Practice Piano - Learn How to Get The Most Out of Your Practice Session

To become a better piano player, you have to know how to effectively practice piano. Sitting down and practicing is great, but if you want to get the most out of your time, its important that your practice time is used wisely.

There are a number of area in which a piano player must focus on each time they sit down to practice. It is essential that each practice session consists of these few important ideas so you are not wasting any time.

Have you ever got in front of the piano with a a piece of music, or a song, that you just couldn’t get? Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your time and make sure that you are setting strong playing habits, rather than learning wrong ones.


For Starters

Stretching

Before you even touch a key you need to stretch out your hands, fingers, and body.

Sitting at the piano for long periods of time can cause fatigue on your body and hands. If you take the time to stretch before you start playing, you will more likely be able to sit and practice piano for longer periods of time without getting tired.

Finger and Hand Stretches

  1. Put you right arm straight out in front of your body with your fingers straight up in the air. Use your left hand and grab the tips of your fingers and pull back toward you. Pull just enough to feel the tension in you forearm. Do this stretch with both the right and left hands.

  2. Inter-lock the fingers of both hands. Turn the palms of your hands away from your body stretching out your fingers This stretches you forearms and fingers.
  3. For a more light stretch that is focussed on the fingers, inter-lock your fingers like before, move you hands down to isolate the fingers.
  4. Hold both hands loosely out in front of your body. Shake them in both directions to loosen up you hands and fingers.
  5. This stretch requires you to sit at the piano. Start with the thumb in you right hand. Start by playing the C Major Scale. Play the C note with you thumb, and as you go to play the next note, raise your index finger as high as you can before you play the note. Continue up the scale, raising each finger as high as feels comfortable to stretch the fingers.

    One you feel comfortable doing this with the C Major Scale, you can use other scales to practice piano.

Body Stretches

  1. Start by putting head straight down like you are looking at the floor. Roll your head in a complete circle stretching out your neck. Start out by going to the right, then do the same thing rolling it to the left.
  2. Raise your shoulders straight up and rotate them back in a circular motion making a complete circle. Do this a few times, then switch and rotate them forward.
  3. To stretch your back, sit up straight and arch your shoulders forward down toward the floor. Feel your back stretch. Then lean your shoulders back to get the same stretch in the opposite direction.


Warm-Ups

Each and every practice piano you should have time built in for warm-ups. A lot of times people forget about these, but they are very important. It allows your fingers to get warm to help you to fight finger fatigue and makes them move faster.

  1. Scales - The best warm-up exercise I have found for starters is playing scales. Start with the C Major Scale with the right hand by itself.
  2. Play a one octave scale with the right hand, then with the left. Continue playing the scale until you have played perfectly with both hands. Then play it with both hands together.

    If you want to take it a step further, you can play a two octave scale. This is the same as the original scale just playing for two octaves.

  3. Hanon - Hanon exercises are great. They are set of warm-ups by Charles-Louis Hanon. There are tons of different warm-ups to help make your fingers stronger, faster, and have more stamina.

    Be careful though not to focus too much time on these Hanon exercises when you practice piano, only limit yourself to about 10 to 15 minutes per day.


Practice Piano Sheet Music

  1. Study the Sheet Music - Take a moment and look at the pice of music you are bout to play. Before you can start practicing and playing the pice you need to know as much as you can about it first.

    Look at the time signature, the number of sharps or flats, the tempo, and the structure of the song. It’s important to do this before you start playing so you know where to go in the song and what notes to play and so on.

    Take a few minutes to study the entire piece of music before you practice piano to give yourself an overview of the song and its elements.

  2. Separate Hands - If you have never seen a piece of music before, the best way learn the piece is to play each hand separate from the other.

    Start with the right hand and treble clef. Play through a section of the song until you have that down. Once you have perfected that, play the bass clef note in the left hand separately.

    When you feel confident with both of hands played separate, play both of the hands together.

    This will be difficult for a beginner. It’s hard to get both hands to work together at first, but as you continue to practice piano you will see that it gets easier with time.

  3. Sectioning - Rather than trying to play the entire song all the way through to the end, section the music into more manageable chunks. Start with the first verse, first page, first line, or the first ten bars. Whatever you feel comfortable with.

    You brain works better in smaller chunks. Don’t try and learn the whole piece all at once, learn one section, and add on to that until you have mastered the entire piece of sheet music.


Practice Piano Chords

  1. Inversions - One of the things that helped me the most with chord piano was practicing piano chord inversions. I would sit down for periods of 15 to 20 minutes and just practice each inversion.

    Start with the right hand by itself. Pick a chord that is not as common to you. Play the root inversion, first inversion, and second inversion once after the other up and then down the piano keyboard.

    Do this with both hands until you feel comfortable with the fingering for the chord, and the notes for the chord.

  2. Know the Chord Progression - Make sure that when you start practicing a song that you know the chord progression. If you are following the chords from a piece of music, take the time to study the chords and the progression of the song.

    It’s hard to just follow chords by looking at them for the first time. Look through the piece of music, find any chords that you are unfamiliar with. Learn the notes in those chords. Find any strange changes from one chord to the next that might be uncommon for you. Get a basic understanding of the progressions and chord changes.

    Taking a little time up front can really help when it comes time to actually start playing the song.

  3. Learn the Melody - When you practice piano chords you almost always need to be familiar with the melody of the song. This can be helpful when adding in fills and other musical elements to the song.

    If you are playing by ear, get a rough understanding of the melody. If it is written on the sheet music, go through and play it a few times to get familiar with it.

    It is always helpful to know the melody of the song so you can incorporate it into the song when you are playing.

  4. Create Fills and Improvisation - Once you know the song pretty well and feel comfortable playing it, go through and create a few fills that you like.

    If you are playing with a vocalist or band, find places where it seems empty. Then add your own personal element and style to the song. If you plan ahead in you piano practice, it makes it a lot easier to make it happen in a live performance.


Practice Makes Perfect

We have all heard this saying. It is very much true. If you take the time every day to practice the piano you will find yourself getting noticeably better. But, before you just sit down and practice piano, make sure you follow some of these ideas so you can get the most out of you time.

You will find yourself able to practice longer and stay more focussed if you follow these steps. It’s not all about the amount of time that you spend, it’s about how effective that time is. Use these tips and see how much you improve!

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