The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Does the thought of attending piano lessons week after week bore you? Perhaps you took piano lessons as a kid and still have nightmares about scale drills and mind-numbing exercises. Or maybe you’d love to learn piano but don’t have time for regular lessons.

If you fall into any of these categories, I’ve got exciting news! Gone are the days when you could only learn piano from the crotchety old teacher down the street. Thanks to technology and a little ingenuity, you can take charge of your own learning!

Enter with me into a new era of apps, online programs, and an array of online resources, all accessible from any location with reliable WiFi.

Stick with me as we explore a couple of unconventional ways to learn piano. And make sure to stay with me until the end for a special discount and bonus practice tools to ensure your piano journey gets off on the right foot!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Piano Marvel, Musicnotes, and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, 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 images courtesy of Canva.

Do unconventional ways to learn piano actually work?

Absolutely. With a few caveats.

If you have aspirations to become a concert pianist, I highly recommend finding a piano teacher. It’s challenging to grasp the nuances of technique you will need to master to achieve this goal all on your own.

And if you are a complete beginner, it can also be very helpful to find a piano teacher to guide you in the beginning stages of your learning.

But I also understand trying to juggle a hobby with life. Ideal and realistic are often very different things.

Learning from an app is often the most realistic option. Especially if it means the difference between getting started today or putting it off indefinitely.

If you’re looking for a piano teacher, check out my Resource page for an array of online teachers accepting new students.

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: Piano Marvel

Looking for a program that teaches you the basics of the piano? Basics that will get you up and running on the keys quickly? Then Piano Marvel just might be for you.

Designed by a piano teacher, Piano Marvel helps you master essential fundamentals like music theory, sight-reading, and ear training. And did I mention that it also teaches you HOW to practice?

Let’s dive into specifics.

As Addicting as Netflix

Do you know that feeling when you’re bingeing your Netflix guilty pleasure, and the episode ends? That moment when you’re forced to choose between resolving the cliffhanger or cleaning the bathroom?

How many times does the desire to scrub your nasty sink win over a plot twist?

Almost never.

What if I said that you could have a similar level of addiction to your piano learning?

Like Netflix, Piano Marvel has mastered the art of keeping you motivated and engaged. Through various levels and trophies, acing the next concept becomes a no-brainer. At stake are bronze, silver, or gold trophies depending upon how skilled you become at the songs in each level.

As Efficient as a Prius

Travel back in time with me to your favorite high school or college class. Was it gym? Or maybe you loved band.

What did strolling into that classroom feel like? Do you remember how time seemed to magically fly by? And yet somehow, you always seemed to walk out of that class having learned something new.

Time sailed by, and you were a bit sad when the bell rang. Learning felt effortless. And your energy level at the end of the class felt higher than at the beginning.

What if learning piano could feel as efficient as time spent in your favorite class?

It can, thanks to Piano Marvel! The app chunks learning into small pieces, making each lesson easy to remember. There’s no wasted fluff material that you’ll never use again.

Piano Marvel packs only the most relevant information into your learning. Efficiency at its best.

As Motivating as Accomplishing Your Goals

Sometimes it’s not a fear of failure that holds you back from goals but rather a fear of starting something and losing motivation halfway through. It’s happened to everyone at some point.

You sign up for that shiny new course promising all the answers. And at first, you’re super excited. You put in the time and the work and feel the warmth of accomplishment.

But at some point, your motivation starts to fade. You wake up one day and realize that it’s been months since you’ve even logged into that course.

The sting of disappointment takes over, and your motivation sinks lower than ever. You’re now more hesitant than ever to set new goals.

Motivation is counterintuitive. Many people believe that you must FEEL motivated to ACT.

But the truth is actually the reverse. In most cases, you will only FEEL motivated AFTER you ACT.

Action comes before feeling.

And the more progress you make toward your goals, the higher your motivation.

Piano Marvel helps you attain a series of small goals that fuel your motivation to keep learning. Through bite-sized lessons and incentives to continue your piano journey, learning to play the piano has never been more motivational.

The Nuts and Bolts

There are many apps designed to help you learn piano. But if you want a solid foundation in music theory, Piano Marvel is the best. It also guides you through chords, arpeggios, and scales. Once you learn the basics of theory, playing becomes more effortless. It also opens up a whole new world of improvisation and playing by ear.

And if you connect your device to a MIDI keyboard, the program will give you feedback on note accuracy.

Other apps and programs give feedback as you play. But Piano Marvel waits until you’re finished with the song to provide feedback. One huge advantage of this type of feedback is that it eliminates distractions while you play. Yet by giving timely feedback, you have an opportunity to correct mistakes in a more effective way.

And did I mention that Piano Marvel comes with an extensive library of songs to learn? It even includes several popular lesson books, including Alfred’s premier and adult all-in-one books. Songs are graded by difficulty from 1 through 18, so you can gradually advance your skill level without the frustration of playing something too challenging.

It’s yet another way that Piano Marvel’s system encourages consistent learning over flashy gimmicks.

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. And at $12.99 a month, you really can’t go wrong! Click here to go to the Piano Marvel website.

If you’re interested in learning more about music theory, check out this post!

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: ProPractice

And if you’re looking for more unconventional ways to learn piano, you need to hear about ProPractice! Also created by a piano teacher, ProPractice is a phenomenal resource for people who aspire to play classical piano.

ProPractice was created by Dr. Josh Wright. It can successfully be used alongside traditional lessons or all on its own.

The program is designed to be helpful for either complete beginners or people who have prior playing experience.

My ProPractice Story

As a music major grad, I have a massive bucket list of classical pieces I want to tackle eventually. But between working full-time and having a husband and 3 kids, I simply don’t have the time to make weekly lessons work.

I discovered Dr. Josh Wright one day while listening to a podcast and started following his YouTube channel. And a few videos later, I was hooked on his teaching style and depth of knowledge.

I began to see positive changes in my playing and how I thought about the instrument. And so I decided that if I had taken so much away from his free content, how much would I take from his paid course?

I invested in ProPractice and have only seen improvements in my playing ever since!

In fact, I was so impressed with the course that shortly after joining, I became an affiliate.

The Nuts and Bolts

ProPractice is currently set up on the Teachable app. You have the option to start at the beginning and work your way all the way through lessons. Or you can pick and choose which pieces you would like to learn.

Dr. Wright started the course because he found students asking the same questions as they learned various pieces from the classical repertoire. He, therefore, decided to record video lessons to address common questions and problem areas for these pieces.

The course is separated into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. He further subdivides material into repertoire and technique.

Dr. Wright is constantly adding new pieces to the course, so it will only continue to expand.

As mentioned previously, the course is almost exclusively classical repertoire, so if that’s not your jam, you may want to explore other options. But it is designed to be used as a complete beginner, so whether you’ve never played a piano in your life or spend your free time expanding upon your repertoire, you will find value in the course.

If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, click the link here.

Bonus Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Aside from the two programs listed above, I have a couple more tools up my sleeve to skyrocket your piano playing!

The Art of Practice

One key component of learning any new skill is practice. Although we love to think that talent determines how proficient someone becomes at a skill, the truth of the matter is that quality practice wins over talent every time.

And if you don’t believe me, check out this book! It’s a fascinating exploration of some of the world’s most “talented” people and how they became the best at what they do.

Quality practice is key to making progress, but what does that actually mean? Is it mindless repetition? Or is it something else entirely?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that helped you understand how to effectively practice? Luckily for you, there is!

It’s called Modacity, and I credit this app with my progress in piano playing over the past few years.

The app helps you identify your trouble spots and generates ideas about fixing these areas. It also has a “day streak” practice counter. And there’s nothing more motivating than building on your practice streaks!

If you’d like an in-depth review of the app, check out this recent post.

And if you’re ready to give the app a try for yourself, click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription. With the discount, you’ll still pay less than the cost of a single higher-end piano lesson. It’s a valuable investment into your growth as a pianist and one of the best unconventional ways to learn piano!

Find Music You Love

Nothing motivates me to practice more than finding a piece I love.

While listening to Pandora several years ago, I heard a song that I fell in love with. It was hauntingly beautiful, and I just HAD to get my hands on the sheet music.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on my usual go-to place, Amazon. So, I started looking around for other sources of sheet music.

I stumbled upon Musicnotes and struck the jackpot! I found the exact arrangement of the piece I was looking for, but I found a treasure trove of just about any song at any level you could ever need.

Due to its larger size, music is best viewed on an iPad. And as someone who regularly plays paid gigs, I’ll tell you that bringing an iPad is a lot more convenient than dragging a bunch of music books! Musicnotes has an app downloaded on my iPhone, so I can access my purchases any time and anywhere.

