How to practise effectively

Practising is an essential part of learning and playing an instrument, and it's the key to your progress. The more time you invest in practice, the sooner you will enjoy results. 

However, we often struggle to practise effectively; how many times did you find yourself mindlessly playing a piece over and over, and mistakes just did not want to go away? 

It is essential to learn how to use your time at the piano effectively, so you can work smarter, not harder!

We would like to share some of our tips on how you can make your piano practice more productive, and hopefully also more creative and enjoyable. 

Like with any new habit or skill, consistency is the key. The best recipe for success is to practice often, at least four to five times a week. 

You will get even more done if you split your practice time into a few shorter sessions throughout the day, rather than one long practice. For example, try 15 minutes twice a day rather than 30 minutes in one go.  

Evaluate your weekly schedule and reserve a slot in your timetable only for piano practice. Try to keep this consistent throughout the week. If you frequently find yourself having no time to practise, re-evaluate your schedule and change the time of your practice sessions.

We also recommend you to practise soon after your lesson, when you can still remember in detail what you did (and how you did it) with your teacher.

Look at your practice notes and clarify what your tasks are. If you have a lot to do, break your homework into smaller sections, you don't need to cover everything in every practice session. 

Split your workload, and focus at one or two different tasks in one sitting.
  • Do you have six scales to work on this week? Focus on a different one in each time you practise and make sure that it is done well. 
  • Did your tutor advise you to focus on any particular areas this week - perhaps you need to improve the rhythm, correct the pitch, explore the dynamics, or play with the metronome? 

Prioritise your tasks, decide what exactly do you want to improve, and work on one thing at the time. 

Here it is again, you played your piece, and you got stuck in the same place. You try it for the second time and... the same thing happens again! So what should you do to fix this? 

Be your own detective, and find the root of the problem, and focus on resolving it. 
  • Is it the rhythm, perhaps you should try playing slower, or is it a wrong note, maybe the fingering, and which hand? 

Your tutor may have identified these areas already, so try to remember what you did in your last lesson. 

Whatever the task you are working on, work in sections. Do not play the entire piece again and again! Instead, choose to work on two bars, two lines or two pages at the time, and make sure to focus on this section only. 

Navigate through the piece in a slow, careful way, but stay alert. 

Ask questions:
  • What is the correct fingering for this section, do I need to play staccato or legato here, what are the dynamic marks? 

Preserving every detail can be much harder when you play slowly, but if you work carefully and accurately from the very beginning, you will learn the piece much faster.

Maintaining precise and even rhythm is just as important as playing the correct notes. Make sure that you work on a good rhythm from early on. 

When you start learning a new piece, you may clap or tap the rhythm of each hand first, before you play. Count out loud as you play, and make sure that your counting is even, no stopping or pausing. 

Do this at different speeds, from slow, then medium, to fast. This process will take a few weeks, and at some point, you may want to try playing with the metronome. However, you should be able to count as you play first before you start working with the metronome. 

Pay attention to your sitting position and adjust the piano bench if needed. 

If you are using the pedal, keep the heel on the floor and do not let the foot come off the pedal when it is lifted. If this is difficult, adjust the sitting position so that the angles of the foot and leg are more comfortable. 

Make sure that your arms and elbows are relaxed, and if at any point you feel tired or tight, take a break. 

Practising can sometimes feel like a tedious chore, but with the right approach, it can be fun. Paul Harris, one of the UK's leading music educators, recommends music practice with two particular types of activity in mind; 

  • Try your Personal Bests
How evenly, loudly, softly, confidently, beautifully, slowly, expressively can you do this thing or play this note, phrase, passage? 
Or how many times can I play G major remembering the F sharp?

  • Focus on Mini Outcomes
Can I play this section with really vivid dynamic contrasts? 
Or how can I play the first bar/last bar/any bar really beautifully?

The list of your Personal Bests or Mini Outcomes can be endless, and it should encourage you to think; Why am I doing this? How am I going to do it? What is the result?

This way, you will make your practice engaging, appropriately challenging, fun, rewarding and imaginative! 

For more ideas on practising, we recommend you to read the full article, Developing a new approach to music practice, CLICK HERE

If you are the parent, you can support your child in many ways, and encourage them to practise. We found a brilliant article written by Karen Marshall for the ABRSM, containing lots of practical tips. To access the article CLICK HERE.

Happy practising! 🎹

- Tereza Stachova & Andrea Vargas Kmecova 
Piano Maestros Tutors