Did you just sign up for piano lessons and aren’t sure where to start? Or have you been playing for years but don’t seem to show any signs of improvement? People who play the piano – whether they’re professionals or amateurs – should always aspire to be a better musician and pianist. Whether you’ve been taking piano lessons for half a decade or have yet to touch the instrument, improvement and progression are key. From improving finger strength to constantly challenging yourself, here are a few different ways you can become a better piano player.
Manage Your Practice Time
If you’re the type who practices whenever you have spare time, this could be why you haven’t seen much improvement. Practicing the piano shouldn’t be low on your list of priorities. If it’s at the bottom of the list – along with cleaning out your rain gutters or organizing your spice rack – you should schedule some time each week to sit down and practice your instrument. Whether you practice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6 to 8pm, or every weekday for an hour, try not to allow anything to deter you from practicing. Commitment to practice is as important to improving your abilities as finding the right teacher. If you do find yourself with extra time, tack on an extra hour to your practice routine.
Practice Sight Reading
While sitting down and practicing the same piece of music until you play it perfectly is a good way to practice, switch it up every once in awhile by throwing a random piece into the mix. When practicing your sight reading, don’t worry too much about making mistakes. Simply play the piece from start to finish to your best ability, and run through it a few more times for good measure. Not only does this type of practice improve your improvisation skills, but sight reading is essential for those who are interested in joining a band or orchestra. When you do make mistakes, don’t look at them as a disappointment or burden. If you consider mistakes a crucial part of the learning process, you’ll likely find that practicing the piano will become more enjoyable.
Too many people falsely believe that the true test of a musician is how quickly they can play. While playing quickly makes sense in some contexts, those who play too quickly may start to miss notes and play sloppily. If you find yourself missing notes in a particular section, don’t rush through that section as quickly as possible- pause the metronome, slow down, and practice it until you get it right. No matter how well you think you know a piece, practice it at a slower pace every three or four run-throughs. After all, how can you ever expect to play a piece quickly if you can’t play it at a slowed down pace?
Keep Challenging Yourself
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many pianists stop challenging themselves once they’ve become semi-proficient at playing the instrument. Just as a bodybuilder must lift heavier weights in order to get stronger, a piano player must continually play more and more difficult pieces in order to improve. If you aren’t sure which piece of music you should choose to challenge yourself, ask your instructor. They’ll know better than anyone what your strengths and weaknesses are, and they should be able to pick a piece that’s challenging but not impossible. For example, if you struggle playing with your left hand they should be able to pick a piece that focuses mostly on the left hand.
Make Sure Your Goals are Realistic
Whether your goal is to become a music theory master or memorize your latest piece from start to finish, make sure the goals you’re setting are realistic. If you’re expecting to become a genius at playing the piano overnight, think again- becoming better at the instrument requires hard work, dedication, and plenty of practice. We’re only human and, as humans, we tend to dream big. If you’re struggling to meet your goals, take a moment to re-evaluate them. Make a list and, for extra input, go over the list with your piano teacher. They know better than anyone what your current skill set is, and will be able to determine whether your goals are realistic or too lofty.
Play Classical Pieces
If you’re of the mindset that “classical music is boring”, hear us out. Classical music might not be the most interesting genre of music to learn and play, but it’s widely known to be very technically demanding. Once you start getting into some of the more complex pieces you’ll start seeing improvements in your technical abilities. Not only does classical music set a solid foundation of basics upon which you can expand, but it’ll challenge you to become a more well-rounded musician. If you’ve never played classical music before, pieces by Bach and Chopin are a good place to start. Just make sure to choose pieces that will challenge you because, after all, you won’t improve if you only play what you already know.
Practice Playing in Public
As a pianist, it’s important that you get used to playing the piano in public without becoming a bundle of nerves. If you have a performance or recital in your near future, prepare yourself for the big day by putting on a mini-recital for your friends and family. Whether you play for an audience of one or one hundred, feeling comfortable during a performance is key. Once you’re comfortable playing for your parents, invite some cousins or friends over for a recital. From there, start performing at private events, including Christmas parties, picnics, or school functions. Eventually, playing in front of others will be no big deal and those sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach will become a thing of the past.