One of the features I appreciate most about Musicnotes is the ability to mark up the music within the app. This feature allows me to interact with the music exactly the same way I would if it was a piece of paper in front of me.

You also can print out the music if you prefer paper to electronic.

But the best part of this app has to be the ability to instantly access anything you could ever want. It’s an incredible tool to add fun and variety to your playing!

And in case you’re curious, here is the piece that led me to Musicnotes in the first place.

Once Upon a December, arranged by Emile Pandolfi

Click below to browse some of Musicnotes’ most popular downloads!

Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

It’s Your Turn to Try Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

And there you have it! I hope this post has inspired you to try a few unconventional ways to learn piano.

In case you missed them, here are links to the various products mentioned in this post.

Piano Marvel: Use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. Find the website here.

ProPractice: Find the website here.

Musicnotes: Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

Modacity: Click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription

,

And for more piano inspiration, check out the following posts:

If you found value in this post, please help me out by dropping a comment below or by sharing the post with your friends. I would sincerely appreciate your assistance in spreading the word about my mission! I’m working hard to bring you only the best products and services.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I wish you all the best in your piano journey!

A Complete Review of ProPractice by Dr. Josh Wright

A Complete Review of ProPractice by Dr. Josh Wright

Looking for an online piano course that covers piano technique and repertoire? Regardless of your reasons for considering an online piano course, please accept this review of ProPractice as an invitation. An invitation to an entirely new level of playing that you may not have thought possible before.

Maybe you started piano lessons as a kid, but life got in the way. Or perhaps you’ve been playing piano all your life but need a little extra something to keep your playing fresh.

Either way, “ProPractice” just might be what you’ve been missing.

I initially discovered the course while looking for a way to continue studying classical repertoire without consistent lessons. And I was so impressed with the quality that I became an affiliate for the course shortly after purchasing it.

Whether you’ve heard of the course before or not, stick with me as I break down all the details. And if, by the end of the post, you’re still not sure whether the course is right for you, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below, and I’ll be happy to answer your questions!

With that, let’s dive into the force behind the course, Dr. Josh Wright.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of Amazon and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, 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 images courtesy of Eduardo Romero from Pexels, TMGZ2021, & Nomadsoul1 from Getty Images Pro via Canva.

Who is Dr. Josh Wright?

Dr. Wright is an avid teacher and performer. He has earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan and was a prizewinner at the 2015 National Chopin Competition. His accolades include a host of prizes from other acclaimed competitions as well. Check them out here.

He is also a Steinway Artist and was inducted into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame in October 2019.

In other words, his backgrounds both as a performer and a teacher are entirely legit.

But don’t take my word for it. Check him out for yourself:

Dr. Wright has an active YouTube channel with new content added regularly. You can get a feel for his teaching style by checking out the videos below:

Review of ProPractice: The Content

ProPractice includes video lessons ranging from effective practice to technique and artistry. The course is divided into early and mid to late beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each level is further divided into technique and repertoire sections.

The course itself is designed to facilitate learning for students from a wide range of levels. In the early beginner level, video lessons assume the learner knows nothing about reading music. Gradually, learners are guided through various exercises to solidify understanding of the basics.

Meanwhile, learners who have experience can dive into the levels most applicable to their current skill level.

ProPractice additionally covers scales, arpeggios, triads, and 7th chords. This is a handy feature if you’ve never had to play scales before.

One of the best features of the course is his in-depth coverage of how to play specific pieces from the classical repertoire. This was the selling point for me because I love classical piano and have a massive list of pieces I eventually want to master.

Dr. Wright covers repertoire from early beginner through advanced. Here is a tiny sampling of the pieces he gives play-by-play instructions on:

  • Bach: Prelude in C Major
  • Beethoven: Fur Elise
  • Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata (all movements)
  • Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor
  • Chopin: Nocturne in C-sharp minor
  • Debussy: Arabesque No. 1
  • Debussy: Clair de lune
  • Rachmaninoff: 1st movement of the 2nd Concerto
  • Ravel: Jeux d’eau
  • Satie: Gymnopedie No. 1

Who should consider this course?

This course is for anyone who aspires to play classical piano. Dr. Wright’s mission is to peel back the curtain on performing classical piano, so anyone who desires to learn can improve their skills. Through ProPractice, you have instant access to tips and tricks from a professional concert pianist.

At its core, classical piano is about the expression of emotion. Through dynamics, phrasing, and the individual articulation of each note, pianists communicate emotions ranging from ecstasy to melancholy.

And it’s the tiniest details that make all the difference in every spellbinding performance.

Through advice ranging from organizing a practice session to how to phrase one of Rachmaninoff’s most hauntingly beautiful melodies, Dr. Wright covers all the secrets to classical piano success.

Depending upon your level and learning style, the course could stand by itself or complement instruction from a piano teacher.

Again, the insight into the interpretation of an unprecedented array of classical piano repertoire is what makes this course shine—once learned, information that can apply to other pieces and outside the classical genre.

Who shouldn’t invest in this course?

It’s difficult to execute a thorough review of ProPractice without this one crucial detail. If you hate classical piano, this course is decidedly not for you.

And if you’re looking for a course on simply the basics of playing the instrument, you would likely benefit from an alternate course unless your end goal is classical.

Although Dr. Wright has recently added a few videos by a different piano teacher on playing jazz, don’t invest in this course if jazz is your passion.

You also won’t learn much about improv. Nor does it cover in-depth information on music theory, harmonizing pop tunes, or playing by ear.

And although there is an argument to be made about the value of learning classical techniques, it may be tough to get through such in-depth teaching if you can’t stand classical. Or if you’re learning for the sole purpose of playing with your church’s worship band.

The course does not offer any direct feedback on your playing from Dr. Wright, so you may want to look elsewhere if that is an important feature.

ProPractice is dedicated to playing classical piano. And if you’re interested in advancing your classical repertoire, this is the course for you.

If you’re looking for help with music theory or memorization, check out this post for resources!

Review of ProPractice: My Story

A review of ProPractice wouldn’t be complete without a personal story, so here is mine.

As mentioned earlier, I decided to invest in ProPractice after following Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel for several months. Although I started lessons around age 7, I never took piano very seriously until college.

I loved to practice, but my version of practice included playing whatever I wanted. This resulted in relatively ineffective practice and slow improvement. And I never set out to major in music. In fact, I was a pre-veterinary medicine major when I started college in the fall of 2003.

Shortly after classes started that fall, something drove me back to music. I called one of the piano faculty on campus, and she asked me to come in and play something for her. To this day, I have no idea what I played, but whatever it was, it was enough to convince her that I could be a music major.

And just like that, piano became my main focus.

Although I ultimately pursued a career in healthcare, I have never lost my love for playing classical piano. But after college, studying with a teacher became difficult due to demands from a full-time job and kids. I knew that I wanted to keep improving my skills but was at a loss as to how exactly to do that without consistent lessons from a teacher.

It was at this point I discovered Dr. Wright. And I’ve been a firm believer in the value of the course ever since. If you’re interested in reading more of my story, make sure to check out the links at the bottom of the post.

Elegie in Eb Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – Although not included in the ProPractice course, I did learn principles from other pieces that I could apply to this one and which pushed the performance from drab to dazzling. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces from the classical repertoire!

How is the course organized?

The content consists of separate videos covering a wide range of topics. Videos are further subdivided into early, mid to late beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Information is further separated into technique and repertoire sections.

Dr. Wright uses multiple angles to film each video so you can both observe his entire body and hands during demonstrations. The video and audio quality are both excellent.

And the course uses the Teachable platform, which means you can also download the app on your phone.

What is the time requirement for the course?

Videos range in length from several minutes to over an hour for a complete interpretation of some pieces. You have the option of picking and choosing which videos you find most relevant.

Or you can start at the very beginning and watch all the videos.

You’ll find value regardless of how you choose to interact with the course.

Are there bonus perks of enrolling?

Absolutely! One of the best perks is access to a members-only Facebook group where you can interact with other people who love playing the piano as much as you do!

Dr. Wright also offers discount codes for music and other products within the course. He additionally offers a trial membership for his other course, VIP MasterClass. The MasterClass offers a weekly video addressing specific subscriber questions and access to all previously recorded videos.

He additionally provides his personal email for questions, and in my experience, he has been very responsive.

Is going through the course as effective as instruction from a piano teacher?

Yes and no. It’s always helpful to get outside feedback on your playing. Unfortunately, getting feedback from Dr. Wright himself is not part of this particular course.

But members do frequently post videos of themselves playing in the Facebook group to get feedback.

