When was the last time you played something really well? So well that you not only nailed the fingerings and dynamics but were also able to bring a level of artistic emotional expression unlike any previous performances? Maybe the more important question is what are you doing to improve your piano playing?
My favorite feeling in the world is learning the technical elements of a piece to the point where I’m free to artistically express myself through the music. As with many things in life, learning to play the piano well is a little bit of art and a little bit of science.
And a whole lot of practice!
I’m constantly looking for tips and tricks on becoming a better pianist. Whether it’s technique, tools in the practice room, or even total body wellness advice, every little bit helps. After all, we didn’t start playing the piano to stay stuck where we’re at. No one wants to keep playing the same piece over and over and over.
We started playing so we could improve our skills and play tougher and tougher pieces. Regardless of the level you’re at, these tips will improve your piano playing!
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1. Improve Your Piano Playing by Practicing Consistently
This one almost speaks for itself but there is no improvement if there is no practice. It’s easy to say but sometimes tough to put into practice.
After high school, I pursued a fine arts degree studying piano in college. Although I had played piano since the age of 7, I had never developed solid practice habits.
Once I entered college, I was expected to learn a certain number of pieces each semester. And I struggled because of my terrible practice habits as the only consistency was the inconsistency.
There were weeks when I would practice on a daily basis. On other weeks, I would go several days without practicing at all. And then became extremely disappointed when I had a lesson full of wrong notes and expressionless playing. I slowly became convinced that I was simply not talented enough.
But the truth is that effort trumps talent every time.
The key is figuring out how to incorporate the required effort into your daily routine. Not an easy feat when you’re a busy adult with a multitude of reponsibilities and obligations!
Despite being married, working full-time, and having 3 kids, my practice is now more consistent than ever. It’s somewhat ironic that my practice consistency improves at a point in my life when I have the least time to play piano.
Do you want to know my secret?
A few years ago, I discovered an app. This app was designed by musicians for musicians to maximize practice sessions. It tracks your practice sessions and has a built in metronome and timer. The feature which has been most useful in improving my consistency however is the daily tracker. It keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve practiced and seeing another day added after each daily session is incredibly motivating!
My current practice streak is 270 days without missing a session. And let me just say that on those days when I don’t feel like practicing, the thought of starting the streak all over again is worse than putting in even a few minutes at the keyboard.
This app also has another useful feature relevant to the next tip to improve your piano playing.
You may also enjoy reading this post about maximizing your piano practice.
2. Improve Your Piano Playing with Goals
Back in the day, I had no idea what I should be doing when I practiced. I was under the false assumption that if I repeated something enough times, it would spontaneously improve.
Mindless repetition is the fastest way to wrong notes, technical errors, and shaky (at best!) memorization.
Mindful, goal-oriented practice is essential if your goal is to improve your piano playing!
This is an area I continue to work on because I spent so many years mindlessly repeating without analyzing what I was playing. I still find myself falling back into the old trap of sitting down to practice without any type of plan for what I’m going to work on.
And in many cases, those are the practice sessions when I feel the least inspired. Those are the sessions I look back on as wasted time because how can you make progress if you have no idea what you’re working toward?
You need a plan for each and every practice session!
And this is where the app comes back in.
This magical app allows you to enter goals and then rate your progress toward achieving them. It then keeps track of all your goals and tallies them as you go along. On those days when you’re lacking motivation, you can look back at all you’ve accomplished and move forward with renewed energy!
The app even has suggestions for areas to work on in case you’re at a loss for where to even start with setting goals.
This app is phenomenal and I can’t recommend it more highly when you are trying to improve your piano playing!
Check it out here.
3. Improve your Piano Playing with Online Resources
Back in the dark ages of my college years, there were very few online resources to supplement my learning. Or at least none that I found to be both reputable and beneficial.
And so I turned to books for inspiration and guidance on becoming a more well-rounded pianist. I did find several great writings which improved various aspects of my playing.
But books have their limitations. Especially when you are learning a physical skill and are not simply seeking knowledge on a topic. The transfer of information from your brain to your fingers can be tricky, especially when you have no way to observe someone doing what you are attempting.
Although I continued to read various books and do recommend it as one method to improve your piano playing, it has its barriers.
