice the Tricky Parts
Now that you have practiced both hands separately and then together, go over some of those parts that may have caught you up. Is there a really fast part of the song? Are there some tricky chords? Are the trills or accidentals messing you up? Practice the more challenging parts, and keep doing them constantly, until you get it right! Repetition is key for your fingers, ears, and brain. The more you do it, the more natural it will become. Don’t forget it’s okay to take a five-minute break at this point, too; just come back and play the whole piece through again after your break. (10 minutes)
This piano practice routine is a clear and concise way for you to now start practicing more efficiently. Now go forth, practice, and make some music!
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons in Brooklyn, NY, as well as online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!
Photo by hyekab25