Aside from feedback, however, this course does offer something that can be difficult to find from many piano teachers. And that something is step-by-step instruction on playing classical piano from a concert pianist.

There are scores of outstanding piano teachers out there. But most have not had either the educational or performance experience of Dr. Wright. And it’s therefore difficult to find the type of knowledge he has.

Watching videos of pianists on YouTube is one thing. But seeing a thorough demonstration of how you can pull off the angst in the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s moonlight sonata is quite another.

It’s the difference between flat, shaky performances and performances that are vibrant and confident. Even if you’re only playing for an audience of yourself, wouldn’t it be exhilarating to find out for yourself just how far you can take your playing with secrets from the pros?

Review of ProPractice: It’s Your Turn

I genuinely hope you have found this review of ProPractice helpful in determining whether the course is right for you. If you’re still on the fence, I highly recommend following Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel because it gives an accurate picture of his teaching within the course as well.

And if you find value from the YouTube channel, consider investing in his course. It’s difficult to find a pianist with his level of educational and performance experience who is also down-to-earth and an effective teacher.

In a world filled with false promises and fancy ads, Dr. Wright is a refreshing beacon of hope. He doesn’t promise perfection by taking his course. Nor does he guarantee that you will be good enough to become a concert pianist. In fact, his videos often feature the mistakes he makes and how he overcomes them.

He simply gives all his best information in hopes that you can use it to be slightly better than you were yesterday.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take “slightly better” over “perfection” any day!

Click here to check out the course for yourself.

As mentioned previously in this review of ProPractice, the course emphasizes classical playing. If classical isn’t your jam, ProPractice may not be your course. There are scores of websites, courses, and apps dedicated to all kinds of piano playing. I encourage you to keep looking until you find that one thing that resonates with you and your goals.

And if you’re looking for more great piano inspiration, make sure you check out the following posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

You’ve signed your kids up for piano lessons. Everything was going smoothly in the beginning. Your kids were excited about starting, and getting your kids to practice piano was effortless.

But something shifted.

Suddenly you find yourself begging, bargaining, and pleading to get them to practice. Or yelling. And maybe the yelling is as mutual as the frustration surrounding the topic of practice.

What gives? Your kids were thrilled at the prospect of learning to play the piano. And you, being the well-informed and conscientious mom you are, were eagerly awaiting their transformation into brilliant, well-rounded tiny humans.

Was enrolling your kids in piano lessons a mistake? Maybe you’re questioning your parenting abilities and secretly fear their practice aversion is somehow your fault.

As a pianist and a mom, believe me when I say that getting kids to practice can be as much art as creating music. But you can do it! You can guide your kids into the opportunity of a lifetime WITHOUT tears and screaming.

And it all starts with understanding why your kids avoid piano practice.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, 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 photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of twinsterphoto and FamVeld from Getty Images via Canva.

Why is getting your kids to practice piano so difficult?

I will go out on a limb and say that most kids hate piano practice for two reasons. The first is that it can be tedious. For the most part, kids are constantly overstimulated. Flashing screens, bouncing cursors, and billions of on-demand videos seem way more exciting than a piano, a book, and a pencil.

I’m not here to deny the many benefits that come with being constantly keyed into the online world.

But I will point out that our attention span is now around 6 seconds. According to several sources, this is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Maybe this article should instead be about teaching your pet fish to play the piano?

But in all seriousness, piano practice requires focus, which no longer comes naturally to most people. It’s instead something that must be trained.

The second reason kids hate practice is that they have no idea how to spend their practice time. Your kids know they need to practice because you and their teacher tell them to, but they don’t actually know how.

And because your kids don’t know how to practice, their piano practice time often becomes monotonous.

Practice: Stuck on Repeat

Between the boredom and uncertainty of what practice should entail, it’s no wonder piano practice gets such a bad rap. And it’s no wonder kids instead gravitate toward other activities and learn to dread practice time.

But at its core, music is about creativity. It’s about the expression of human emotion. And it’s about individuality.

Music is the exact opposite of boredom.

So how can you convince your kids that piano practice is a really fun and exciting way to spend their time?

We’ll get there, but first, let’s explore what practice is and what it is not.

Somewhere along the line, piano practice became synonymous with repetition. In other words, practice means you play something repeatedly until you can suddenly play it correctly. And then you come back the next day and simply repeat what you did yesterday all over again. You do this day after day until you go back to your lesson, at which point your teacher assigns new songs, and the cycle continues.

And so on and so forth until the end of time.

Seriously. How boring does that sound?

Repetition vs. Practice

On the surface, repeating something until it’s perfect seems to make sense. Isn’t that why they say, “practice makes perfect?”

But let me ask you something. Does simply repeating something mean you will automatically get better?

Let’s say I want to dunk like Michael Jordan. I decide to “practice” by making 500 shots. But by the end of my session, I’m still nowhere near his skill level. What gives?

Repetition does not guarantee improvement. Actual progress comes first from identifying exactly what you want to improve. You then must find a specific tactic to get better at that thing.

I realize that this may seem far into the weeds on a post about getting your kids to practice piano. But I think it’s important to understand both the barriers to and significance of practice.

At that point, you can help your kids find excitement and meaning in their practice sessions. And you can kiss the tantrums goodbye!

If you’ve fallen into the repetition as practice trap, please don’t feel bad about it! There are far fewer resources out there on effective practice than there are about playing an instrument.

Teachers everywhere expect students to practice and somehow assume students know what that means. I’ve been playing piano for nearly 30 years and will be the first to say that I associated repetition with practice for far too long.

I still fall into the repetition trap from time to time. But thanks to this post, you have the resources to help turn all that around for your kids!

A Controversial Practice Philosophy

This next section may seem contrary to everything I’ve said thus far, but it still deserves telling. Piano lessons are about introducing your kids to new skills and an outlet for their creativity.

The right kind of practice is essential for growth, but every kid is an individual. And chances are, your kids will not grow up to be concert pianists.

But could every kid who takes piano lessons foster a hobby they will enjoy for the rest of their lives? Absolutely.

The art of practice is valuable in and of itself. It’s an opportunity to teach your kids how to improve at something. It teaches them about persistence and creative problem-solving.

And these are lessons that are applicable beyond the keyboard.

Many piano teachers out there have mandatory practice requirements. And I agree that practice is vital for improving. But not every kid needs the same amount of practice to make improvements.

And depending upon the goals your kids have for themselves; their practice sessions may look different.

Let your kids explore piano in a way that excites them. Make practice something they look forward to instead of something they dread. Now let’s dive into getting your kids to practice piano!

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Setting Reasonable Goals

My very first recommendation for getting your kids to practice piano is to sit down with them and talk about practice goals. Their teacher may have a weekly practice expectation, but how do your kids feel about this requirement?

And how does this requirement fit into their current obligations?

Many piano teachers would love to think that kids devote themselves to the piano at the exclusion of all else. But this kind of thinking isn’t realistic in today’s world.

Kids are involved in many activities, and why shouldn’t they be? Life is about exploration and learning new things. The truth is that you can fit regular practice into any schedule, regardless of how busy that schedule is.

But everyone has to be on the same page about the goals your piano kid has for themself.

Start with the following questions to get the conversation started with your kids:

  • What other activities are you involved with, and how much time do you realistically have available for practice?
  • Does your teacher have a minimum practice requirement?
  • When is the best time to get your practice done?
  • What are the barriers you see to getting practice done daily?
  • And are there strategies you can use to overcome those barriers?

The keyword here is REASONABLE. There’s no room for guilt, and if you have 5 minutes a day for practice, it’s better than nothing!

Stick to a Consistent Daily Practice Time

Once you’ve had the practice discussion with your kids, it’s time to set a consistent daily practice time. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve decided on 5 or 50 minutes of daily practice time; the key is consistency.

Consider whether your kids may benefit from multiple short practice sessions rather than one long one. Research shows that keeping sessions short promotes more effective learning. As an example, if your goal is 30 minutes a day, try to break it up into three 10-minute sessions.

Try to attach practice time to another established habit. An example of this might be sitting down at the piano immediately following their afterschool snack every day.

Some families find that practicing before school works better than after. Our family is not quite that evolved yet, but it’s something I’m considering for the future.

Again, the key is consistency. Your kids will take more away from multiple, short daily sessions than one long session once a week.

Help Your Kids Structure Their Practice Time

Now it’s time to get creative! If you take one thing from this post, I hope it’s that practice should be anything but dull repetition.

Have a conversation with your kids’ piano teacher about what should happen during practice. Get ideas for how you can help your kids spice up their practice time.

Send a notebook to lessons so their teacher can write down weekly practice goals.

