How to practice the piano as a beginner. Learn essential tips and techniques to improve your own practice routine!

Gentleman practicing the piano

Daily practice is essential

Practising is essential if you wish to become a proficient pianist. Attending piano lessons plays certainly a large role in your piano education but it is not enough for you to make good progress. Lessons are offered for you to benefit from a wonderful guidance and structure, but your progress will principally take place during your personal practice sessions.

If you wish to make your dream of becoming a proficient pianist become true, you must discipline yourself and dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to your piano playing, to start with. The amount of time spent at the piano will then increase at a more advanced level.

Routine

Get into a routine

As an adult, finding the time to practise daily can be daunting as we all have a busy life and numerous obligations. The best way to avoid being distracted and ensuring that your practice is done, is to do it on a set time each day, when you are the less likely to get disturbed. First thing in the morning works well, as fatigue after a long day at work, or an invitation to dinner cannot provide you with a good excuse not to practise your instrument!

Learning how to play the piano is similar to learning a new language. You must practise it daily to make progress. Skipping a few days, thinking that you can make it up during the weekend will sadly not work well. It must really be done daily if you want to see any improvement.

As having to play the piano each day is a new habit that you must include in your daily life, you could perhaps start by practising only 10 minutes and build up to 20 minutes. It is a good idea if you wish to get into this new habit easily!

Pianist

Follow a set structure

As a beginner, you could possibly feel lost and unable to determine how to use your time efficiently during your practice sessions. If your piano instructor did not explain it to you, do not hesitate to ask him or her, as being organised will surely make you save a huge amount of time.

If your instructor has however given you all the information on how to practise, you should really follow his or her advice and not try to do it in a different manner. Your instructor is a professional pianist who has experienced various methods of practice and formed the correct opinion on the matter.

Be careful not to fall into a famous trap which is to practise your piano piece so much that you neglect technical exercises and sight-reading. It is important to divide your practice sessions in equal parts to make even progress and become a well-balanced pianist.

Focus

Be focused

Being focused while practising is as important as being structured. For this reason, you must ensure to be at peace and not distracted by your family members when practising. Placing your piano in a quiet room is for example a much better idea than having it in the centre of the living room where your children play and watch the TV!

Being focused will also save you an enormous amount of time and you will definitely make much more progress. Practising while thinking about something else does not work for anybody!

Solid foundations

Laying down a solid foundation

As a piano beginner, your most important task is to learn how to read music. This step cannot be skipped and it should be your main focus until you can read all the music notes fluently. It is therefore important to spend a lot of time learning them. Once again, it is extremely similar to learning a new language. By doing so, you would add words to your vocabulary daily and repeat them until you remember them perfectly. It is the same with piano playing and learning the music notes.

When practising a piece of the repertoire, repetition is key to your success. As a beginner, you are playing simple pieces that are easy to memorise. It is wonderful but it can create some issues in the long run. You could end up not reading the notes anymore and rely on your memory to perform them.

For this reason, it is a fantastic idea to spend a lot of time reading music notes away from the piano and always do some sight-reading daily.

Clock

It is not a race against the clock

All adults are a bit impatient when learning a new skill and tend to wish to run before they can walk!

If you do not want to join the list of thousands of piano enthusiasts who sadly gave up after a few months only because they thought that it was taking too long for them to be able to play their favourite Chopin’s nocturne, you must remain patient and follow each step, without skipping any.

Becoming a proficient pianist takes time and there is no reason to be frustrated. Playing the piano is an art and a lifestyle. There is always more to learn and even the greatest pianists improve their skills until the end of their life.

Do not measure it against time but rather see it as a pleasurable hobby. Often, adult beginners say that it is more difficult than they thought. Yes, playing the piano well is not as easy as it seems so take your time and enjoy each step!

Gentleman going up escalators

Ups & Downs

During your piano education, you will surely experience some up and down periods. All pianists have gone through frustrated times. It is absolutely normal as learning how to play the piano is unfortunately not a straight road to the top!

Depending on the day or the week, you might sometimes feel happy and encouraged. On some other days, you might wonder why you are not able to perform as well as the previous day.

Do not worry as it is a part of the process. Just do not give up and do not get frustrated with yourself, especially while practising as being stressed and nervous is definitely detrimental. It does not help you play better! On the contrary, it makes it much worse.

If you ever feel annoyed with yourself during a practice session, stand up, have a glass of water and only return to the piano when you have calmed down. You will see that it is much easier to play the piano when you are serene!