And then one day about a year ago, I was listening to a podcast. It was an interview with Dr. Josh Wright, a renowned pianist who has also obtained a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and is passionate about teaching students of various levels. I learned that he had a YouTube channel dedicated to piano teaching videos so I decided to check it out.
And what I found was exceptionally helpful! His videos address technical challenges, practice strategies, and even performance issues for a wide range of learners.
I began following his channel and immediately recognized transformation in my own playing. Subtle tips and tricks here and there pushed me to greater heights in my own abilities. He even addresses performance anxiety, an area where I have always struggled, in such a unique and interesting way that it’s nearly impossible to not see improvement after watching it. I began to embrace performance as an opportunity to enjoy sharing my passion with others instead of mentally framing it as something to fear.
His videos also encouraged me to take a hard look at my practice habits and routines. He inspired me to continue learning and improving!
You may also enjoy reading this post about the benefits of learning piano as an adult.
4. Improve your Piano Playing with Expert Guidance
Prior to stumbling upon Dr. Wright’s work, I had been somewhat at a loss as to how to further my piano skills as an adult. Classical piano has always been my passion however many of these pieces are technically demanding and require some degree of guidance.
I now look back at my weekly piano lessons in college with my instructor who had obtained a DMA with regret as I definitely did not make the most of them. Looking back, there is so much more I would love to have conquered in those days. Back in the days when I had all the time in the world. Today I’m lucky if I can squeeze a quick 20 minutes of practice in, much less find the time to attend lessons!
Over the past few years, I have taken lessons occasionally from faculty at local colleges. One faculty member teaches an hour away and to study with him requires an approximate 3 hour time commitment including drive time. And if I want time to warm-up prior to the lesson, it requires even more of a time commitment. It’s simply not always feasible to carve out that kind of time from my weekly schedule.
Yes, studying with a teacher is absolutely ideal for so many reasons. It’s tough to beat one-on-one feedback when you are trying to improve your piano playing.
A teacher can also inspire and motivate you to make more progress than you would independently. Not to mention the fact that many of us make more improvements when we have accountability from someone else.
But trying to locate someone with an advanced degree in the field can be challenging. Trying to locate someone with openings is doubly challenging.
And so I began searching for ways to gain knowledge from a piano expert without having to sacrifice gigantic chunks of time to do so. It took a bit of time to figure it out but I finally discovered a way to learn all the tips, tricks, and secrets of the expert pianists at my convenience.
I discovered Dr. Wright’s ProPractice course.
5. Improve your Piano Playing with this Secret Weapon
The ProPractice course solved both my need to gain expert advice and to conserve my time. It gave me a way to pick and choose what I wanted to work on when I wanted to work on it.
The course is designed to take you from beginner through expert via a series of videos. And obviously a lot of practice as you can only get out of it what you put into it!
The videos are divided out by stage (beginner, intermediate, advanced) so you can choose where you’d like to focus your time based upon your current level. I have even found value in watching the beginner videos as there is great emphasis on the fundamentals of playing, aspects which are crucial when playing at the more advanced levels.
Dr. Wright tackles common roadblocks to making progress in your playing at each of the levels and does so with such encouragement that he truly inspires you to keep going.
His clear explanations and down-to-earth conversive style throughout the videos makes his talents as not only an outstanding performer but also gifted educator abundantly clear. Not every “expert” is a competent educator but he is a delightfully unique combination of both.
In my opinion, the ProPractice course is a powerful secret weapon which will greatly improve your piano playing! It is an especially relevant option during a time when social distancing is encouraged.
It’s Your Turn
Whether you are a beginner, have been playing awhile, or have performed the 2nd Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto, I hope you have found something useful in your quest to improve your piano playing. Sometimes all it takes to move forward is a reminder of the basics and where you started in the first place.
And a little encouragement never hurt anyone either!
If it’s practice you’re struggling with, check out the app here. It will revolutionize how you approach your next practice session!
And if you’re ready to dive into some great free online resources, don’t forget to subscribe to Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel.
If you’re curious about the ProPractice course, check out this video he put out during the COVID-19 pandemic where he discusses how to get access to a sample of the course. This course is such an incredible resource to improve your piano playing regardless of your current level so it is definitely worth your time to take a look!
As always, please drop a comment below on what you have found most valuable about this post. Where are you currently struggling to improve your piano playing? What are your current piano goals?