7 Piano practice tips for beginners

Sheet music & metronome

7 Piano Practice Tips for Beginners

Is it practice or talent, work ethic or aptitude that has the greatest impact as a beginner pianist? How you answer that question will shape your approach as you learn to play the piano. If talent is your answer, what happens when you hit a difficult skill to learn? Do you give up and quit because you lack the talent or do you buckle down and work harder through that hard portion?

We believe that work ethic and practice are the largest contributors to success to becoming a decent pianist. Whether you’re an adult learning the piano as your first instrument or picking up a second instrument later in life. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of that work you’re putting into learning to play piano.

Create a strategy that matches your goals.

Learning to play piano is like any hobby or profession, it helps to have an idea or goal of what you want out of it. Do you just want to be able to plink out a few tunes while your family is over for the holidays or are your aspirations greater? Create a strategy around how you are going to accomplish your goal. Don’t worry, your goal can change and so can your strategy. But having that framework to start with can help keep you on the road to success. Then revisit it every few months. As a beginner to playing piano you may find your goals change over time. What may have started as a simple quest to play a few easy songs turns into a desire to really learn the intricacies of becoming a better pianist. Make sure your strategy changes to accommodate your goals.

Improve your musicality through active listening.

Find piano solos and accompaniments you enjoy and really listen to them.  At first as you learn the piano you won’t necessarily pick out the details and intricacies. Over time from both playing and learning the instrument yourself and actively listening to the music you’ll start to recognize key portions and interesting dynamics. A single note that was accented or a phrase that changes in tone from start to end. Over time you’ll start to incorporate this musicality into your own playing and improve upon it.

Partition your piano practice into small chunks.

When you first begin to learn a new piano piece, you can play and listen to your music from start to finish. Identifying the breaks and patterns in the music created by the composer’s arrangement. But to really progress you will need to partition the music up into small sections to practice. These sections should be small, easy for you to remember all the notes that need to be played. This could be as small as 2-3 notes that are particularly difficult or a couple of bars in the easier sections. Overlapping the sections with a couple of notes will make it easier to connect them together, creating a more fluid sound when you play.

Slow practice is the fastest way to learn.

Practicing the piano requires enough time to master the skills, understand different chords, and match the thematic notations of each piece of music. There is no substitute for time when it comes to learning to play the piano. Practicing slowly prevents training in mistakes and helps you absorb new information correctly. This approach is something experienced pianists will have over beginners and they didn’t get there by rushing it. Adults learning to play piano especially need to understand that playing slowly is crucial to developing your abilities quickly. It’s the advantage you have as a late starter over children who often rush and want to speed through things but need to repeat it over and over. If you take it slowly from the start and learn it correctly then you don’t waste time correcting it later.

Use consistent fingering all the time.

Working out consistent and correct fingering is often overlooked by new players. Poor and inconsistent fingering of the notes can leave your fingers tied in a knot, unable to play the next note. It can make it difficult to play the phrase with the dynamics that are called for. Take time to establish fingering that works well for you and the dynamics required by the piece. Practice it the same way every time, till it’s ingrained into muscle memory. Getting this right will help make your playing sound more natural and flowing. 

Practice frequently and focus on specifics.

Practice should be deliberate with the intention to improve on specific areas. Beginners can often take advantage of outsized gains from even unfocused practice time. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that is sustainable. Eventually the progress will slow as you eat up all the early easy gains and improvement becomes more difficult. The way through that is to focus your practice on specific techniques and skills you are trying to improve. It doesn’t matter if you are an adult just learning to play piano or trying to hone a more advanced technique. All improvement comes from time practicing and the more focus, time and frequency you can dedicate to it the faster and more dramatic your improvement will be.

Use that annoying metronome

Most upcoming pianists have difficulty getting the correct tempo and rhythm in music. Often slowing down in difficult sections and speeding up in the easy portions. It’s difficult to correct, but should be tackled early. These tricks can come in handy when you find yourself having a hard time playing with uniform rhythms and a steady tempo. 

  • Tap the rhythm out with your hands on your knees. Use your left and right hands to tap out the duration of the notes holding for the length indicated. This helps internalize how the rhythm should be played.
  • Use that metronome and slow it down so you can easily play your most difficult sections in time. The metronome is annoying, it is harsh and highlights all your timing flaws. But it will bring your music together.

Practice Practice Practice

It really is all about practice. Taking these tips and building a solid foundation for your practice will pay off in the short and long term. It’s a drum we’ll beat here often about the importance of practice to becoming a better pianist. There are no tricks to learning to play the piano without putting in the time. But you can make it so you are making progress every time you sit down to practice.

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