Find out what drives your kids to learn the instrument. Are they really into pop music? Do they love classical? Or do they adore video game music?

Whatever your kids are into, I guarantee there’s piano music for it out there. Ask the teacher for recommendations on music that’s level appropriate and accessible.

Incorporate the music they love into their practice routine. Use it as a reward for getting through the stuff that’s important but not as fun.

Find out whether they can use apps or websites during practice time to beef up their musical knowledge.

I know this sounds like a fair amount of work but staying active in the process will help your kids have a better experience. It shows that you’re invested in their learning.

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Learning with Your Kids

And speaking of learning, have you considered taking piano lessons along with your kids? Sharing the experience of learning is a great way to bond with your kids.

It gives you more patience and empathy for your kids when you come home tired from a long day at work and aren’t necessarily enthused about practice either.

And it allows you to show your kids that you’re never too old to learn something new.

Whether you’re a total beginner or dabbled as a child, now is the best time to get back into it!

If you’re intrigued by taking lessons, make sure you check out my post about how to learn piano as an adult.

Reward Their Efforts

Help your kids feel good about their efforts by rewarding them for a job well done. Maybe it’s a small weekly reward for hitting their goal time. Or perhaps it’s a larger reward for mastering a particular piece.

Many parents find success with practice charts. I use an app to document practice and find it both motivating and rewarding.

Whatever the reward, it’s important to teach them the art of celebrating their wins.

Perhaps fidgets or stickers from Amazon will be enough to entice them?

, ,

For information on the practice app that I love, check out this post.

Connect with Other Learners

Some of my most memorable musical experiences have come from performances with others. Music is not meant to be a solitary pursuit, so look for ways to help your kids get involved with other musical kids.

One of the major benefits of learning piano is countless opportunities to collaborate. From chamber music to choir to solo accompaniment, the possibilities are endless!

I even recently discovered how fun worship band playing could be.

Introducing your kids to the world of musical collaboration may be just the secret sauce you need to spark their learning!

Many teachers have performance requirements built into their studio policies and encourage collaboration with other kids.

And if your kids are shy about performing, a friend may be vital to helping them have positive performance experiences. It’s truly a win-win situation that will hopefully foster a lifetime of teamwork and collaboration skills applicable outside the realm of music.

Student/Teacher Fit

I’ve mentioned piano teachers here and there throughout this post, but if your kids are quite opposed to practice, it’s worth a conversation with their teacher.

There may be a mismatch between the teacher’s expectations for your kids and the expectations your kids have for themselves. Piano teachers have a reputation for being rigidly type A, and although not all teachers are that way, many are.

Personality clashes can result in and make lessons a drag for your kids. And I’m not saying lessons should be all rainbows and sunshine, but the mark of a good teacher is how your kid feels when they leave lessons for the day.

Do your kids feel inspired to reach new musical levels? Or are they guilt-ridden about not achieving some hypothetical practice requirement?

To minimize practice resistance and maximize learning goals, you must have a good fit between the teacher and the student. If your goal is to expose your kids to music and foster a love of music, it’s crucial that the teacher understands and supports these goals.

But if your kids have a more serious goal of achieving mastery of the instrument, you must find a teacher capable of guiding their journey.

Neither goal is right or wrong. And there are all kinds of teachers out there. Make sure you find one who fosters the type of learning most beneficial to your kids.

Don’t Sweat It

Although this has been a post all about the ins and outs of getting your kids to practice piano, don’t sweat it if none of the above advice works. All kids are individuals and take different things away from their learning experiences.

Will the teacher become frustrated if they have to guide your kids through something they should have practiced at home? Possibly.

But there’s no way of knowing the future impact continuing lessons will have on your kids. This is true whether or not they practice.

I’m a firm believer that even if your kids are not fond of practice, there’s value in the experience of taking lessons and learning something new. I don’t believe that kids should quit lessons because they don’t practice.

I believe that there is an opportunity to explore goals and have a conversation about the value of the experience.

And maybe your kids decide that they really hate the piano.

That’s ok too. Maybe you can use this opportunity to get them involved with a different instrument.

And maybe they will discover an instrument they are deeply passionate about, and you will never need to have the practice discussion ever again.

All this to say, never guilt yourself about your kids not putting in the practice time. There is a massive range of reasons why daily practice may be unrealistic. And it’s pointless to take a turn to negative town for things beyond your control.

Know that by enrolling your kids in lessons, you are opening them up to a world of new experiences and possibilities. And isn’t that, in and of itself, enough?

It’s Your Turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. What are the barriers you face to consistent practice? Are there ways you have found to spice up your kids’ practice time? And have you pursued piano lessons for yourself?

Whatever your feedback, I’d love to hear all about it!

More great piano inspiration is to come but, in the meantime, make sure you check out one of the following posts:

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

“At what point do you get to be called a pianist?”

I recently stumbled across this hotly debated topic in a Facebook group for adults learning to play the piano. And the feedback by fellow adult learners were more than a little shocking.

Responses ranged from anyone who can find middle C to only those who accept money for their skills. Many replies fell somewhere in the “you can only consider yourself a pianist when you can play the 3rd Rachmaninoff concerto blindfolded and handcuffed in front of a live studio audience” camp.

People argued. Tempers flared.

Responses appeared in ALL CAPS. Exclamation marks peppered the entire exchange.

Who knew that such a seemingly humdrum question would result in an outright clash of egos?

And more importantly, what does any of this have to do with you?

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, 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 photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of pixelshot, Sbringser, and Negative Space via Canva.

Why You Should Care About This Definition

A definition sets you apart. It tells those around you that you’re serious about what you do. And it dramatically increases your success rate.

How you think about yourself changes the actions you take. If you see yourself a certain way, taking the steps necessary to develop into that person becomes more effortless according to James Clear, author of the phenomenal book Atomic Habits.

As an example, let’s explore getting into shape. There are two ways you can think about getting more exercise.

The first involves focusing only on all the work to become more physically fit. You could spend your time thinking about all those early morning workouts. And all the time it will take you to get back into shape. After a while, it becomes easier and easier to sleep in rather than hit the gym.

The alternative is to think of yourself as an athlete. Does an athlete skip their workouts because they had one too many the night before? Hardly. Does an athlete avoid the gym because it’s too cold outside? Nope.

Do you see how establishing an identity rather than focusing on the action steps themselves sets you up for success? Decisions become a no-brainer.

And you quickly start seeing the results of all those decisions you’ve made add up. Pretty soon, you’re much closer to your goals than ever before.

If you’re looking for more identity-based habit change inspiration, make sure you check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Pianist vs. Piano Player

You’re reading this because you’re serious about the piano. But a tiny part of you worries that you’ll never be good enough to call yourself a pianist. You fear that because you’re not into classical and don’t play for money that you don’t have the right to label yourself a “pianist.”

I call bullsh*t.

You’re a pianist. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing. Or whether you only sit down to plunk away at show tunes.

Pianists come from all genres and levels. The one constant is how you see yourself.

And if piano brings you joy, you should be calling yourself a pianist. Not a piano player. Or someone who plays the piano.

You’re a pianist.

But if you’re still stuck on the words of those piano trolls who insist that you can only call yourself a pianist if you memorize ALL your music, it’s ok. I’ve got you.

Trolls are loud, but the loudest are usually the ones doing the least amount of work. And trolls thrive on criticizing others.

But you don’t have to be on the receiving end of that criticism. You know the truth and, thanks to this article, have five reasons to be calling yourself a pianist.

1) You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You’re Passionate

“The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it.”

Ray Charles

Do you find yourself thinking about the piano, even when you’re away from it? Does something about playing the piano feel right even when it’s hard? As if you were always meant to do it?

Does playing the piano give you a deep sense of fulfillment?

If you can answer “yes” to the above questions, you should call yourself a pianist.

Passion means losing track of time when you’re doing what you love. It means daydreaming. And it means ignoring the naysayers because there’s nothing that can replace the feeling you get from playing the piano.

2) You Love Practicing

Do you look forward to that magical time of the day when you are free to play whatever you want? Sure, you have a few goals but for the most part, do you long just to play?

If so, you should be calling yourself a pianist.

It doesn’t matter what you’re practicing. It could be scales, pop, or movie scores. Maybe you love to play songs by ear. If you can’t wait to sit down and get a piece of music under your fingers, you’re a pianist.

3) You Watch YouTube Videos About Playing Piano

A true sign of passion is your YouTube history. Does yours reflect a watch list of piano videos? Maybe it’s tutorials on classical technique. Or outstanding performances by world-class pianists.

Maybe you’re trying to understand music theory, and your watch list consists of minor chords or the circle of fifths.

If so, then you should be calling yourself a pianist.

