Tips for Practicing Piano
Practice is essential to making progress. Because of the nature of brain function, a regular daily practice routine is much more effective than one cramming session the day before the lesson. An assignment book with written practice instructions is provided; the assignment book should be brought to every lesson. Please call the teacher if there is any trouble understanding the practice assignment.
An excellent system for practicing is to begin the practice with a different part of the assignment each day. For instance, if the first task is a scale, second task is Minuet, and third task is Pink Panther, on the first day run through all tasks in order. Second day, play Minuet, then Pink Panther, then the scale. On the third day, begin with Pink Panther, then the scale, and Minuet, et cetera. This way, part of the week's assignment is neglected.
Rhythm, which is primarily learned by counting, is JUST AS IMPORTANT as notes in music. The counting of a piece should be worked on from the very beginning of learning a new piece.
Except for brand-new beginners, a metronome is required for practice. The metronome is used with scales, chord progressions and arpeggios to develop technique and fingering. Set the metronome to a tempo that the scale can be played easily and flawlessly in sixteenths. Begin with portato staccato quarter notes, one octave, up and down. The last note of the one octave scale begins the two octave scale in legato eighth notes, up and down, accenting the beat. The last note of the two octave scale begins the three octave scale in triplets, once again accenting the beat. Then four octaves in sixteenths, accenting the beat. The same is applied to arpeggios, only the potato staccato is for the three octave arpeggio, accenting each note. Once the sixteenths are perfected, move the metronome up a notch, and continue notch by notch, increasing agility and control. The metronome is used the same way with pieces. Once the notes and rhythm have been worked out, set the metronome at the tempo at which the most difficult part of the piece is played easily. Move the metronome up notch by notch. If there are mistakes, move the metronome down a notch until the playing is secure.
Active listening is another important aspect of music studies. Live concerts are best, but sitting still and doing nothing else while listening to recorded music is great, too (and preferably listening to recordings of traditional acoustical instruments rather than synthesizer-type instruments). Is the music loud? Soft? What are the instruments? String instruments? Percussion? Instruments the player blows through? Tap your foot or sway your body to the beat. Is it fast? Slow? Are the notes high? Low? What is the articulation (how the music “speaks”): are the notes played staccato (detached) or legato (connected) or a combination of legato and staccato? How does the music make you feel (happy, grumpy, excited, sleepy...)? Do you like it? Why or why not?
And don't forget to dance! Dancing is a fun and healthy internalize beats and rhythms.