How to practice the piano.
What do I practice is the perennial question? Here are some of my thoughts gleaned from decades of my personal practice and observing countless numbers of students.
If I can help, call me. I've been teaching online for over a decade.
What happens when we practice piano everyday? Obviously we improve but let’s do the math.
Consider 2 students: John and Sally. Both students practice and arrive at class prepared each week. Each has done the following during the week.
You get the picture.
John practices 30 minutes a day. Sally 75 minutes. What happens?
If I can help you, please give me a call.
Jazz is primarily about rhythm and articulations, those tricky bits that are impossible to notate. Harmony is like math, fun for many and much easier to get your head around for most. Or so beginners believe. But when the moment of truth arrives at a jam session theory goes mostly out the window and instinct kicks in. Adam Maness explores this theme in his video "Why do I still suck".
Jorge Mabarak, on Facebook, puts it well, theory is a tool. I propose that rhythm is the key. And ear training is the secret to unlocking the mystery.
Here is a practice time breakdown that may work for you:
If I can help, please call me.
Ten things to do when learning a new piece of music that will simplify the process.
Autumn leaves: walking in 2 with iReal pro playing the piano chords and drums. You play the bass and the melody along.
See you in September.
Lockdown 2.0 Oh boy!
The article above supplies some great ideas to keep us practicing. I invite you to click the photo to read the article.
It is two months before the big date. What do you do? How do you practice?
Listen to great music. A musical truism: "we are who we listen to".
Try this on your next new piece.
How do I become a great pianist?
An honest question if a tiny bit naïve. If you are in a great hurry, it is going to be difficult. If you are looking for a “hack” or some shortcut, I don’t know any.
For centuries pianists have followed a standard set of proven practices.
I'm available to help and encourage you on your journey. Just call me.
Classical piano Grades 1-2
Is it possible to make progress in 10 minutes? Of course. At some point longer practice sessions will be required, but with planning and focus you can accomplish a lot in a shorter time. Remember playing an instrument is fun when we succeed at it. And can clearly see our progress over time.
What practice is:
Learning through thoughtful repetition how to play our instrument so that over time we progress towards our goal however modest or lofty that may be. The goal is to accomplish a micro step forward each time we sit to practice. The size of this micro step varies on the time available.
What practice is not:
Messing around playing stuff we know is not practicing, it is playing. This is not a negative, but the reason we practice in the first place. In conclusion don’t feel guilty messing around, just don’t confuse it with practicing. Fool around without guilt. Have fun.
The "breakfast piano minutes" are usually created in about 10 minutes 1st thing in the morning.
Students often believe that I must have started early in life with lots of natural talent. Let me clear this up.
I am proof practice works.
I made it into Berklee with 4 years of piano under my belt, but it included 2 years of professional gigging in rock and country bands in the North Bay region. A lot of gigs. Plus, my basement jazz band. That made the difference I figure. But who knows, recordings do not exist.
I got through Berklee as a composition major. I thought about being a performance major, but that required serious practice. Something I was not interested in. But I continued playing gigs during those years. A lot of gigs. Some exciting gigs. I was a busy journeyman. I could sight-read just about anything. I showed up on time ready to play. I was pleasant to be around. Where did that put me in the Berklee pecking order? Turns out near the top. I made it one year to the number 2 band.
So, when did I learn to practice?
Signed up for my Grade 10 exam. My very first piano exam ever. I couldn't fake it. I had to play it. I put a couple of thousand hours of focused practice in. I read every book I could find on how to practice. How many books? Chapters bookstore sent me Christmas present. That is how many.
Have Fun, see you in September.
How many hobbies can one-person juggle?
Depends. I juggle one. I had two, but Covid19 put an end to that.
I’ve students who try to juggle 3 or more while holding down jobs, spouses, children, and life. They often looked stressed. How do my less stressed students do it? Here are some tactics they follow:
Do you remember why you were attracted to piano in the first place? Put up a post it note on the piano to keep it front of mind.
"Have a plan, work the plan" Sage advice
A plan is great if you can find your materials when it's time to practice. A plan is great if you can have some quiet alone time to focus and have fun.
Here are ten tips on one aspect of success: an organized workspace.
Have a productive session.
An Ideal Practice Session
Practicing in the times of the Covid-19 outbreak is going to be a challenge for some.
Some lucky people will use the extra time to jump right in. For this group I suggest ramping up practice amount slowly to avoid injury. The book, “The Musician’s Way” suggests increasing practice time 10% per week to avoid problems. Warming up before hand with a short cardio and stretching routine will also be beneficial.
For those too stressed to practice and/or focus try these tips:
“How good do you want to be?” Start with this question followed with: “how should I spend my time?”
Success will depend on the depth and breathe of your practice. My most successful students have made peace with time and possibility. Yes, time counts, but patience and realistic expectations count for more.
Learning has piano follows a well trodden path. You just must follow it to succeed. There is no secret. Just time and hard work. We must be realistic with the fact that course correction will be needed regularly. Life is messy.
Call me, I can help.
I've got happy students who practice more than an hour a day, others who practice an hour a week. Because their time matches their realistic expectations, they are happy. Could they all practice more? Of course. I could too.
My thoughts this week.
"How good do you want to be?" A quick and snappy musicians answer. A gentler piano teacher question is, “what do you want to accomplish?"
RCM levels 1 to 4: 45 minutes a day
RCM levels 5 to 8: 60 minutes a day
RCM levels 9 and above: 90 minutes plus
This amount of time is sufficient to cover all that needs to be done.
PS: I'd like to thank my colleague Becky Yuan and former teacher Leon Karan for input on the numbers.
Becky Yuan: Mississauga http://beckyyuan.com/
Leon Karan: Hamilton http://www.leonkaran.com/
A quick coffee video on practicing from pianist magazine.
A former student came by today of a lesson after a one-year absence. He played some stride piano. He sounded so much better than I remember. So, I start asking some questions about what he has been up to in the practice room.
What to practice? Hal has some great thoughts. Twelve minutes of wisdom from a modern master.
If you are a classical artist, substitute classical sounds for jazz sounds. It's all the same.
"art is supposed to teach yourself something about yourself you didn't know" Hal Galper
Expert musicians know what they are doing. With patience and methodical practice we can all realize our potential.
Skilled musicians have worked on and mastered, to various degrees, the following four quadrants of piano study.
Call now for the fall of 2018. Most days are now sold out.
One hour a day. What can be accomplished? With a good plan, lots.
1. Warm up
3. Sight reading
4. Repertoire development
5. Reviewing completed material
Warm up: Best advice I ever got? Go for a brisk walk before practice. Work up a sweat. Then your brain will be ready to work.
Technique: Slowly with a lovely tone, play some scales, chords, and arpeggios. What ever the teacher assigned. Play with joy.
Sight reading: Good sight readers just play the piano, like you can read a book. A skill that can be learned with practice.
Repertoire development: Attack those pesky bits in your new pieces.
Away from the piano? Listen to the music you want to play. Go to concerts, be inspired.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student and teacher of the drums.