What to Do Every Time You Practice Piano

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

Tips to Make the Most of Your Piano Practice Time

No matter what level you are at in your musical training, there are several things you can do every time you practice piano that will help you make the most of your time and efforts. This article describes the most  effective things you can do. Some are primarily mental exercises, some are primarily physical. These are not necessarily in any particular order; different things work for different people. Keep an open mind and try some of these methods on for size.

Visualization

Before starting, take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Picture yourself successfully accomplishing your chosen goals in your allotted time. This will help to relax you and will keep you focused. This will also put you in a self-accepting frame of mind. In other words, you will be less likely to make mistakes, and you will be easier on yourself if you do make one.

Time Allotment

It has been shown countless times that you are much more likely to succeed at piano (or any other endeavor, for that matter) if you schedule a set amount of time for practice during a specific time of day, for a certain number of days per week, and stick to it.  Discipline like this can start off being very challenging. Over time, as you notice yourself becoming more proficient, this will not be nearly as much of a challenge.

Planning

This is particularly important when you are beginning, but is a great idea no matter what your skill level is. Once you have allotted the time mentioned above, take time to plan out exactly what you want to do during that time. How much time will you use running scales? Practicing a song you have already started learning? Learning a brand new song? If you have a limited amount of time, you may work on one thing one day and something else the next. Keeping a date book, small calendar, or scheduling app nearby is a great idea.

In the beginning, it is a good idea to have your instructor help you with a plan. If you are self-teaching, be open and flexible. You may find yourself over-or-under-scheduling things. Don’t worry, it will get easier.

Exercises and Important Skills

Whether your hands are big or small, it is important to use them to their fullest. Finger stretching exercises are a great thing to do, and highly recommended.

Perhaps the most important thing for a beginner is to learn proper posture and finger placement. Get in the habit early; it will maximize your progress. If you are already a seasoned player, have an instructor give you an occasional “tune up” to make sure you are keeping the habit of good finger placement.

Once you have learned scales and chords, run them, the first time and every time, even if only for a few minutes. Once again, keep an eye on posture and finger placement.

Use a metronome whenever possible. Go as slow as you need to when playing, especially when doing scales or learning a new piece of music. Be patient with yourself; in time you will be playing songs at a good clip.

More Advanced Practice Skills

If you follow these suggestions, in time you will find yourself integrating other skills such as notation, envisioning how a song you hear would be played on the keyboard, and other important skills. For now, keep focused on the basics.

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