These words are often on the lips of a lot of piano players. How to Become a Better Piano Player? And that doesn’t apply to someone just starting or a few months into their musical journey. It applies to everyone, yes, including the pros. Do you think they practice to make themselves better?
Strive to Be Better
Whatever stage you are at, you should always do what you can to get better. Improving and progressing are important. And you will recognize in yourself you are getting better. Little passages of music that once seemed tricky are now easier.
You will read a lot of things saying you must get better. However, very few of them tell you exactly what is required to do that. This article will. I will go through things in greater detail later, but there are some bullet points we can look at.
If you want to improve your piano playing or improve on any instrument, then these are some of the attributes you will need.
- A good work ethic.
- A desire to learn.
- Paying attention to details.
- Not Practice, but good practice (there is a difference).
The Work Ethic
There will be no improvements without a good work ethic. I’m sure you have heard that expression before. Has anyone ever bothered to explain what it means? It simply means having a good attitude and philosophy about work. But these are just words if you don’t know how to apply them.
Let’s break it down
Be organized, first of all. Set yourself targets, attainable ones, write them down, and then strive to reach them. Pre-arrange your practice time and what you want to achieve. Persevere with what you are trying to achieve, and don’t let obstacles get in the way. Accept that mistakes are part of the learning process.
Make sure you “turn up” for your practice and not “just be there.” Remember, 90% of your success will be achieved by turning up prepared.
Have respect for your achievements. And do it quietly. Facebook and the like have no place in a work ethic. You don’t need others to pretend to reward you. Likewise, you are the best judge of whether or not you’re getting better at the piano.
Set the time and the place for practice and as I said, make sure you turn up. Whether it is inconvenient or you feel like you can’t be bothered, forget it. You made a commitment to yourself to improve. You are only letting yourself down.
A desire to learn
Do you want to develop your piano playing, or are you just pretending? If you don’t want to improve, you can stop reading now.
Attention to detail
Every aspect of playing the piano has details. It could be the right hand or the left. Additionally, it could be an aspect of music theory or sight-reading. They all have details. Don’t skip over them. It won’t all be easy, but avoiding them because they are hard won’t improve you.
I emphasize the word “good.” Practice doesn’t make perfect; good practice does. As I said under the commitment section, make sure your practice time is organized and scheduled. What are you going to learn that day?
We all have priorities, but your piano practice shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list. Practice should not be an afterthought. Set your time and day and make sure there is scope for plenty of it.
Don’t practice for too long. One, or better still, two 25 minutes sessions a day for a complete beginner will be more than enough.
Split your practice up in time blocks. In a session, maybe five minutes of finger exercises on the keyboard, ten minutes playing pieces you know to warm up. Ten minutes on your chosen subject, and to close, some music theory and maybe a little simple sight-reading.
How many sessions?
If you have time for two sessions a day, then that is fine. But longer than half an hour for a beginner can be a problem. Finish by reminding yourself what you have achieved, no matter how small that improvement is. And then look forward to the next session.
Music Theory and Sight Reading
Yes, I know, boring. But you need to replace boring with “vital.” With some instruments, you can get away without reading music. It is hard to do that on the piano. Everything you do, even how you sit on the stool, has technique. Furthermore, if you are serious about how to become a better piano player, then music theory cannot be ignored.
You will be learning your pieces from music. How can you learn them if you can’t understand what is in front of you? Do you read a book without opening it? You have to make that commitment within you.
And this is often, for most, the hard part. The theory of music is daunting and often very hard to understand. There is a lot in not only reading but understanding music. You might need some help occasionally. But there are dozens and dozens of online resources to help you. And if you have your part-time music teacher, they will explain.
When you begin to understand your theory, it is like someone turning on the light in a darkened room. Suddenly it all makes sense. There is you and the piano, and nothing else exists.
I mentioned sight-reading. This is how you “read” the piece. Opening the book if you like. It doesn’t matter if it’s “Three Blind Mice” or something far more challenging. Learn it from sight. What the notes are, the timing, the key. Learn everything.
And then take on a similar piece you haven’t played before and try that just from sight. One hand to start with if you want. Take your time. Don’t rush it. You will get there in the end.
What is your personal goal? If it is to play in a band or with an orchestra, do you think you can do that without reading and understanding? Of course not. That said, by finding ways to improve your piano skills coupled with proper music theory, you will get to where you want to go.
They are part of the development. Because you make a few, it isn’t the end of the world. We all do it. Learn from the experience and go back and get it right.
Challenges with Realism
You need to set yourself targets to try and achieve. Not time frame targets. “I must learn this by this day.” That is not good and doesn’t help. The statement should be “I want to learn this…properly.”
Take advice on what pieces you should be trying. That will help to make improvements in your playing. Don’t go too far too early. Nursery Rhymes come first, Franz Liszt a little later.
Let’s go back to a previous point. Don’t try to avoid your weaknesses. If your left hand is not so good, work on it. It needs to be. Don’t pretend it’s ok because it will find you out at some stage. Challenge yourself to get it right.
The goals you set must be realistic. If you are thinking it is going to happen in five minutes, think again. There has only ever been, and will only ever be, one Mozart.
There is nothing wrong with having long-term goals to achieve. Even ones that seem a long way off. But make sure you have enough steps between now and then to achieve it.
Write them down
Yes, a simple little list of what you want to achieve. It may have to be altered occasionally. Maybe you are achieving more. Possibly you are a bit behind. Nothing wrong with re-evaluation and resetting the targets. And when you have achieved them all. Time for the next list.
Most definitely. Classical music is more technical and will push you to the limit. And the great thing about it is that even the great masters wrote pieces that can be adapted for beginners. You can move on to how they wrote it later.
Some say Classical music is boring. Excuse me? That shows a complete lack of understanding. This is music that was written by the greatest composers that have ever lived. They say it is boring because often they can’t play it themselves. Find your favorite pieces and work on them. They will teach you plenty.
Why not? It is good to be able to show what you have achieved to a small audience. Play with your friends. You know, those people that are real friends. Not the absurd, sad, online variety. It will give you a few butterflies in the stomach as well. No bad thing and a feeling you will need to get used to.
If you are only just thinking about it, here are some things you might need. This Korg B2SP Digital Piano from one of the great keyboard manufacturers. Or, if you want something a little smaller and portable, there is this Donner DEP-10 Beginner Digital Piano 88 Key Full Size.
We talked about the importance of Music Theory, so you will need something like Music Theory: From Beginner to Expert to help you to be a better piano player.
Need a Great Piano or Keyboard?
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You may also enjoy our handy guides to the 10 First & Easiest Songs You Should Learn on Piano, 15 Piano Pop Songs Everyone will Love, and Types & Sizes of Pianos Explained for more useful information.
How to Become a Better Piano Player – Final Thoughts
Does the journey start here? I hope so. We can all achieve things, especially in music, that we never dreamed of, if we really want to do it. Organize yourself and get going. There is nothing more rewarding.
Until next time, let your music play.