Your Ultimate Guide to The Perfect Piano Practice Routine

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Do you struggle with getting into a piano practice routine?

Are you confused about how much time you should be spending on practice?

Do you feel confident about how you spend your practice time? Or does it feel like you’re not getting the results you want enough though you put in practice time?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and disheartened by your current piano practice habits, this is the perfect blog post for you!

Whether you’ve been playing for 1 week or 10 years, you will find helpful tips and resources to make your piano practice time effective.

We will cover when to schedule your practice sessions, what you should be working on, and how you can stay motivated.

Ready? Let’s go!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

Why should you take my advice about how to practice piano?

The short answer is that I’ve been where you are right now. Although I’ve played piano for 30 years, I haven’t always had good practice habits.

And even though I studied piano in college, I firmly believed that talent, not effort, was the key to excelling at the keyboard.

I absolutely loved to play piano but had so much imposter syndrome around the instrument for most of my life. This led to anxiety and depression about my skills as a pianist.

And believing in talent over effort led to inconsistent practice as a form of self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until several years after I graduated with a music degree that I realized how hard work trumps talent every time. I began spending my free time researching ways to improve my mindset around practice.

And I started focusing on establishing good habits to support a regular practice routine despite a busy schedule.

With consistent practice, my skills improved, and I started looking forward to my daily piano practice routines. Most importantly, my love and passion for the instrument intensified.

My transformation inspired me to share what I learned about practicing mindset and establishing an effective routine with others.

The Myth of Motivation

The first thing you need to know about effective practice is that mindset matters. If you don’t manage your thoughts around practice, it will be easy to talk yourself out of it.

Other than the lie about talent versus hard work, I used to believe that motivation comes before action. I can’t tell you how many times I missed a day of practice because I didn’t feel like practicing.

But the truth is that you’ll never feel like putting in the work. Your brain will always try to trick you into believing the effort isn’t worth it. And one of the most effective ways it does this is by getting you to believe that you have to feel motivated to do something.

Although I love the thought that practice makes me a better player, I still don’t always feel like putting in the work.

The only way to get around the tricks your brain plays on you is to set a practice schedule and stick with it. Whether you feel like practicing or not, keep the commitment you’ve made to yourself to improve your piano skills.

Action creates motivation. The more action you take, the more your motivation will grow.

How much should you practice?

One of the first questions that come up around practice is how many minutes of practice you should log.

Although many people will tell you that you should plan for a 30-minute practice session daily, I disagree.

I have minimal time available for my various pursuits on any given day. And between a full-time job, husband, kids, dog, horse, and multiple side gigs, there’s NEVER a perfect time to practice!

Setting a specific amount of time for daily practice was ineffective for me because of my busy lifestyle.

I’ve experimented with many ways to develop a solid piano practice routine. The most successful has been committing to daily practice.

One of the best things I did was release myself from the prison of 30-minute practice sessions.

I stopped setting a specific number of minutes because I started feeling guilty whenever I didn’t hit my goal number of minutes. And I learned that the best way to progress was to be flexible.

Some days, I have enough time for 30+ minutes of practice. But on others, I have only 5 minutes.

And that’s ok.

If you’re serious about working on the necessary skills to become better at the piano, I highly encourage you to be flexible in how you get there.

When should you practice?

The easy answer is whenever it’s easiest to fit practice in as a part of your routine. Some adult piano students find that morning is the best time to fit a session in.

Others swear by practicing late at night. I’ve found that fitting a piano playing session in before I pick my kids up from school works the best.

The first step in planning your practice routine is considering what time of day is best for you.

When are you most mentally engaged in tasks? And when do you seem to accomplish the most?

Although it’s not always possible to schedule practice sessions at your peak productivity time, awareness is the first step.

Try to avoid practicing at those times of the day when your brain is on autopilot because your progress will be slow. Those are the times when you’re most at risk of picking up bad habits.

Practicing at night is the hardest because I’m a morning person. And there are times when I practice under less-than-ideal circumstances. But I try my best to coordinate practice when I’m most alert.

What should you practice?

Coming up with a practice plan is crucial whether you are studying with a piano teacher or taking online piano lessons. Coming up with a plan before you practice makes your practice much more efficient.

Start setting small goals because you’ll feel even more motivated to practice as you accomplish them.

And being clear on a specific goal ensures you will spend the time needed to achieve that goal.

Piano Practice Routine: The Warm-Up

The warm-up is a great time to set your intention for the practice session.

There are many different ways to warm up. But think of this as a time to prepare your brain and body for what’s coming.

You could spend some time working through small sections of difficult passages in your music. Separate the left hand from the right hand and focus on pinpointing the exact spot where you struggle.

Technical exercises are another fantastic way to warm up. I recommend the Hanon exercises because they have patterns that aren’t terribly difficult but get your fingers moving. Czerny and Brahms also have books on finger exercises to improve your technical skills.

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Scale practice is a popular warm-up. You can choose one major scale and its relative minor scale to work on per week. Working on scales strengthens your music theory knowledge and finger technique.

I enjoy spending some time sight reading during my warm-up sessions. It helps with my note reading and playing confidence when performing a somewhat unfamiliar piece.

