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Friday, June 6, 2014

Practice the Piano Efficiently

So, you want to learn to play the piano. Terrific! Let's help you succeed by teaching you some of the secrets to practicing efficiently:

1. Be consistent! Develop the habit of DAILY practice. Yes, you can have the Sabbath off...and Christmas...but don't always be looking for excuses not to practice. Having a set time of the day when you practice is ideal. Also, stick to a set practice time length. For beginners, 30 minutes is about right.

2. Enlist the help of your peeps to limit distractions during practice sessions. Who knows, you may even get out of doing the dishes because you're practicing the piano (a nice incentive!).

3. Begin with warm-up scales and arpeggios (Hanon exercises are great). They build precision, dexterity, and finger strength. But don't get stuck in a rut. Use a variety of rhythm patterns and playing styles (for example, staccato, legato, or even a combination of the two). Play slowly and with a metronome. For fun, gradually increase your speed. Lift those fingers and play precisely and evenly.

4. Then, to get yourself in a positive frame of mind, play something you enjoy—something you've already mastered.

5. Now on to the hard work. Focus on difficult sections first. Don't just play each assigned piece several times, mistakes and all. Dissect the piece into little parts and tackle one section at a time. Play slowly, each hand by itself at first. Repeat until you're mastered that part. Again, the metronome is your friend.

6. Maintain good posture and hand position at all times. Don't slouch. And keep those eyeballs on the music, not on your hands.

7. You've heard it said, "Practice makes perfect." Better than that, let's set as our goal: "Practice for perfection." Don't be satisfied with making errors. If you're making mistakes, chances are you are playing too fast or you need to stop and focus on each tricky section.

8. Getting the rhythm right from the beginning is essential. Counting out loud isn't just for beginners.

9. Use dynamic markings from the start. Dynamics add drama and excitement—and fun!

10. Understand the proper fingering and practice that fingering each time you play a particular piece.

11. Complete your practice session again with a piece you enjoy playing.

Whew! At the end of a practice session, you have every right to feel tired. You've had a wonderful mental workout and, with a habit of daily, efficient practicing, you're on your way to learning to play the piano.

Those are just a few practicing tips. We'll be sharing others in future posts.

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