REASON 1: Practising your scales will develop your musical technique and finger-ability on the piano

A pianist practising scales

There is no arguing about the fact that the world’s greatest pianists practised scales on a daily basis in order to develop superb technique.

Paderewski, one of the most renowned pianists and once Prime Minster of Poland had an (approx.) twelve-hour daily workout of scales, arpeggios and various other exercises.

He also started piano at a late age.

Proving that YOU can learn and become great at any age!

Paderewski studied under master pianist Leschetizky, who made ABSOLUTELY sure Paderewski practised and practised and practised some more…

The lesson to learn here is that even if you are an absolute beginner, playing your scales on a daily basis with a strict regime of discipline will ensure your success in the future.

You will develop finger strength, flexibility, speed, agility, piano-fingered-know-how and musical ability.

It is absolutely vital to get to know all the major and minor scales across the piano keys.

Absolute beginners can start out by practising one octave, while improvers can practice two or three octaves.

More advanced students can practice both major, harmonic minor and melodic minor scales with both hands over for 4 to 6 octaves with rhythmic variation.

It is absolutely essential to practice your technique on a daily basis if you hope to develop great piano technique.

It is only in the daily doing that you will ever get anywhere!

You need a plan for your piano playing – and having a solid piano practise plan for scale practice is a must.

There are however some ‘schools of piano technique’ that do not believe in practising scales.

Even then certain technical exercises quite similar to scales would be substituted.

The point is scales are the easiest and the most proven method of developing your piano technique over time.

Let’s take a look at the world’s most celebrated virtuoso pianist Franz Liszt.

He was tutored by his father as well as the master Austrian composer and teacher Czerny.

Czerny received instruction from Beethoven for about three years…

Yes, he was a giant!

Czerny made Liszt abandon ALL repertoire and focus on pure technique for a period to lay a solid FOUNDATION OF TECHNIQUE!

You see there is a pattern here!

Czerny, who was no idiot knew that Liszt had to focus 100% on technique to lay an unshakeable foundation.

The entire piano world is now inspired thanks to Czerny’s dedication to Liszt… as well as Liszt – THE LIONHEART’S UNSTOPPABLE practise regime!

Take great inspiration from them!

 

A very famous Liszt quote after being inspired by the violin virtuoso Paganini:

For a whole fortnight my mind and my fingers have been working like two lost souls. Homer, the Bible, Plato, Locke, Byron, Hugo, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, 10 Beethoven, Bach, Hummel, Mozart, Weber are all around me. I study them, meditate on them, devour them with fury; besides this, I practise four to five hours of exercises (thirds, sixths, octaves, tremolos, repetition of notes, cadenzas, etc.) Ah! Provided I don’t go mad you will find in me an artist! Yes, an artist—such as is required today.

 

REASON 2: Music is composed “within a specific key or tone center”. If you play a Sonata in A Major, the music will largely consist of notes from the A Major scale

A Musical score

Because music is composed in the structure of a certain key, it is vital that you understand the 12 keys of music intimately.

As you progress in your musical journey, you want to instantly be able to move from one key to another WITHOUT hesitation.

Let’s say a certain passage of music is composed in the key of D major, you then want a perfect cognitive understanding of the key of D major and you need to know that D major has an F# and C#.

If another piece was written in say for example the key of Ab major then you want an immediate cognitive understanding of the fact that the key of Ab major has four flats namely Ab, Bb, Db and Eb.

At the same time, you also want to be able to think of the relative minor – F Minor and the implications of that.

In a split second.

Yes – knowing your keys is vital.

That is why you need to practice your scales rigorously throughout all 12 keys of the piano REGULARLY, preferably daily!

Once you get a deeper understanding of all the keys, music will get easier to play and enjoy!

Think about the keys…

Have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 

REASON 3: Practising your scales will develop your musical ear.

A woman's ear

I love listening to Mozart.

In fact, I am fascinated by the music of Mozart.

Was Mozart a genius?

I personally do not think so.

At least not in the traditional sense.

You see, as crazy as it may sound to you, I think we are all geniuses.

Yes, some of us possess more talent than others at times, but we all have infinite ability.

The only difference between Mozart and you may be the fact that Mozart spent a lot of time with both the melodic and harmonic aspect of music as well as tonality in order to be able to create melodies that came effortlessly.

How did he get this right?

He became music.

He became the instrument and allowed music to flow through him…

He became the movement of notes moving up and down and moving together.

(Remember there are only a limited number of possibilities – especially for most of the major harmonic and melodic movements. Yes, music is infinite, but patterns are generally categorised in limited numbers of like-for-like occurrences)

Mozart just knew his scales intimately!