Piano Practice Routine: New Pieces

After my brain and muscles are warmed up, I like to tackle whatever requires the most effort. Examples include working on a new piece of music or memorizing something you’ve already learned.

It’s at this point in your practice session that everything is primed and ready to go. This is why it’s best to tackle whatever needs the most work. I like to use this point in my practice session to practice whatever I want to practice the least.

There are always practice tasks that are difficult or boring. It’s easy to skip right over them, but it’s often these areas in which you can make the most improvement.

Other ideas for filling this part of your practice session include:

  • Focusing in on any hard parts in your music
  • Working with the metronome to solidify rhythms
  • Engaging in slow practice

In any given practice session, there will be things you NEED to work on and things you WANT to work on. The best sessions are a balance between the two.

Piano Practice Routine: The Fun Stuff

And once you’ve tackled the work, it’s time for some fun! I always save the last part of my practice session for the pieces I’m dying to play. It could be stuff that I’ve already mastered or fun projects.

If you love to improvise, save your noodling for this part of the session. I love to work on playing by ear, so I will spend the last part of my practice playing whatever pop or country song I’m obsessed with.

You could also work on accompanying yourself while singing. Try to find piano-related activities that drew you to the instrument in the first place.

Saving the most fun and exciting activities for the end ensures you leave the keyboard on a high note. And that way, sitting down the next day will be easier.

What if you only have 5 minutes to practice?

My advice is to take what you can get. Prioritize what you want to work on and get to it!

Even 5 minutes of focused practice is better than nothing.

Do you have to practice every day?

Getting better at anything requires consistency. I’ve found that practicing daily keeps everything fresh and makes it easier to progress. But consistency is different for everyone.

And making time every day helps me establish piano practice as more than a habit. It’s not as easy to talk myself out of practice when it’s part of my daily routine.

Are there tools you can use to help make your piano practice routine more effective?

Absolutely! One of my favorite tools is an app called Modacity. It tracks your practice time and keeps a daily log, so you can see your practice streak when you log in.

This app has been pivotal in helping me establish the perfect piano practice routine. Aside from the practice log, Modacity can give suggestions for improving your practice. You can also track improvements you’ve made on individual songs.

I’ve been using Modacity for the past 3 years and can’t say enough good about this app!

If you’d like to try it, take advantage of a special deal for readers by clicking my affiliate link here.

There’s a fantastic book by Gerald Klickstein called The Musician’s Way, which breaks practice down into individual components. It resets any negative thoughts you may have about practice. And it helps you form new patterns of more positive thinking that you can use in the practice room.

The Musician’s Way revolutionized how I approach practice, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to do the same.

What about tools to improve your mindset around practice?

Aside from The Musician’s Way, there are a few other books that I have found helpful in reframing a more positive mindset. And with a positive mindset, you can excel in practice and life.

One of the most inspirational books I’ve read is called Relentless. The book is written by Tim Grover, athletic trainer for the biggest names in athletics, including Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. If you struggle to stay motivated about your goals, reading this book will revolutionize your approach to goal-setting!

Indistractable is another essential read for transforming your mindset. It helps you identify distractions in your life and take steps to improve efficiency. This translates into practice that is infinitely more effective.

And if you’re interested in learning how the best in the world become the best, you have to read Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. The book explores the traits that the most successful people in the world share. And more importantly, it gives you the tools to transform your own skillset.

Are there tools specific for classical pianists?

If you love playing classical pieces but struggle with finding a piano teacher or attending weekly lessons, I have an incredible resource to recommend!

I discovered the ProPractice course by Dr. Josh Wright several years ago while on the search for ways to improve my playing. Dr. Josh Wright is a world-renowned pianist and put together a fantastic set of resources to help pianists who may struggle with regular lessons.

ProPractice is a course that includes tutorials for some of the most well-known pieces in the classical repertoire.

And he walks you through each piece, guiding you on fingering and interpretation so you can improve your ability to play each piece from the comfort of your home.

Dr. Wright has an active YouTube channel with helpful resources for everything from keeping pieces fresh to dealing with performance anxiety. He is the absolute best if you’re interested in improving your classical skills! You can check out his YouTube channel here.

And if you’re interested in learning about his ProPractice course, click this link.

If you want to see how the course has improved my playing, here’s a recent video of me playing two different pieces for the ABRSM Grade 5 exam. The second piece played in the video, composed by Friedrich Burgmuller, is included in Dr. Wright’s ProPractice course.

By following his suggestions on this piece and others, I completed the Grade 5 exam with distinction. Again, it’s a fantastic resource for anyone who doesn’t have time for regular lessons with a piano teacher.

Two pieces from the 2021-2022 ABRSM Grade 5 Exam: La Huerfana and The Storm

Final Thoughts on Developing the Perfect Piano Practice Routine

I hope this blog post helped outline the perfect piano practice routine! Remember, it’s all about approaching practice with flexibility and a positive mindset.

Regardless of whether you aspire to play at church on the stage at Carnegie Hall, keep at it and never give up on your dreams!

And if you loved this post, please help me by pinning it or sharing it with a friend. And check out more of our unique piano-related content you’re guaranteed to love!

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