Effective piano practice

Women resting head against sheet music

For the beginner adult

The only way to improve is to practice, but that can be really difficult to do with life pulling you in lots of directions. This simple trick has helped me.

Decide to practice first

We get it, you’re busy. Between work, kids and other competing priorities, you struggle to fit in when your practice is going to happen. First thing you need to do is decide you are going to practice today. Not how to fit it into your schedule but how your schedule is going to move around it. 

Once you’ve decided, it becomes easier to do. It has already been decided, you are going to sit down and practice piano.

Have a plan

Effective sessions start with a practice plan. We aren’t talking about a plan that is overly detailed here. But it’s more of a rough guideline on how your practice session is going to run. Here is a simple 30 minute plan that I like to follow.

  • 5mins warming up with scales/chords
  • 10-15mins on new or difficult sections
  • 10mins practicing the piece as a whole

Done, you have a basic plan in place. It’s not detailed but provides a framework for your practice to follow.

Practice Often for Less Time

This is touted all the time, because it’s true and it works. Part of learning is just rote repetition to train your brain and muscles to move certain ways. If you go too long between practice sessions, much of what was worked on is lost  to memory. Practicing too long at one time is difficult and can be detrimental as well. As you get fatigued you make mistakes and those mistakes become practiced and can be difficult to unlearn. You want to find that balance of time that works for you. That might be 30 minutes or 2 hours for you generally but you’ll have off days as well that are extremely hard to focus on practice. 

Sleep

Tying into practicing often is the requirement of sleep. The brain requires sleep to learn. That is when it is basically sorting and filing the new skills it’s learned and making them available in the future. Today’s culture tends to wear lack of sleep and burning the candle at both ends as a badge of honour. But look at the sleep schedules of professionals and how they prioritize sleep as part of their training. To get the most out of your time in front of piano, getting proper sleep is like a secret super power to getting the most out of limited time.

Bring it all together

When you start, don’t worry about developing the perfect practice plan. Just the act of sitting at the piano with a general guide will make for huge gains. As you advance, your requirements for practice will become more in depth and you can grow your practice plan with your growth as a pianist. Take this one step at a time, one key at a time. You have to learn to walk before you can run. Effective practice is something that you learn, develop and refine over time as well.

Effective practice is the super power to learning to play piano quicker.

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