4) You’re Getting Better Every Day

Regardless of how yesterday’s practice session went, do you constantly aspire for more? Do you start every day by thinking about how you can improve, even by 1%?

You’re a pianist!

And between the practice and all those YouTube videos, you are well on your way to massive improvements!

5) You Should Be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You Love the Piano!

“When you play, never mind who listens to you.”

Robert Schumann

Can’t stop talking about playing the piano? Maybe you’ve just written an entire blog post about one comment in a piano-related Facebook group. Or you can’t wait to apply the latest self-improvement book you’ve read to the topic of playing the piano.

If any of this applies to you, you should be calling yourself a pianist!

I hope you’ve caught on to one simple theme by this point. A theme that excludes the opinions of others.

The theme is that calling yourself a pianist is NOT about any objective measure of your skill. It’s not about your skill level compared to anyone else around you.

Calling yourself a pianist is about your love for the instrument. It’s about appreciating the music of others. Getting goosebumps when you hear that piece you love.

It’s about feeling a deeply rooted passion for the instrument. And a constant desire to take your artistry to a deeper level. It’s about never giving up, even when it seems like you’ll never master that new technique.

Forget about all those nasty internet piano trolls. Isn’t it about time for you to write your own story?

It’s Your Turn to Start Calling Yourself a Pianist

Pianists exist in all genres.

If piano brings you joy, start calling yourself a pianist.

Can’t wait to get home so you can try out that new practice technique you saw on YouTube? Start calling yourself a pianist.

And if you can’t imagine your life without the instrument, start calling yourself a pianist!

Do you love playing pop tunes? You’re a pianist. Maybe jazz is your jam. You’re a pianist. Or perhaps you love playing worship music at church. It’s time to start calling yourself a pianist. Or organist (as applicable).

Stop letting others dictate how you see yourself. Let’s you and I make a pact. We are no longer falling into the comparison trap from here on out. We’re not giving in to the myth that we need permission from anyone else. And we’re not letting those piano trolls win!

Being a pianist is something that comes from within. It’s not a label anyone else can give you. And if you’re looking for more piano inspiration, make sure you check out the following posts:

As always, don’t forget to leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post. 🙂

Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Do you ever feel stuck in your piano playing? You feel as if you put in the practice time but just aren’t making the progress you’d like.

Or maybe you do feel like you’re making huge strides in your playing but want to take things to the next level.

As a lifelong pianist, I’m always looking for that slight edge to take my skills to the next level. And I’m ecstatic to present you with a few easy brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. All images on this page courtesy of Canva.

Background on Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

I’ve written a bit about my academic background in other posts but will mention it again for readers new to the blog. My first degree was in music, but I have since obtained a doctorate in nursing practice.

This means that I LOVE to research and pass along credible information to my readers, especially as it pertains to the science of playing the piano. In other words, I am constantly looking for the crossroads between art and science.

And because there’s an absurd amount of inaccurate information out there, my goal is always to cut through the crap to present you with only the truly useful stuff.

The Book

With all that being said, I recently stumbled across a fantastic book written by a development molecular biologist named John Medina. His mission in writing the book is to bring forth simplified research findings of how the brain works to the general public.

The book is called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. And although the book is not written specifically for pianists, I feel it is both relevant and crucial information to anyone interested in upgrading their piano skills.

The Research

For me, one of the very first things that struck a chord about the book is Medina’s equal attention to quality. All research he presents must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal. This means that it must pass an extremely rigorous process to make sure the information is scientifically accurate.

Medina then requires the research to be repeated, meaning it wasn’t simply some type of fluke. He then takes it further by boiling the research down to information that anyone can understand.

As someone who has read countless peer-reviewed articles, believe me when I say that researchers don’t write for clarity! Deciphering this type of writing is an art in itself. And so, I appreciate Medina’s mission to present high-level research to anyone in plain English with a side of humor.

The Brain

This sounds crazy, but despite massive research advances over the past century or so, we still understand little about the brain’s inner workings.

To put it into perspective, Medina makes this comment, “In truth, if we ever fully understood how the human brain knew how to pick up a glass of water, it would represent a major achievement.”

Take a minute to process that statement. We still don’t even understand the fundamental task of how the brain takes us from thirst to drinking. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

And if we don’t understand something as simple as picking up a glass, we are lightyears from a solid understanding of something as complex as playing the piano.

Although I don’t promise a complete understanding of the complex interplay between cognition, memory, muscle, and emotion that occurs when playing piano, my goal is to present a few of my aha moments from the book.

And as the title suggests, my goal is to present brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing. But keep in mind that Medina’s brain rules apply to life in general.

So take this gift of knowledge and apply it liberally, both at and away from the keyboard. And if you’re thirsting for more, make sure you pick up the book for yourself. I promise that it’s both exciting and informative, and you will come away with tips to improve your life and relationships.

And so, without further ado, let’s dig into brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

Images via Canva

Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Exercise is Key

I promise to come back around to the piano in a minute but first, let me take you on a detour with my alter ego in the healthcare field. My career in healthcare started in the nursing home. And to this day, my practice continues to be based in this setting.

What this means for you is that I have extensive experience working with a population heavily impacted by cognitive decline. So much so that up until a few years ago, I never realized the significant bias I had developed by my work in the nursing home.

You may be asking yourself what cognitive decline has to do with playing the piano. My response to you would be that it has everything to do with it. Playing the piano begins and ends with cognition.

And by understanding the factors that impact healthy cognition, you can understand how to become a better pianist.

My Anecdotal Evidence

Until a few years ago, my only frame of reference for people older than 80 had been exceptionally frail people who seemed to show a steady pattern of physical and mental decline.

And so, imagine my surprise when I began my outpatient clinical rotation and was suddenly introduced to a whole new world of older patients. These were patients well into their 80s and 90s who continued to lead full and vibrant lives. They were driving, working, and even functioning as (gasp!) organists for large congregations.

I distinctly remember almost falling off my chair when one particularly delightful 90 something-year-old told me that he continued to mow his own 1+ acre lawn. With a push mower.

Mind. Blown.

This was the moment when my curiosity around the distinctly different outcomes in aging was first sparked. It left me questioning whether there are distinct actions people can either take or avoid to preserve cognition over time.

And although countless factors ultimately contribute to cognitive function over time, something deep inside whispered that this 90-something push mowing his lawn was on to something.

The Research

It turns out that my hunch was correct. According to Medina, “A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.”

And he goes on to describe research-proven time and again that points to an improvement in areas including long-term memory, attention, problem-solving, and even fluid intelligence in people who consistently exercise.

If you’re thinking those skills are suspiciously similar to those needed for playing piano, then you too are on to something!

You may be asking yourself what this means if you haven’t exercised regularly up to this point in your life. Hang on because I’ve got some great news for you!

As a whole, research supports the idea that even if you haven’t been a regular exerciser in your life, it’s never too late to start. And bumps in cognition come with even relatively mild exercise regimens.

Exercise has proven to preserve cognition over time, and there is also research to support its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression.

I’m not sure about you, but this might be one of my favorite brain hacks to improve your piano playing!

Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Make it Exciting!

Would it surprise you to learn that our brain ignores boring things? And yet, how much attention do we give to making our learning experiences, including piano practice, interesting?

Zero.

Up until recently, I’ve had a very dull approach to practice. My practice sessions start with a scale warm-up or two, move on to some technical practice, and finish with one or two repertoire pieces.

Repetition has historically been at the core of what I do in the practice room. And I suspect many (if not most!) pianists have been conditioned to take the same humdrum approach to their practice.

It does leave you wondering whether all this boring practice does anything to advance your skills.

The Research

The short answer is no. According to Medina, “The more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained.” In other words, “Better attention always equals better learning.”

Not only does improved attention translate to better retention, but our attention spans have a very short expiration date. As a general rule of thumb, sustained attention is only maintained for about 10 minutes before our mind starts wandering.

Given that my practice sessions typically last around 30 minutes, how much am I actually retaining? Most importantly, how can I improve retention to make the most of my practice time?

Improve Retention With Short Practice Segments

My first thought comes straight from Medina’s lecture model as described in the book. Given our short attention span, chunk material into 10-minute sections.

Spend the first minute on a broad concept and the next nine looping in details related to the larger one. Once the 10 minutes are up, start with another broad concept.

For example, spend 10 minutes on a very specific task, such as improving rhythm in section A rather than attempting to improve all aspects of an entire piece over that same time frame. And once the 10 minutes are up, move on to the next clear-cut practice task.

Incorporate Emotion Into Practice

Any time you can incorporate emotion into learning, retention will be enhanced. To demonstrate this phenomenon, think back to a song that holds special meaning for you.