In multi-dimensions…

He knew how melodies move up and down and how to manipulate certain tones at exactly the right moment to create the right emotion through arranging the notes!

His education also started almost AT birth!

Basically Mozart was a master of musical scales, musical theory and musical harmony.

I would recommend following the footsteps of Mozart and get to know the scales inside out – it will DEFINITELY develop your ear and your sense of understanding of music and musical key.

Remember music can move in melody and harmony.

Scales can be practised in single notes, 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, Octaves with a thousand variations…

Therefore, as you progress in your playing – get creative and try new ideas!

Practise… practise… practise and listen a LOT!

REASON 4: Practising scales will boost your confidence

Man's confidence boosted

 

If you’ve just started with piano, it is absolutely vital to boost your confidence.

I cannot emphasise this enough – boosting your confidence will make you a better student.

By getting to know all your scales, you will feel more confident with music on the whole.

Yes, knowing your scales may not be the answer to all the challenges you will encounter in music, but it is a good start!

It will help you move in the right direction!

Take my word for it – get to know your scales inside out and practice DILIGENTLY on a daily basis.

You will be glad you did!

The most important thing is just to get started.

The hardest part is getting started – so start today.

REASON 5: Practising scales will help you reach piano mastery and develop muscle memory

master conductor

To become truly great at playing the piano requires a lot of practice.

I recommend going for every edge that you can get!

You see, by practising scales you are installing disciple in your playing and routine.

You are also exercising courage, persistence, excellence and faithfulness.

Faithfulness in itself always brings a reward.

By following the laws of ‘being faithful’ – you will eventually be promoted.

Remember: Faithful in the litte… faithful in much!

You see faithfulness always brings a promotion.

So if you are faithful in your piano practice and your piano scale practice, you will be promoted and it will help you in the road towards piano mastery.

Sometimes that road may seem very far off but it’s important not to give up.

In the words of Winston Churchill – NEVER NEVER NEVER give up!

In addition to moving towards the path of mastery, it will also help you develop your muscle memory.

Muscle memory is an essential tool that you will need when memorising music for a performance.

If you study jazz piano, muscle memory can also aid you when learning your II V I licks. (A tough task – requiring immense dedication, mentoring and passion!)

It is absolutely essential to work hard on your scale practice and develop your muscle memory so that you can become the pianist that you’ve always wanted to be!

 

REASON 6: You will develop your sense of timing and rhythm especially If you practise with a metronome

Metronome

Practising the piano with a metronome is especially advised when practising your piano scales.

You can also see my article on how to practice with a metronome.

I often recommend setting the metronome at a very slow pace.

Let’s say 40 BPM. (Beats per minute)

Practice all your major and minor scales in crotches then at 40 BPM.

You may feel that the speed is unbearably slow, but the purpose of the exercise is to study with a metronome at a very slow pace to learn how to PLAY IN TIME!

I have found that beginners often rush the notes of the scale.

It is therefore, vital to take time to always play on the exact beat of the metronome.

It is very easy to play ahead of the beat and it takes a lot of discipline and rigour to play right on the beat or be ‘right on the money’ as the expression goes.

Some days you can practice at a more regular tempo, but from time to time it is a very good methodology!

Especially if you are a beginner piano student.

There are numerous other time and rhythm exercises of extreme importance, as you progress in your piano playing.

You should really focus on mastering crotchets, quavers, triplets and semi-quavers WITHOUT rushing the tempo.

Step-by-step is key!

The thing to remember is that by practising your scales, in addition to all the other benefits, you will also benefit from developing your ability to play in perfect time.

A difficult task when you start out.

But doable with enough diligent practice!

It is vital to realise that none of this will come overnight – remember only the faithful gets rewarded.

If you want to be promoted in your piano playing be a faithful student…

Sow your seeds, work the land and eventually you will reap a harvest of stunning piano technique!

The great news is that scales will definitely help you to get there.

REASON 7: Practising scales will help you get to know the “map” of the piano

Old London Map

I love the City of London.

There are so many beautiful streets, passages and little alleyways.

Along with a very rich history going back over 2000 years!

Just as you may know where Fenchurch Street is or King Edward Street is, just like that the piano has a type of map or area that you should get to know.

By practising your scales, you really get to know the chords, notes and important pathways of the piano and each key.

It may be difficult to see this when you’re just starting out, but as you progress you will realise just how important practising scales really are.

It may seem like a big chore, but it will actually set you free!

So take comfort in the fact that you are getting to know the map of the piano and music!

