Have you ever watched a professional pianist play during one of their steady gigs, like solo piano in a lounge or as part of a band in a restaurant or bar? If you have, you may have thought about how good they needed to be in order to get that job.
True enough, but there's something you may have missed: they're still getting better, simply by having the job! That's right: showing up every day is giving them the repetition and practice necessary to keep getting better. And because they have to show up every day and play, no matter how they feel that day, they'll keep getting the playing experience that others don't have. The cycle feeds itself in a positive way.
But if you don't yet have that coveted steady gig, don't worry: you can still get much of this experience and practice for yourself. The answer is simple:
Give yourself a 20-minute daily piano "gig."
Yep, make a plan that for one week, you'll sit down every day and play for 20 minutes straight, no matter what. Do this at the same time every day if you can, as if you were required to start at that time. You can play whatever style of music you like (jazz, blues, rock, etc. even classical). Just make a list of a few songs and play them as if you were hired to play at a noisy restaurant where people weren't listening too closely. Just play, play, and play some more. For 20 minutes straight, every day for a week. (And don't worry about mistakes. Just keep going!)
There are many benefits of doing this:
First, you'll get really good at playing whatever it is you currently play. Those chords you always hesitate on will become easy. Your finger technique will become smoother as your fingers get more continuous exercise. Your hand independence and rhythms will become more fluid. It's like exercising. Sometimes you just gotta get up and move!
Second, you'll start to get a little bored with playing the same way every time. At this point, start varying things a little. Play the song faster or slower. Improvise a new intro to the song. Play a walking bass line instead of a 2-beat. Phrase the melody differently. Anything you can to keep it fresh for yourself. And by doing so, you'll be developing into a better player!
Those are just two of the benefits you'll receive from playing a daily "gig" like this. And there are many, many more as well. Your playing will begin to "flow" more and you'll eventually reach a whole new level as a pianist.
Try it for a week. Or a month. Or a year!!!
Here's something to help you select which repertoire to play. Have fun!