I’m willing to bet that every time you hear that song, you’re flooded with a very specific emotion. Whether it’s your wedding song or a break-up anthem, you probably go right back to a distinct time in your life whenever you hear it.

My suggestion for you is to attach emotion to your playing. Hone in on a unique feeling with every section. And get creative with this. Don’t limit yourself to happy, sad, or mad.

Try incorporating euphoria, despair, and angst into your playing. Maybe spend time differentiating between just how different you can make “boredom” and “apathy” sound.

Find the Meaning

Our brains love patterns. And any time you can make a connection between new and previously learned information, retention becomes both more accessible and potent.

My previous post lists a couple of resources for creating meaning in playing the piano. One involves creating a visual map of a piece, and the other consists of brushing up on music theory. Both are fantastic ways to transform tiny figures on a page into a compelling musical performance.

Check out the post here.

Other Thoughts on Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing

It’s difficult to articulate all the valuable information contained within this one book. But if there’s one thing to take away, it would be that our brains are designed to solve problems by exploring.

In the (admittedly somewhat morbid) words of my favorite Downton character, Violet Crawley, “All life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and then the next until at last, we die.”

Our brains have been helping us navigate complex problems for centuries. We learn by doing. And by exploring.

So I would encourage you to keep trying. Keep searching for ways to improve. Look for unconventional ways to improve your piano practice. Experiment. Play what you love. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to be creative.

If you’re a classical pianist, try jazz. Or improvisation. You could even try your hand at composition.

And get some sleep! Medina has an entire chapter devoted to the massive impact sleep has on learning.

Most importantly, you can conveniently get your copy of Brain Rules by clicking the picture below.

It’s Your Turn

I hope you have found a few brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing after reading this post! If you’re looking for more inspiration and piano playing resources, make sure to check out my previous posts:

And that’s it for this week. As always, I wish you all the best in the practice room and beyond!

Image via Canva

SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

Do you long to advance your knowledge of music theory without breaking the bank? Maybe you’d love to get better at jazz, improv, or compose your own piece someday.

Or perhaps you’ve struggled with memorization. You’ve tried over and over again, but somehow you can never quite seem to master a piece entirely from memory.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ve periodically struggled with both throughout your musical journey.

Today I’m ecstatic to introduce you to an online learning platform that has classes guaranteed to advance your piano skills!

The platform is called SkillShare, and it offers diverse classes ranging from cooking to photography to productivity. I recently learned of the platform in a podcast, and the concept immediately struck a chord.

Although I had heard that there are a huge variety of niches on the platform, I was especially eager to explore SkillShare for pianists!

And after checking it out, I was so impressed with the quality of the instruction and the range of videos that I immediately applied to become an affiliate.

I knew that I had to share this gift with others interested in self-improvement, whether specifically at the keyboard or in life. Enjoy the post but don’t stop there. I invite you to take the next step toward reaching your goals by clicking the link below.

Now let’s get to SkillShare for pianists!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

SkillShare for Pianists: The Secrets of How to Memorize Music

Does watching videos of people playing piano completely from memory make you feel jealous? Have you always wanted to play the piano from memory but can never quite pull it off?

If you’ve always fantasized about learning how to memorize but continue to struggle, then this class is for you!

Taught by Jeeyoon Kim, The Secrets of How to Memorize Music goes behind the scenes of memorization. Kim, a classical pianist and teacher, covers various topics designed to help you master memorization. She gives insight into the tips and tricks that will take you from beginner to confident memorizer throughout the class.

This course is of particular interest to me because I have a love/hate relationship with memorizing music. Throughout my college years, I struggled with memorization. And as a piano major, I was expected to perform without music in front of me. Shaky memorization led to even more unstable performances and, ultimately, significant anxiety at the mere thought of performing.

Flash forward to my post-college years when I desperately wanted to retain my identity as a pianist. I re-dedicated myself to the art of piano playing. But along with a commitment to the craft came memorization.

I believe that there are aspects of musicianship that no one can ever fully master in a lifetime. And some skills are always more accessible than others. But for me, memorizing has become more attainable thanks to this class. Read on for the specific transformations I believe are possible for you, too, thanks to this class.

Develop Memorization as a Skill

Watching a truly great pianist perform from memory feels magical. Their command, stage presence, and skill feel amplified by their ability to play challenging repertoire entirely from memory. It can leave you wondering whether you have the talent to memorize music.

You can stop all that wondering and second-guessing because I’m here to tell you that you absolutely CAN memorize music!

The truth is that memorization is a skill. Similar to learning scales, dynamics, or key signatures, it’s a skill that requires practice. And as such, there are ways to make memorization easier.

Throughout the class, Kim gives you the memory hacks no one else talks about. Her inspirational message is that regardless of your skill level, you can successfully memorize music. It all starts with a solid understanding of how memory works and a great example of SkillShare for pianists!

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Memory

Your journey into memorization starts with the different types of memory, and Kim specifically mentions sensory, short, and long-term memory.ng-term memory. The memorization process always begins with short-term memory, and short-term is the most fleeting type of memory and therefore not particularly reliable for any length of time.

Your goal is to transition memories from short to long-term storage where they are more secure. This is the type of memory from which musicians playing from memory are drawing from.

And once a piece is thoroughly explored and secure in your long-term “bank,” you can play from a place of freedom.

While we’re on the topic of memory, I will mention a fantastic book written by Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist. The book is called Brain Rules, and it outlines 12 foundational principles for how our brains work.

In his chapter on memory, Medina echoes tenets outlined by Kim in her class. More specifically, each touts the importance of short practice sessions and constantly working on memory retrieval.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply remember. You must also practice bringing forth that memory. I won’t give away Kim’s secrets but believe me when I say that Kim does an incredible job of illuminating how to work with, instead of against, your brain. SkillShare for pianists doesn’t get much better than this!

Image via Canva

Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Music

I’m not sure about you, but my previous efforts at memorization focused solely on playing something over and over and over again. Although I’m not going to argue that repetition is important, there are ways to make it enjoyable and effective.

And one of the best ways to do this is through pattern recognition. Your brain loves patterns!

Make it Meaningful

And according to Medina, the more meaningful you can make the information, the easier it is to remember. This recommendation is also echoed by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in their book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Ericsson spent his entire career studying people at the top of their fields, and his most exciting work involved studying people who could hear a long string of unrelated numbers and repeat them back.

Ericsson found that people who are the best at reciting back unbelievably long number chains do so by attaching some type of extra meaning to those numbers. In other words, they did not simply memorize by rote. They came up with an alternate way to remember sections and then wove them back together again.

Make it Creative

And in her class on memorization, Kim recommends attaching meaning by creating a visual map. She guides you through looking at a piece and creating a short-hand visual representation of the piece. By engaging your creativity around the piece in this way, your memory becomes robust and resilient. It allows you to recall specifics that may otherwise fall by the wayside when trying to memorize solely from rote.

Even beyond learning the mechanics of memorization, Kim proves to be an encouraging and engaging teacher. She continually emphasizes the point that memorization is difficult for everyone. But at the end of the day, memorization is crucial to a higher level of creativity and freedom than could ever be achieved otherwise.

And speaking of higher levels of creativity and freedom, let’s move on to music theory!

SkillShare for Pianists: Music Theory Comprehensive

Ok, ok. Music theory may not immediately come to mind when I say “creativity” and “freedom,” but stick with me for a minute.

Music, like most things in life, comes with its own set of rules. Rules to organize melody, harmony, and rhythm. These rules provide guidelines for how music works, and they give you a deeper understanding of how music is constructed.

And with understanding comes meaning. The type of meaning that makes memorization easier because there are fewer options from which to choose once you understand the rules. Fewer options mean stronger memory retention and recall. And stronger memory recall means creativity and freedom.

See how it all works together?

Whether your music theory knowledge comes from your hometown piano teacher, college courses years ago, or somewhere in between, be assured that you can conjure it forth once again.

Even if you’ve never gone in-depth with theory before, it’s never too late to start. And Jason Allen’s course is hands down the one with which to begin! It’s yet another outstanding SkillShare for pianists option.

The Class

Although there are many ways to learn music theory, learning from a reputable instructor is arguably the best. And Allen has the reputation to back up his instruction.

With a Ph.D. in music composition, Allen has not only composed for the Minnesota Orchestra but was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Grammy Foundation’s Music Editor of the Year. He’s been teaching music theory at the college level for years and truly knows his stuff.

The course itself is, therefore, his entire music theory curriculum presented in 17 separate parts. The first part covers the absolute basics of reading music, such as note names, clefs, and dynamics. Later classes cover harmonization, composition, and every music student’s favorite topic … modulation. It’s difficult to come up with a topic a pianist would need to know that’s not covered somewhere in this course.

