Ideas for practicing piano

How do you practice piano?

I’m asking this because most people don’t practice piano correctly. And I’m using the term “correctly” in the best sense of the term. Not in the sense of having one set “correct” way to practice, but simply in the sense of enjoying ourselves, feeding our musical souls, and becoming better pianists.

So.. the question remains… how do you practice?

Do you try to continually learn more and more difficult things? If so, you’re probably feeling frustrated most of the time because it’s impossible to get better each and every day, especially as adults. And, counter-intuitively, the way to actually get better is to play a lot of easy pieces at the same time we’re working on harder material. Aim for fluency.

Do you miss a few days of practicing, feel guilty, and then try to make up the time by practicing for several hours the next chance you get? This can actually be helpful, except for the “feeling guilty” part. But over all, it’s much better to play more consistently and for shorter periods of time than to cram it all in only once or twice per week. If you can’t get to the piano for a few days, be sure to listen to some of the same music you’re practicing. This will keep you motivated and you’ll find that the practicing and listening will feed each other.

Do you come up with elaborate practice routines only to abandon them after a few sessions. (I’ve done this one a lot!!!) This is because everything gets stale after a while, and it’s generally more productive to mix it up a bit. Choose some things to practice each time, while bringing in different songs and techniques whenever you wish. We improve the most when we find a balance between consistency and variety.

Finally, how do you “warm up.” Is it with scales? If scales work for you, then keep doing them as warmups. As for me, I’ve spent hours, weeks, months, and years practicing scales, but never as warmups. In fact, I’ve found that they actually make my playing colder, not warmer. Instead, I warm up by simply improvising a bit, with the goal of “warming up” the connection between my fingers and my musical ear. That’s the big priority anyway, isn’t it? Anyway, you’ll play those scales better after you’re already warmed up, not before.

Practicing is a big and important subject, and I’m sure you have some good ideas of your own. Hopefully the thoughts I’ve shared here will keep your musical spark alive while you practice and help you become the pianist you’re capable of becoming.

Have fun!

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