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Practice Piano Effectively to Be a Good Pianist

Jun 30, 2008
Although this article is written for pianists who want to learn how to practice effectively, it is also a good advisory for any musicians wanting to hone their skills in any musical instruments.

The great Vladimir Horowitz, an acclaimed Russian-American concert pianist once said, "If I do not practice for a day, I know it. If I do not practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I do not practice for three days, my audience knows it." This is indeed a very wise statement regarding practicing on any musical instruments including the piano.

The hours we all put into practicing on the piano are very important if you want to become an accomplished pianist. We all practice to maintain or improve our playing styles. However, do you know that very often, much of the time aspiring pianist spent practicing on the piano is not at its most effective? Why is that so?

The above questions bring up the old debate of quality versus quantity of practice sessions. If the pianist's focus is correct, much more can be accomplished in just 30 minutes rather than two hours practicing on the piano.

Many pianists do not really practice but simply "play" the piano. What does this mean? This means that they sit down and simply play what they already know. This can be good for the maintenance or perfecting of certain complicated techniques or scales but, with the exceptions mentioned, these pianists are not progressing at all.

The essence of every piano practice session is to strive for perfection and improvement. Perfection, improvement and musicality should be the goals for a productive practice session. Every technique should be executed as perfectly as possible. This will include hand/finger positions, wrist movements, touch, expressions, and interpretations among others. Practicing the wrong techniques will develop the wrong skills. To strive for perfection is the first step in practicing on the piano.

Every piano practice session should create a challenge for the pianist to accomplish something never done before. I repeat - something NEVER previously done by the pianist before, unless he/she wants to perfect some earlier learnt skills. Each practice session could include a new rudiment, new song, or a new exercise. It could also be a new tempo for an old exercise and the tempo does not necessarily have to be faster, just something different will do. The main point is that a new accomplishment should be attempted at every practice session. That is where new techniques are learnt and there are improvements instead of just being status quo.

The purpose of playing any musical instrument is to play music and thus, music should be kept foremost in mind whenever you are practicing on the piano. Even when playing a rudiment or technical exercise it should be thought of musically and how it can be applied to the music being played.

How Long Should Each Piano Practice Session Be?

The amount of practice time will differ with each individual pianist and also whether you are a beginner or an accomplished pianist. A beginner may need to practice for half an hour to an hour a day and gradually increase the time to 2 hours per day as he/she progresses along.

A serious professional pianist should practice for about 4 hours or more a day because of his increased repertoire and skills of music. As playing engagements and other responsibilities increase with a developing career, then practice time can be decreased and you practice in accordance to your needs your professional and personal schedule allows. Whichever the case, practice sessions should be a continuing process throughout the pianist's entire professional career.
About the Author
Chris Chew owns a music education website at Play Piano By Ear and Learn How To Be A Jazz Pianist
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