When Allen says comprehensive, he truly means it!

Benefits of Learning Music Theory

I’m going to throw a bit of honesty your way right now. Despite studying music theory in college for 2 years, I’m embarrassed to admit that relatively little has stuck with me.

And although it’s true that as a nurse practitioner, I don’t often have to harmonize melodies or compose SATB pieces, I love music and want to expand my horizons. For quite some time now, I’ve had this nagging feeling that memorization would be simpler if I had a more solid grasp on the subject.

After reading Brain Rules and completing Kim’s class, my suspicions are confirmed. A better understanding of music theory will help me form more secure patterns and enhance my recall, thus streamlining memorization.

And according to Ian over at Thrive Piano, learning theory strengthens sight reading skills, accuracy, and improvisation. I don’t think anyone can argue with those benefits!

Why You Need This Class

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I strongly believe in mastering music theory as a way to boost your piano skills. And this class is the perfect answer to your question of how to learn music theory because it’s divided into sections. You have the freedom to pick and choose which sections would most benefit you and skip the rest.

Allen has even created a variety of projects throughout the course to strengthen your theory skills.

And his interactive style makes the class engaging, so you’ll never worry about your mind wandering off halfway through a video. Videos are typically concise, so you don’t even need a huge daily commitment to start making progress.

And lastly, I’m a huge believer in self-directed courses. Especially when they’re taught by experts in the field and accessible at a reasonable price. It’s truly a win-win!

Why You Need SkillShare for Pianists

Now it’s your turn to dish. What skill have you been longing to improve? Maybe you’d love to learn jazz piano. Or perhaps you’ve been looking for advice on upping your freelance game. Maybe you’re struggling with productivity and time management.

Regardless of what’s lacking in your life at this moment, SkillShare has a potential solution for you!

SkillShare has an incredible range of courses taught by highly qualified instructors, and more are added every day. The site offers the opportunity to advance your knowledge in everything from cooking to photography to drawing. Even if you’ve completely mastered music memorization and theory (no small feat!), there’s something for you.

Whether you’re looking for SkillShare for pianists or something a little different, give it a try! Click the link below to get started.

And if you were intrigued by the books above, check them out on Amazon:

,

If you’re looking for more piano inspiration and resources, check out any of the following posts:

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or your piano journey in general. Have you been struggling with something that you just can’t seem to overcome? And what have been your recent triumphs? Drop a comment below with your thoughts!

Image via Canva

An Authentic Review of the Modacity App

An Authentic Review of the Modacity App

Are you a musician who loves to play but struggles with practicing? Maybe you understand the basic concepts of effective practice but staying organized is challenging. It’s hard to focus on the music itself between the tuner, metronome, and your practice journal.

Or perhaps you love practicing but always seem to lose track of time or can’t stay focused. In other words, it’s challenging to identify your practice goals.

Maybe the entire concept of practice mystifies you a bit. I will be the first to raise my hand to that one!

Although I began playing piano at the age of 7 and continued through college, I struggled with practice. My sessions were inconsistent and sporadic. Despite having weekly lessons, I was always unsure how to effectively apply information from my lessons to the practice room.

Unfortunately, I was also too embarrassed to ask tough questions. The type of questions that would have transformed my concept of practice and elevated my playing.

Having a poor grasp on practice ultimately contributed to performance anxiety, frustration, and low self-confidence.

After college, I started getting serious about practice. I began searching for ways to practice more consistently and effectively. And my search eventually led to the Modacity app.

Read on for both my experience with and my review of the Modacity app.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of both Amazon and Modacity, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information. All images courtesy of Canva.

What is Modacity?

Modacity is an app designed to promote thoughtful practice over meaningless repetition.

You start by entering the names of pieces you’re working on into the app. The pieces can then be arranged into playlists. I’ve seen people organize playlists by upcoming audition, recital, or even according to the day of the week.

The act of creating a playlist fosters intention by allowing you to plan out your practice session in advance. You can set specific goals for each piece. And if you’re unsure of how to improve a piece, it gives you a wide range of suggestions to try.

The app also enables you to set a timer for each piece, so you know exactly when to move on.

Modacity allows you to save practice notes with each piece. It also provides convenient access to a metronome and tuner. The app then saves the settings under each piece so you can always pick up exactly where you left off.

The app also comes fully equipped with a recording feature that permanently saves recordings to the app.

One of my favorite features of the app is the practice counter. It adds up the number of consecutive practice days and total minutes spent practicing. It’s a highly motivating feature for those out there who find motivation in statistics.

Although there are ways to piece together the various elements of effective practice, there are no other apps out there quite like this one!

And to prove the point, let’s dive into principles of genuinely effective practice.

What are the principles of effective practice?

I’m fascinated with the topic of effective practice! And I’m passionate about unlocking the secrets of the most effective and efficient practice. How do musicians (or anyone else) improve at their craft and rise above the rest?

This question led me to a book called Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise written by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. Ericsson spent his life pursuing that very question and documented his findings in the book.

And after researching the world’s best athletes, musicians, and memorizers, he had several striking revelations. One is the importance of deliberate practice.

In other words, simple repetition is not enough. When trying to improve at anything, you must have a deliberate plan for improvement. And ideally, the plan includes immediate feedback of attempts. At the bare minimum, deliberate practice consists of a shot at something, analysis of whether you hit the mark, and a plan to modify as needed.

The second striking revelation resulting from Ericsson’s research is that practice is anything but fun most of the time. Truly effective, meaningful practice is tedious and not inherently motivating.

And thirdly, excellence requires you to leave your comfort zone. You can’t expect to get different results from doing the same things you’ve always done.

How does Modacity support effective practice?

Although the topic of effective practice is enormous, let’s consider how Modacity fits into the above three principles.

Review of the Modacity app: Deliberate Practice

Effective practice requires a plan. It requires intention and a deliberate approach to improvement.

Through the creation of playlists, Modacity encourages you to make a practice plan. And it helps you move efficiently through the plan with the timer function.

The app also helps with feedback by encouraging you to record yourself. In other words, Modacity provides you with a framework for deliberate practice.

Review of the Modacity app: Practice is Tedious

Practice will never be exciting 100% of the time. Repetition can be monotonous. But Modacity encourages you to put thought into each repetition. It does this by providing you with ideas for positive change. The app then prompts you to consider whether you achieved your goal.

Modacity helps you avoid mindless repetition and keep things as efficient as possible by providing a framework for analysis.

And the practice counter gives you extra incentive to put in the practice time.

Review of the Modacity app: Leave Your Comfort Zone

If you’re stuck in a practice rut, Modacity helps you break free. It does this by combining a range of tools and concepts into one helpful app.

Similar to a new recipe for an old favorite, Modacity calls for a unique combination of flavors. It includes all the old ingredients but adds that little touch of something extra to spice things up.

The app invites you to consider practice from a new perspective. It proposes a thoughtful, deliberate approach to improvement over the black hole of mindless repetition that leads nowhere.

Are there drawbacks to using Modacity?

This review of the Modacity app wouldn’t be authentic without the addition of a few drawbacks. And the biggest one for me is the inability to export your recordings out of the app. Once you record something within the app, it’s stuck there.

I get around this by simultaneously recording practice sessions, complete with video, on my computer. Using both recording modalities offers the benefit of alternate feedback. The app is typically easier to use for immediate feedback on small chunks of music, such as one or two measures.

On the other hand, going back through and watching my entire practice session enables me to take a larger view of my sessions. It helps me determine whether I’m using time efficiently or whether my posture is relaxed.

Although slightly annoying, the inability to transfer recordings off the app isn’t a dealbreaker for me.

Another drawback I’ve heard about the app is the poor recording quality. My response to that is sound quality is only as good as the device on which you’re recording. If you’re looking for high quality, I suggest buying a microphone to sync with your computer rather than relying on Modacity. By doing so, you have the bonus of capturing both audio and video.

Again, in terms of forming the habit of listening back to yourself while practicing, this app can’t be beaten.

Click here for the affordable and effortless microphone I use.

Who should try the app?

I believe there is a wide range of musicians who would benefit from using Modacity. From beginning musicians learning how to practice effectively to adults struggling to grasp the concept of practice, there is value in this app.

Whether you are a high schooler preparing for a jazz band concert or an adult amateur serious about upping your piano game, this app is for you!

Is the app for a specific instrument?

Modacity is an app that can be used with a wide assortment of instruments. As mentioned above, it comes with a variety of built-in tools useful for an array of instrumentalists. The tool I use most frequently is the metronome which also can subdivide beats.

