WHAT is the biggest hurdle piano students have to overcome? It isn’t reading sixteenth notes and it isn’t playing scales with both hands. It’s developing a good practice. Usually your teacher will tell you to practice, but so many of us forget to tell you how to practice. Don’t be mad at us… it’s just been a long time since we figured out how to do it ourselves that sometimes we forget you have to learn this stuff! So today, I’m going to help you figure out a good practice routine for yourself.
First of all, it depends on how much time you have. An ideal practice session is an hour. Unfortunately, we live in an era where everyone seems to be overbooked. Many kids have an activity scheduled every day of the week and adults have more work and family responsibilities than ever before. My first bit of advice would be to cut back, but I know that isn’t possible for everyone. So be realistic about how much time you have to devote to practice. 1 hour? 45 minutes? 30 minutes? 15 minutes? Like I said, be honest.
Next you need to consider what your goals are. Do you want to play at a friend’s future birthday party? Start a YouTube channel? Write a song for your wife? Or do you want to learn how to play classical music for yourself as a way to relax at the end of the day? These are all great goals and you may even have a different one. Shape your practice around your goal. Let’s look at an example of someone with a specific goal who has only 15 or 30 minutes to practice. I’ll shape a practice routine specific to their needs.
Busy Student Who Wants to Launch a YouTube/Soundcloud/Instagram Feed
15 Minutes Practice:
- This student needs to choose a few goal songs that are within reach in just a few weeks. Once you know your level, go over to Amazon and order a few piano books. I will list my recommendations at the end of this post. Choose 1-3 songs to start with.
- Learn a few scales and exercises.
- Now. After you finish your homework, pull out your timer and set it for 5 minutes. Do some scales and exercises until it beeps.
- Set the timer for 5 minutes and play the first section of your first song with just the right hand and then just the left hand. Switch back and forth until the timer goes off.
- Set the timer for 5 minutes and work on playing the section with both hands.
- Keep doing this with each practice session until the section is easy to play, then do the same with the next section of the song. Be sure to also practice the previous section or you will forget how to play it!
30 Minutes Practice:
- Do the same practice above, but double the time for each step. 10 minutes exercises/scales, 10 minutes Left Hand, 10 Minutes Right Hand.
Since the goal of this student is to eventually share music online and build an audience, it makes sense to choose a few songs wisely with that intention in mind. It doesn’t make sense to slave away at a song you wouldn’t want to share with an audience if your practice time is limited.
Suppose you’re not a student, but a busy parent. You can still use the above practice routine, but consider your own intentions when choosing a song. Are you trying to destress? Create a peaceful environment in the home? Accompany your daughter’s flute solo? Or do you have a very busy work life and have a passion for Jazz? Perhaps your musical studies are in service to understanding the music you love so much. Choose a few pieces by the musicians you admire so much, and work on a few passages every day.
The point is that a quick and focused practice session is possible if you know exactly what songs you want to accomplish and if you commit to practicing most days of the week. Personally, when I have a goal, I find I’m more motivated to practice every day, and when I practice every day, I feel calmer and more relaxed. Playing piano with a steady focus each day is similar to the effects of a daily meditation or exercise practice.
Determine what your goals are. Then choose 3 songs that will help you accomplish your goals. Choose a time of day that you can realistically practice every day. (Don’t worry. If you miss a day, it’s not a problem. But having the intention of practicing at the same time every day will create a habit and you won’t have to think about when to practice eventually. You’ll just do it.) Determine if you have time for 15 or 30 minutes (or more!) and follow the above routine. Once you reach your goals, keep the songs in your practice rotation, but add new songs to the routine.
Let me know how it goes. I love to hear from you. In the mean time, GO PLAY PIANO!
Warm Ups: Hanon Exercises
Classical Song Books: Piano Literature Book 1: Developing Artist Original Keyboard Classics ,
Method Books: Piano Adventures Primer Level