 

REASON 8: Knowing your scales, means knowing your keys and this will help you with your sight-reading

Sight Reading

The word “sight-reading” gives many people the jitters.

Actually, sight-reading is a really doable skill just as any other.

As long as you practise how to sight-read properly!

One of the absolute essential tools when it comes to sight-reading is knowing the keys.

If you do not know your keys and scales then you will struggle when you attempt sight-reading. (And you will shake with fear and turmoil…)

For example, if a composition has four sharps in the key signatures, you need to immediately think E Major or C# Minor depending upon the context of notes of the composition.

You should then proceed to read the piece of music in the structure of E Major or C# minor.

 

It is absolutely essential that you know your keys off by heart and it is absolutely vital in the long run that you become an expert in all 12 keys!

Yes, it is a lot of work, but that is why we always recommend getting excellent quality tuition.

At the London Piano Institute, we pride ourselves on the fact that we offer top-notch world-class piano instruction specifically dedicated to adults.

If you want to seriously improve your playing – do not hesitate to get in contact with me. You can contact me personally: Stefan@LondonPianoInstitute.co.uk

Thank you so much taking your time to read this article!

Whatever road you choose when coming to learn the piano, I want to leave you with this final thought.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing properly.”

If you’re thinking of learning the piano without professional help– it can be very difficult.

It is a very complex instrument that requires a lot of personal attention and detail.

We offer both group and one-to-one classes specifically dedicated to you as an adult.

We are a dedicated piano academy for adults to flourish!

We specialise using our own proprietary adult piano teaching methodologies.

We would love to see you develop your own piano playing and become the pianists that you deserve to be.

We are confident with our input and your hard work – together, as a team we can help you ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS!

Once again – feel free to contact us here.

If you enjoyed this page, please do like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter – it will be appreciated a thousand times over!

Have a wonderful piano journey!

Practise in a distraction free environment dedicated to practising the piano.

Practise-the-piano-in-a-clutter-free-environment

It is absolutely vital that you practice in the best environment possible.

It is also important to realise that you are responsible for your environment!

I suggest practising in a clutter-free environment where you can simply focus on practising the piano and nothing else.

Another tip – make sure you have a dedicated REAL metronome. Such as this one – AMAZON.

Avoid using your mobile phone or iPad as a metronome.

Otherwise, you will definitely get distracted with text messages and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

A distraction-free environment – dedicated 100% to your practice session is the first key to success.

For each hour you practice, you want to make sure that your time is well spent.

You want to get a return on the time that you’ve put into your piano practice. (ROI)

Make sure that friends and family knows that you are not to be disturbed during your piano practice sessions unless it is of the utmost importance.

Even a simple question can actually throw you off for 15 minutes or more. So avoid conversations during your practise session.

In order to make amazing progress, you simply cannot afford to have anything less than optimal.

 

Schedule your piano practice times

Schedule your piano practise

Scheduling your practice times is absolutely vital.

If you do not schedule dedicated piano practice times, you will end up practising far less than you planned.

I cannot emphasise this enough – you simply have to schedule SET daily practice sessions.

Remember in addition to having excellent quality piano lessons also need to schedule dedicated piano practice times.

If you do this you will become successful much quicker than not doing it.

If you feel frustrated with your piano playing, it is probably due to your piano practice schedule and discipline to stick to those times.

So join the elite stick to a dedicated schedule.

Stick to your piano practice times and be consistent in your approach

Consistency

This is a bit of repetition of the previous point, but it is EXTREMELY vital!

If you can consistently practice on a dedicated time, you will see tremendous results piano playing.

My best piano students practice on a regular basis at a set time and day… MOST of the time.

In fact, if you want to achieve anything in any subject in life, being consistent and disciplined is key.

You need to be consistent in your approach and practice at the same time each and every day.

It is a well-known fact that practising every day for 30 minutes beats practising for hours in the weekend.

You simply cannot beat daily consistency.

Make sure that you incorporate this into your practice schedule.

Malcolm Gladwell in his hugely popular book – ‘Outliers’ introduced many of us to the (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26384712 ) 10,000 hour principle.

I firmly believe, you can practice far less hours than the 10K number and still become an expert on the condition that you are consistent and practise in a disciplined manner.

About 4000 hours will usually REALLY set you apart from the rest… As long as you’ve practised in a consistent manner and practised for at least 5 years! (Yes the years also count… to become an outstanding pianist)

Always warm up before proceeding to do ‘HEAVY-DUTY’ piano practise

Warm up

Franz Liszt made virtuoso piano popular in the 19th century!

We now have many schools of virtuoso piano playing.

