Anyone that is willing to invest the time that it takes to learn to play a musical instrument can be successful learning to play the piano. This commitment is especially rewarding, as it provides the music student with the opportunity to enjoy, appreciate, and create music for a lifetime.
Once you have decided that you want to learn to read piano music and play the piano, your next step is going to be to find a teacher, or a reliable self taught lessons series that will guide you through your experiences in learning to play. If you have a private piano teacher, he or she will be able to set up a structured practice schedule that will enable you to see results from week to week as you work on the items that you have chosen together to improve. If, however, you are on your own in setting up your practice routine, there are a few key points to consider. You must find a method book that contains music that is challenging, but attainable, and that progresses in a sequential way that makes sense. The exercises in your practice method book should be difficult, but able to be mastered with some dedicated effort, and should work toward a purpose. Some exercises are designed to teach key signature reading, others improve the extension of the first finger, or other specific hand movements. The point is simply that your practice material is not random songs, but purposeful, short pieces of music that are designed to help you achieve set goals in learning to play piano. Your practice routine may include elements such as a warm up, scales and chords, lyrical pieces, and sight reading exercises.
Now that you know what you should practice, let’s discuss how to practice. Schedule a time to practice every day, and try to practice at that same time so that it becomes part of your daily routine. Take breaks when you need them, and avoid practicing for long periods of time without giving your hands (and your brain!) a chance to rest and relax. Make your practice space is somewhere calm and welcoming, and try to avoid distractions, like having television playing in the background. Keep all of your practice materials like method books, metronome, sheet music, and a pencil organized and stored all in one place. When you sit down to practice, have a plan. Set short term and long term goals for your practice sessions so that you know what it is you are trying to accomplish. You may even set up a schedule that dictates how many minutes you plan to spend on each section of your practice routine. If you have a music teacher, he or she will probably help you with this, especially in the beginning.
One of the most common practicing mistakes many beginners make is to start at the beginning of a piece of music and play until a mistake is made. The player then returns to the beginning of the piece and plays again, until they reach the point of the original mistake, and – surprise! – they make the same mistake again. They return to the beginning again, and are surprised when they are unable to correct the problem, eventually becoming frustrated. To avoid this, find the most difficult part of the piece first. This may be one line of a longer piece, or a couple of notes of a short etude. Play this tiny segment as slowly as you need until you can play it perfectly. Once you have played it perfectly several times, speed it up a little. When you are comfortable playing the segment up to tempo, put it back into the context of the whole piece of music by starting a little before the hard part and ending a little bit after it. The key is repetition. Your hands and fingers will soon know what to do without you even thinking about it. The more successful repetitions you can achieve, the easier the difficult part will start to become.
If you seem to be making the same mistake several times, take a few minutes to correct it, rather than skipping it, or playing it incorrectly over and over. Use the same process, slow and perfect, then gradually faster. You might want to write a note to yourself in pencil above a particularly stubborn mistake area. Work through all of the trouble spots when you practice so that your ability to play the piece improves, instead of making your goal playing from beginning to end without stopping, no matter what.
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