This article is written by Virtual Piano Academy Founder + Head Teacher, Amy Jørgensen. August 2020.

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Not sure how to get the most out of your piano practice? Not sure how to walk away from your practice sessions feeling confident in what you've learned?

While it’s tempting to think great performers simply roll out of bed and up onto stage a fully finished artist, it’s not the case. Behind every slick performer are untold hours of practice. Gritty, boring, clumsy practice.

How to get the most out of your piano practice

It’s the unseen slog that's every bit as important as your ambitious goals of touring the world or dazzling your friends with your skills. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to take into the practice room to ensure you are actually making the most of your precious practice time.


1. Fit it in every day

Whether it’s five hours or five minutes, the key to practice is doing it regularly. Because we learn best through repetition.

Slacker students who cram in the days leading up to an exam rarely get the grades they want. Students who do a little study consistently for months, usually do. People who stay in shape usually eat well and exercise regularly. People who go on weird diets pile the weight back on as quickly as they lose it. The deal seems clear. Make practice a regular thing and it’ll pay off in the long run.


2. Warm up

Whether you play the piano or the harmonica, warming up is super important. Not doing it could mean strained muscles, nodules on your voice box or other nasty long-term conditions.

Give your body a few minutes to warm up with some gentle exercises before you launch into that difficult passage. If you live in a cold climate, run your hands under some warm water for 30 seconds before you begin your practice. Never launch into your practice with exercises like octaves, or anything that requires stretching your fingers too much. Scales or Hanon exercises are a good warm-up to ease you into your practice.


Do AMEB piano exams and receive premium piano lessons online at Virtual Piano Academy

Want to learn piano with us? We purposely keep our boutique online piano school small, so we can give each of our students the mentorship and guidance they need to achieve their musical goals.


3. Playing isn’t the same as practice

Sometimes it’s easy to think you’re practicing when you’re actually just playing. There’s a big difference between the two.

One is disciplined and can be broken down into a set of exercises, which you play with focus and purpose. Playing is wild, can go in any direction, and last all day. But practice comes first. Sorry 😢

At the end of a practice session, you should be able to do something you couldn't do before. As a reward for all your focused practice, at the very end of your session, sure, launch into something you find fun, and mess around for a bit. But this doesn't really count towards your actual practice! If you walk away from a practice session feeling confident that you can do something you couldn't do before, then you've done a great job!


4. Push yourself

Part of the reason why practice can be so painful is that it makes you uncomfortable. Attempting pieces or scales you can’t play just yet can be frustrating. But there's no point practicing the stuff you can already do right? You've got to push yourself to tackle the stuff you can't do yet. Go slow. Be focused. Break it down into one or two-bar chunks.

Pushing yourself is the only way to get that breakthrough...to reach that goal...to prove to yourself that you can learn something that at first you thought impossible. And when it happens, you’ll know all those lousy, painful moments have been worthwhile.


5. Don’t overdo it

This might sound counter-intuitive, given that we just told you to push yourself...but it’s possible to practice too much. I’ve often found that I can try to play something for an hour or more without any real signs of improvement.

But if I take a break, the strangest thing happens. After a little time away from the piano I can somehow play the thing I was trying to play with a lot more control. Perhaps muscle memory takes a while to kick in? Or neural pathways form better when your mind is resting and not straining? Whatever the science, it's important to take regular breaks. It's much better to practice in small focused bursts, rather than long arduous sessions. Try 10-minute blocks, 3 times a day.


Do AMEB piano exams and receive premium piano lessons online at Virtual Piano Academy

Want to learn piano with us? We purposely keep our boutique online piano school small, so we can give each of our students the mentorship and guidance they need to achieve their musical goals.


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