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What are some good tips on how to practice the piano?


Guest splincerhunterX

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Guest splincerhunterX

A little music background: I played the piano since the summer before sixth grade. I took private piano lessons with various teachers (not the kind you might meet at a conservatory of music or a college) until I quit about five months ago. Now I'm on my own, and I'm going to teach myself to become a virtuoso pianist.

The daily practice routine I'm following is 1) Hanon exercises 2) scales and 3) three to four piano pieces. Also, I've recently taken the position of piano accompanist for my high school's choir, so I have to learn piano accompanist parts in addition to my current routine. The musical pieces I'm currently learning aren't easy though (Hallelujah for example).

I need some advice on how to practice difficult pieces and what is an effective practice routine. I'll really appreciate it if anyone can give me some good tips!

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Practice is like eating, do it slow, will serve better, think every finger, focus you attention where is more needed (left hand usually) or a single finger gives you problems. Play the stuff in slow exaggerated stacatto, will writenthe piece very clearly in you head, remember, what plays is your brain not your hands.

If you can do it do stuff like hanon but in chromatic order, or repeat the same CM lesson in C#M then DM etc, play all keys, dare to play it in minor, just don't take your whole life on these things.

Study pieces you like, you've heard many times, after playing it many times slow, play it a few times at a 115% of speed, it should be ready then.

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I was going to say Scales!-Hanon/Czerny/Heller!-Pieces! but you're already doing that. I think it is important when playing studies to recall what area of technique the study is trying to teach so you have a mental 'dictionary' of pieces to improve aspects of your playing. In addition, I think that unless something is urgent you should work through similar studies for a period rather than try to cover everything in a short space of time.

Other tips I can offer: get hold of more advanced works which have editorial fingerings and not only observe them when you learn the piece but study them. I learned a lot of things my teacher didn't cover from this such as which fingers are stronger than others and how play legato successive octaves. Again, you will build up a repertoire of techniques that can be applied to other situations. Play particular attention to mastering polyphony. It will improve your interpretation too.

You role as an accompanist requires a different kind of technique than to 'proper' piano music. In fact from experience I would say that it is harder as not only do you have to perform together with others (something that however much I do it always seems unnatural compared to the string instruments I play) but deal with music that is not necessarily idiomatic to the instrument. A lot of show music or orchestral reductions are much more chordal than solo piano works and you have to develop a technique and a way of reading sometimes complex harmonies effectively. I would recommend playing chorales and hymn tunes to get used to the spacings found in vocal music and then trying out various items of musical theatre and jazz to pick this up.

Also, try learning some simple improvisation. You don't need to sound like Oscar Peterson but if you can string some chords together it will not only help you for the awful occasion when the music falls off the stand but improve your mental connection to what the hands are doing and teach you more about the layout of the keys.

Other than that, most of practising is common sense; go slowly and internalise a passage correctly before moving on, learn pieces in many different styles and textures, practice different articulations, learn how to use the pedals correctly (the sustain is NOT an on/off switch as many people think) and aim for both hands to be equal in strength and agility.

A Canadian composer and pianist, Alan Belkin, shares his thoughts on some technical examples here:https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/Piano/TechAdvice/AdviceMAIN.html

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I have a related, if stupid, query. I've only been really playing (i.e., not defining playing by knowing what notes are where) since I was sixteen or seventeen, including having dropped it for a year and coming back to it recently, and I can hear a chasm of a difference between the sound some of my teacher's students who have been playing for a long time get and how I sound. I assume this is all down to their having played since they were five or seven or whatever, but my question is, is there something in particular I can practise so I don't sound like some late-to-the-game idiot? The things which jump to mind are slow scale and Hanon playing, maybe with different articulations and such, but I thought I'd post here to see what kind of advice people have.

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