Learning to play the piano is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby. There are countless hours of pleasure to be found in playing beautiful music for oneself or others.
However, it can be frustrating, too, when you don’t progress as quickly as you might like. Take heart. There are many tried-and-true things you can do to improve your piano skills.
Have Reasonable Expectations
You must realize that learning to play the piano well takes time. It’s not like throwing your dinner into an Instant Pot. There are no real shortcuts to playing proficiently.
There are, however, ways to practice, tools you can use, and steps you can take to make better progress. And if you are making good progress, you will enjoy learning the piano much more.
Choose the Right Music
For many students, the first question is, “What should I play?” The answer is, “Whatever you like“. If you love the music you play, you will want to practice more. Like Dolly? Go ahead and try “Nine to Five”.
Want to impress your significant other? A Chopin Prelude will do the trick. You can learn strong piano skills from just about any repertoire, from Broadway to the Beatles.
If you’re a beginner and are still learning note-reading, try piano sheet music with letters. This music has larger noteheads for ease of reading.
The letter name is centered on each notehead, enabling you to read the note more quickly. This Beginner Notes sheet music is a great first step in learning to play. You can find a variety of genres, too, such as:
Classical: Try Beethoven’s Für Elise or the Pachelbel Canon in D.
Broadway: Play the hit songs from your favorite shows like The Sound of Music or Newsies.
Children’s: Young beginners may enjoy Happy Birthday to You and London Bridge is Falling Down.
Movie and TV Themes: Have fun with the main themes from Star Wars and Spongebob Squarepants.
Classic Rock: Schedule a personal jam session to play songs by Boston, Aerosmith, and The Doors.
Pop: Play some of your favorite radio tunes by Elton John and Adele.
Make sure your rep is well-rounded. To learn most effectively, you need a good mixture of fun songs, technique exercises, and method books or classical pieces. The greater the variety you play, the more skills you will acquire.
Attend Piano Concerts
It’s not just inspiring to hear other pianists play, it’s a great opportunity to watch and learn technique. If possible, sit where you can see the pianist’s hands. Observe how they move their body and how they pedal.
If attending in person isn’t possible, watch YouTube videos of great pianists. You can also listen to piano music on your favorite streaming service.
Listening to others play assists you in developing your artistry. You will gain a greater understanding of the expressive capabilities of the instrument and how you can use it to its maximum potential.
Too many piano students believe that practicing means sitting down at the keyboard and playing through each song from start to finish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good practicing incorporates the following steps:
1. Make a plan for what you want to accomplish from this practice session, such as learning a new section or memorizing an older piece.
2. Begin with a warmup or two. This can be scales, etudes, or a favorite piece that feels good in your hands and helps them get ready to go.
3. Divide the piece you want to work on into smaller chunks, usually no more than four measures at a time.
4. Set a slow tempo. Play the measures, hands separately, if need be.
5. Self-evaluate what you just did. Were the notes and rhythms correct? Was it expressive? Did you have the correct articulations and dynamics? If not, play it again and fix the things you can.
6. After you have mastered the passage at a slow tempo, gradually speed it up.
7. Move on to the next section or next piece. It’s not necessary to play the entire piece every day. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. Focus on small sections for three or four days, then have a big playthrough at the end of the week.
Piano students of all ages and levels respond to a treat for a job well done. Set a weekly goal and reward yourself when you complete it. For example, set the goal to learn the chorus of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by the end of the week. When you play it on Saturday, go out for ice cream and celebrate.
Words by WPGM