Developing tremendous technique when your instrument is a wonderful goal, but make sure that you always warm up properly before you proceed to heavy-duty piano practice!

The last thing you want to do is to hurt yourself or to overdo it.

There are countless stories of musicians were to stop playing due to injury.

According to BAPAM (British Association for Performing Arts Medicine) it is absolutely vital to warm up properly.

You can download a PDF document from BAPAM’s website here (IT IS WONDERFUL): http://www.bapam.org.uk/documents/A4DontCrampYourStyleWarmUps_BAPAMFactsheet.pdf

They advise musicians to take regular breaks and to even cool down after playing!

Never proceed to play scales at lighting speed without warming up.

Make sure you start out slowly…

Take great care of your fingers – you need them to play the piano!

 

Have specific goals for your piano practice schedule

Goals makes you grow

According to success giant Brian Tracy, only 3% of adults of clear, written, measurable and specific goals and according to him, they achieve 10 times as much as people with no goals at all!

That is an incredible fact!

Think about it for a while – if you have specific, time bound, written goals your piano playing and you stick to them you will achieve 10 times more than you ever did before!

Due to this fact, YOU MUST set specific – measurable – time bound goals for each and every practice session and routine.

If you are slack in this area, you have to accept that your results will be less than optimal.

Be a creature of habit and do the same thing in every practice session

Top priority

Prof. Josias van der Merwe (Head of Culture & Arts of Technicon Pretoria and examinator and professor at UNISA), who is an absolute (WORLD CLASS) master at teaching and playing the piano always follows the same habits during his lessons and practice.

In my private piano lessons with master instructor Josias Van Der Merwe, lasting three hours in total at a time, the first 90 minutes was dedicated to technique and the rest dedicated to the music.

We followed the same structure again and again… DAY IN DAY OUT!

Successful people always do the same thing day in and day out.

Dinu Lipatti, the amazing Romanian pianist practise each and every day… consistently including on Christmas. He stands head and shoulders above ANY of today’s concert pianists!

Practising the piano is not about being creative – is about becoming better at the art of playing the piano.

You therefore, need to practice the piano in a consistent and reliable way to become the best that you can!

 

Only practice piano on the days that you eat!

Practise on the days you eat

This is quite a funny quote – but it is really true.

In order for you to become the pianists that you’ve always wanted to become, you need to practice on a daily basis.

You need to put in the effort daily and you will see the results.

Little by little your piano playing skills will grow and you will become the pianist you’ve always wanted to become.

So practise… practise… practise… and reap the rewards!

Learn how to work on the most important tasks first.

Whenever you practice a piece of music, it is CRUCIAL that you do not always start right at the beginning.

At times you need to work the piece from the middle. At other times you need to work on the ending bit.

In fact you need to keep track of the difficult parts and work on them first.

You need to conquer difficulties and find solutions to problems.

So when you start working on your piano examination piece – make absolutely sure that you work on the difficult parts first.

It will pay.

 

Be disciplined

Practise the piano

Being disciplined means not having excuses.

Only a small percentage of people actually have discipline.

If you truly want to become wonderful at playing the piano, you will need to take courage and become a disciplined individual.

You will need to join the 3% of piano students make exceptional progress on a weekly basis.

You will need to give up television and even a night out in order to become the best!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you should not have any fun, I absolutely believe in having a good time, but you do need to follow your schedule and structure.

So don’t let anything hold you back – decided today that you are going to be disciplined and disciplined for life.

Decide today that you going to take your piano playing to the stars!

Decide today that you are going to put in the time required to achieve your goals.

You will be very glad you did!

 

Practising is investing into your musical future

investing

An investor, or an allocator of capital lays out sums today for a better return in the future.

He or she will usually do a lot of due diligence and look for a company far below its intrinsic value in a sector that is not glorious, but reliable such as Nestlé!

A good investor always insist on safety of principal and an adequate return.

In the same manner you need to invest in your musical future.

In order to get an adequate return, you need to create dedicated piano practice times and sessions.

You need to go the extra mile and do what is necessary to achieve your goal.

You need to be one of the 3% of adults who have, specific, time bound goals who achieve 10 times more than others.

You need to be the person who is willing to put in the full amount of effort required to achieve.

At times it may feel frustrating, and at times it may feel hard, but you’re paying a price – NO actually you are paying a privilege…

You’re paying a wonderful privilege to become an excellent pianist…

So pay the privilege and pay it in full.

Enjoy the fruits of your labour and make your BOLDEST piano dreams reality!

 

 

 

 

 

Contact