“Playing music better” vs. “Learning music better”

What do you ask yourself after you play a piece on piano? When you’re practicing, it’s probably “How can I play this piece better?”

Fair enough; we all want to play better. But is this the route that will get you there?

Let’s try another approach. Instead of asking how you can play the music better, ask yourself how you can learn the music better. This might seem like a subtle difference, but it’s actually huge. This small shift is a radically different way of approaching our piano practicing.

It’s like we’re climbing a large hill or mountain. “Playing” the piece better is the top of the hill. Yes, that’s where we want to go, but we can’t merely jump up and all of a sudden be at the summit. No, we have to select a route, pack our provisions and set out; one step after another. If we don’t do this, we’ll never make it to the top.

Practicing the piano is the same. With whatever music you’re learning (including improv), ask yourself how you can learn it better. Maybe you need to play the bass line by itself a hundred times. Maybe you need to analyze the chord progression so you understand the harmonic patterns. Maybe you need to play each measure 10 times so that your hands remember each shape better. Or maybe you need to practice improvising over each chord for a while before you can spin out lines across the changing harmonies. Or maybe you need to memorize it.

You get the idea.

In order to play our music better, we need to learn it better. Much better. Then, once you’ve learned your piece 10 times better than you know it today, you’ll probably find that you already play it “better”, too. A lot of the details will work themselves out during this learning process and you’ll be playing the music at a whole new level. And then, you’ll be ready to ask yourself “How can I play this piece better?” And your fingers will already know what to do!

As always, have fun with your music at every step of the way 🙂

Here are some free piano improv lessons for you to enjoy!

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