Learning how to practice well enables you to get the most out of the time you have: to make maximum progress and firmly establish new information. I’ve compiled 10 practice tips here that are easy to implement in your practising regime.
You don’t necessarily have to implement all ten at once, try one or two to start with and see how much of a difference it makes. Only you will be able to decide what works for you, your learning style and schedule.
The below is an adaptation of a video ’10 Tips for Maximising Your Practice’. You can watch the interactive video below and/or read the blog for the same essential advice. Also, further down this blog is an opportunity to download the tip-sheet that goes with this blog to keep by your piano for quick reference!
1. Set aside time - block out your week in terms of when you will practice. If you just wait till when you have a spare moment it will never happen. Plan 3 slots in the week where you will practice for an hour, and leave 1 slot for when you ‘feel like it’, when inspiration strikes - leave this practice for doing something fun like making up a song yourself!
2. Micro-sessions - if you don’t have hour-long slots, I highly recommend micro-sessions. 10-20 minutes each day will work just as well and you are less likely to miss your sessions when they are that much easier to fit in. Practising daily also helps you to form a habit and progress is much quicker to boot!
3. Do some exercises – check out some hand & wrist exercises over at this blog.
4. Start with FUN - some say you should start with the hardest part while your mind is fresh - I disagree. That’s a sure way to get overwhelmed and frustrated right at the beginning of your practice! I say, FUN first! Practice something you’ve already mastered and just play it for fun. This will warm up your hands a bit and remind you how far you’ve come, and how much you enjoy playing.
5. Play through it - for a new Song Snack or Have A Go, or any song you are learning I recommend just playing through what you know first. Try playing through what you don’t know or haven’t mastered yet. If you make a mistake, take a note and move on, try to get to the end if you can. Then, come back and work on each tricky passage individually. Go over it a few times, maybe you’ll perfect it this time, maybe next time, don’t force yourself to get it perfect today – that sort of harsh regimentation crushes the inspiration. I do believe in hard work, but I don’t believe in beating yourself up because you can’t perfect something immediately. Persistence over time, not punishment!
Get the simple 1-page version
Download the free practising tip-sheet here to keep beside your piano for easy reference!
6. Don’t just play notes. Try to feel the music. Express what you are feeling when you play, or think about the song and what type of feeling the song wants to express and bring that out. How do we play expressively? It’s in the alternating of lightness and heaviness of your touch. Experiment with these and all that is in between.
7. Don’t play boring songs. Do you ever get halfway through a book and realise you hate it? It takes three times as long as it should to read because you are just not into it - then you’ve wasted all the time when you could have been reading something you can’t put down! It’s the same with learning songs! If you’re not into it, move on. Find a song that you love, you’ll be more motivated to finish it quickly and more proud to have mastered it.
8. Mix up your scales! Scales are something we need to play both for learning about song keys but also for finger dexterity - but doesn’t have to be boring! Don’t just practice scales at constant tempo and touch, experiment with alternative rhythms and dynamics - play the scale notes ascending and descending but add some flair!
9. Set yourself goals and rewards! Want to learn to play that new song in the next two weeks? Set yourself the goal of finishing each section with each practice session, get a practice tracker and tick off each completed one to keep track of your progress, and decide on a reward for yourself once it’s completed on time! For instance, I’ll finish this song in two weeks and once I have I will buy that cool moog piano app. BONUS: Make it a piano-related reward so it contributes to your inspiration!
10. Feed your inspiration! Sit in a room 4 times a week for an hour just with your piano and as fun as that may sound to begin with, you will burnout once you hit a passage or technique you just can’t get past. Then you give up because who in their right mind wants to keep banging their head against a wall? (Or piano lid!) You need to seek out inspiration, whether that is going to a concert, watching a live performance on YouTube, or finding new music to listen to, you have to FIND things that spur you on in your piano journey.
Having some tactics to your practice sessions can really help you stay the course. Keep inspired, have a plan, schedule your practice time and reward yourself for hard work – these things can be the difference between sustaining your momentum and choosing to watch Netflix instead of practicing.
It’s too easy to get bogged down in trying to obtain perfection and forget the reason we started learning piano in the first place! What were your first reasons for wanting to play? Was it because of that beautiful sound? Or because of how it makes you feel? Did you admire a particular pianist? Whatever the reason is for you personally, write it on a piece of paper and stick it to the wall by your piano, or on your piano. Print out a photo that reminds you of this reason, do anything you can think of to remind yourself of it constantly and keep your reason forefront in your mind!