Great Piano Practice Ideas

#1 -- Eat something!

When it comes to practicing, you need energy and the ability to focus.

There's just no substitute for your body having everything it needs to do the job you're asking it to do. Eat a good snack or meal (not chips!) with some good protein and whole grain carbohydrates. Also, drink some water and stay hydrated.

Nothing can make a person crankier than low blood sugar, which is what happens when your body uses up all the fuel you gave it at your last meal -- and you start to get hungry.

Aside from crankiness, you might also feel tired, unmotivated, lightheaded, or you might develop a headache. Any of which makes focus and concentration difficult.

So simple to solve -- feed yourself! :-)

#2 -- Check your posture! Here's the rundown:

Poor posture ---> Tension ---> Limited technique ---> Possible Injury ---> Reduced Endurance ---> Frustration

Actually, you could insert frustration at any point in the above chain of events.

Do a posture check for great piano practice! Need help?

There is an excellent article at The Well Balanced Pianist on correct posture at the piano. Complete with pictures of men, women, and children at the piano -- with both "before" and "after" photos, as corrections were made both to bench height and on the floor.

It's a must read -- go check it out and then come right back here!

#3 -- Make a plan!

Making a practice plan can be an amazing tool for great piano practice. It can be as simple as sitting down at the piano, deciding how long you're going to practice, and what you'll be working on -- giving each task a certain amount of time.

Or your plan could be as complex as laying out goals for the week, month, or quarter, breaking down your goals into bite-size pieces, and laying out daily practice assignments.

Either way, you've set goals for your playing. Also, you'll find it easier to get through your least-favorite practicing when you've given it a definite slice of time. For instance, "OK, I'm going to spend 7 minutes on my F# major scale. Those sharps make me crazy, but I can do anything for 7 minutes."

The alternative, "I have to practice F# major until I make some progress," can feel endless and overwhelming. But 7 minutes a day for a week?

That adds up to progress! :-)

#4 -- Know when to stop!

There's a point in a great piano practice where you know it's time to stop.

Maybe you start noticing fatigue, or a telltale ache in your hand is telling you you've developed a bit of tension. Maybe you're making mistakes in places where normally you sail through. Maybe everything on your music rack seems dull and uninspiring.

All signs of "enough!"

If you start paying attention to your body and mind, you'll learn to recognize your own best stopping point.

Learning to stop (or at least take a break) can completely change your practice. Why?

If you habitually play until you're exhausted, or frustrated, or both, you're leaving the piano in a less-than-positive mental space. Think about that for a second. Are those feelings of exhaustion and frustration making you eager to sit at the piano the next time you need to practice?

But if you learn to recognize when to stop, you'll be able to end your practice time, every time, on a really good note! (OK, easy joke, but I couldn't resist!)

What if piano practice was simply playing the piano?

Think about that for a second.

What if you left all of your expectations at the door?

All of your negative thoughts about how you play. All of your bad experiences of the past. All of your ideas about "making progress."

What if you just let yourself play?

It works! And it's how I think about practicing to this day.

The first step in building a joyful, successful habit of piano practice is to

simply play, every day.

Play what you love.

If you only know chopsticks, play it all over the piano, loud and soft, and on different keys!

Play simple tunes that you learned way-back-when.

Noodle around with one hand, just enjoying the sound of the piano.

Think how easy and fun that would be. Wouldn't you look forward to such a relaxing time in your busy day?

As you develop the habit of playing what you love every day, you'll find yourself wanting to branch out and learn new things.

Help! What if I'm already taking piano lessons?

So you have assignments to conquer!

And you sit down at the piano bench every day with a big sigh. Bor-ing. Same old, same old.

First of all, have you told your teacher how you feel? Quite likely he/she thinks everything is fine - and would be happy to help you spice up your practice time.

Being a teacher myself, I'll share my best piano tips with you. :-)

How about that tricky time when you start practicing hands together? It can be frustrating, but it helps to understand why it happens.

Practicing Hands Together
Why is it so Hard?

Simply put: practicing the piano with both hands is hard work for your mind. Using two hands, instead of just one, multiplies your thought processes exponentially.

You may think, "Wait a second. I'm already playing each hand well by itself. Adding one more hand should just be simple addition -- not complicated multiplication!"

But it is. Think about everything you're trying to accomplish musically, with just one hand. You're reading notes from the page and translating them to the right keys on the keyboard. That requires your hand to be in the right place, and the right finger to press down.

You're also trying to control just how the finger presses. Forte? Piano? Legato? Staccato? Next is rhythm. (This is math, by the way!) Crotchet note. Minim note. Semibreve note. A run of Quavers.

You're also thinking about tempo. About pedaling. About mood and interpretation. About phrasing.

Now add another hand.

Suddenly, you're asking your mind and body to play what is, in essence, an entirely new song!

An entirely new song? Really?

Yes. :-)

When you practice piano, or anything else, your brain is forming connections. Like a roadmap, or a chain of events. It uses every bit of sensory data it can.

So, when you practiced your right hand alone, your mind wasn't forming simply a road map of the notes you played and what finger you used. Your brain took note of how you sat, what you looked at, what it sounded like, what your left hand was doing, what your left foot was doing, the color of the wall, the smell of your coffee... you get the picture.

You created a map of playing the right hand of that song -- a very effective map!

Ditto your left hand. Each map your brain created was full of detail (even things you didn't consciously notice.) You very efficiently built a routine toward your desired outcome -- playing your music with one hand.

Now you're asking your mind to take two very complete, detailed maps, and to process them at the same time.

Let me give you an analogy. You know when you're working away on your computer, and you click around too fast, have too many applications open, and all of a sudden everything stops? Error messages fly... you need to reboot. You simply asked too much of the processors.

Practicing hands together is a similar situation. You are asking your brain to not only process two maps at the same time, but you expect to do it as well and as fast as when you played each hand on its own! With no error messages (mistakes)! Crazy, right?

You have to give your body and mind time to create a new map. To combine the two hands into one. To allow for all the musical factors to be incorporated.

Your body tries to make connections with each note you play -- so of course you want to play the right ones. But how, when it's so hard to do?

Practicing Hands Together
So what can I do?


Glad you asked! :-)  Please go to the page Hands together Practice Tips