As a pianist, I don’t use the drone function, but I can see how it would be helpful for instruments that require tuning.

Beyond the tools are the features that promote effective practice and are beneficial to anyone.

Is there a cost to using the app?

One could categorize this next one as another drawback in this review of Modacity because there is an associated cost to using the app. On the other hand, I’ve had terrible experiences with free apps, so having an associated cost often means a higher value product.

Modacity recently changed their payment systems and you can now choose between a monthly or an annual membership. The monthly cost is a very reasonable $8.99 while the yearly cost is normally $107.

But thanks to my partnership with the app, you can save $42 on a yearly membership and pay only $65 by clicking here. It’s a pretty sweet deal for such a transformative practice tool!

Is there access to an expert if I get stuck during my practice session?

Although the app itself cannot tell you whether you played something correctly, it does have access to expert musicians. I have yet to submit a question, but according to their website, you can ask general questions and expect feedback from someone knowledgeable in that area.

Are there similar music practice apps out there?

The short answer is that, yes, other music practice apps exist. Unfortunately, I had been searching long and hard for an app to promote better practice habits when I stumbled across Modacity.

That was over two years ago, and I still use the app daily. From the instant I downloaded Modacity, I recognized its value and never bothered to check out any other apps.

I was so impressed with the positive changes I saw in my practice sessions that several months ago, I became an affiliate partner with Modacity because I wanted to share the app with the world.

Although you could say I’m a bit biased, believe me when I tell you that I’ve never been more motivated to practice. And that includes my college years when I had access to the best practice and performance instruments out there. Not to mention a mountain of free time and very little daily responsibility.

It’s a huge accomplishment to be at a place where you prefer practice to Netflix and are seeing almost unbelievable results from your efforts. All thanks to a shift in practice mindset triggered by an app.

In summary, I hope you found this review of the Modacity app useful. If there are additional questions, please leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to update this post accordingly.

I will leave you with a few additional resources to further your musical journey!

  1. Interested in learning to play piano as an adult? Check out this post.
  2. Curious about whether there are benefits to learning piano? Browse this post.
  3. Ready to leap into piano lessons? Read this post.
  4. Inspired to transform your habits? You’ll love this post.
  5. And don’t forget to take advantage of this exclusive offer from Modacity!

The #1 Piano Practice App to Skyrocket Your Success!

The #1 Piano Practice App to Skyrocket Your Success!

Are you looking for ways to improve your piano practice sessions but aren’t sure how? Do you want to make the most of your time in front of the keyboard? Does the whole concept of practice secretly mystify you a bit, but you don’t want to admit it to anyone?

I completely understand because I’ve been there before too. Despite having studied piano since the age of 7 and obtaining a baccalaureate degree in music, practice baffled me.

And maybe it’s the analytical side of my brain trying to control the creative side. After all, I have a doctorate in nursing (emphasis on science) and a passion for playing piano and writing (focus on creativity). My life, therefore, often feels like a constant battle between the scientific and the innovative.

Still, I consistently had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t practicing the “right” way. This feeling stemmed from the fact that my performances were hit or miss. There were times when I performed brilliantly but others when I questioned whether I was sight-reading in front of an audience rather than performing a piece I had practiced a billion times before.

The seeming unpredictability of my playing inspired a deep dive into the art of practice. And although the concept of effective and intuitive piano practice is a puzzle I’m still piecing together, I’ve discovered a mind-blowing piano practice app that changed everything for me.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of both Amazon and Modacity, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information. All images courtesy of Canva.

The #1 Piano Practice App

My desire for a better way led me on an exhaustive search for reputable resources on effective practice techniques. Eventually, I discovered podcasts. More specifically, I stumbled upon an interview with Marc Gelfo.

Although I don’t remember the specific podcast, I do remember Marc, a French horn player, discussing his passion for the art of practicing. He also talked openly about his challenges with practice. These challenges led Marc on a journey of discovery. And eventually, the development of an app to help other musicians improve their practice techniques.

The app is called ‘Modacity,‘ and after hearing how it came about, I was intrigued. I was so fascinated by Modacity that I decided to try it for myself.

It’s been over two years, and I continue to use the app on an almost daily basis. And thanks to Modacity, I’ve overcome several key practice challenges which previously held me back. Such challenges include what to do when motivation fails and establishing better practice habits, active listening during practice sessions, and being more intentional when practicing.

Read on for all the juicy details and an exclusive offer from Modacity, hands down the best piano practice app out there!

Motivation

If there’s anything that being a working mom of 3 has taught me, it’s that sometimes putting the “I should” in front of “I want” is all too easy. I’m not saying this is entirely a negative quality. After all, our kids need our love, attention, and their physical needs to grow and thrive.

But there comes a point at which self-sacrifice becomes a narrative that carries you off into a sea of obligation and resentment.

And becoming a mom did not diminish my passion for the piano or the desire to improve my pianistic skills. Yet shuffling aside my desire for quiet practice time was starting to become all too routine.

Although I love practice time, my tendency to prioritize it behind other activities (including Netflix bingeing) proves passion isn’t enough. And neither is motivation because it fails to inspire regular practice sessions.

I needed something else entirely to up my practice game. Something that would help me overcome my tendency to put everything else first.

My desire to establish a more regular practice routine eventually led me to a deep dive into habits. And I ultimately discovered four essential books which answered my questions about why motivation isn’t the key to consistency. And, most importantly, how to achieve consistency in whatever it is you’re trying to do.

From Motivation to Habits

The four highly thought-provoking books that revamped my thoughts on motivation include Indistractable by Nir Eyal, Do Less by Kate Northrup, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

, , ,

Although each author addresses habits from a slightly different angle, my main takeaway was how individualized habit formation could be. And for me, tracking is critical.

Tracking wasn’t an entirely new concept to me. An avid runner, I’ve consistently tracked both my time and distance, finding satisfaction in making comparisons between days, weeks, months, and even years.

Being able to input my time and distance to increase my overall mileage encourages me to get out of bed in the morning. It makes those early morning workouts entirely worth it!

And so, when I discovered that Modacity tracks statistics, including the number of consecutive days and hours, as well as the number of improvements made thus far, I was ecstatic! Tracking offers the perfect incentive to sit down at the keyboard even when my kitchen is a disaster or I have five baskets of laundry to fold.

The small endorphin rush I get from ticking those stats upward is enough to overcome the excuses I constantly conjure up about why I shouldn’t practice. Even if I only have 5 minutes to practice, it feels worth adding to my total practice tally.

If you also struggle with motivation, I highly recommend checking out the tracking feature on this app!

Plan Your Practice

How many times have you sat down to practice with zero plan for how you will spend your time? You then find yourself aimlessly playing repertoire you’ve already mastered or sight-reading whatever random music is near your piano.

Or maybe you don’t have the opportunity to practice until late in the day when you’ve already made 15,362 decisions, and your brain is tired of critical thinking. And by this point, you can’t bring yourself to organize a productive piano practice session thoughtfully.

Both scenarios have the potential to send you to frustration and burnout over a lack of progress. This is especially true if you are at a stage in life when you’re working without a teacher.

Although I am a strong advocate for working one-on-one with a teacher, there are simply times when it’s not feasible. Life gets busy! Between work, family life, and all the other demands of daily living, finding time to focus on improving at the keyboard is challenging.

But having a limit on your time is the exact reason that practice needs to have focus. But having a limit on your time is the exact reason that practice needs to have focus—the type of focus that guarantees improvement and piano success.

Fortunately, Modacity has a solution.

If you’re looking for a piano teacher, check out this list of teachers currently accepting students.

Organize Your Repertoire with a Piano Practice App

This piano practice app can save the titles of each piece you’re currently practicing. Each piece also has its own screen, complete with a readily accessible metronome.

I love this feature because I never have to remember the speed I practiced during my previous session.

You can also organize playlists for yourself which contain everything you need to work on at any given time. I will often set up a practice playlist for myself in the morning when my brain is fresh, and I’m at my best. Modacity also allows you to set timers on each piece within your playlist.

Setting timers is a great feature because I sometimes tend to dwell too long on one area and then run out of time for anything else. The act of setting a timer forces a limit and promotes efficiency. And as a recovering perfectionist, it also encourages me to be “good enough” rather than “perfect” before moving on.

I love organizing playlists and setting time limits on each piece before my practice session because it ensures more effective practice at the moment. It’s a feature that has helped me approach practice from a completely new and holistic perspective.

If you are struggling to make intentional progress or feel that practice is more of an afterthought right now, change it up! Try Modacity today!

Listen and Improve

This next feature may seem fairly obvious, but I was thrilled about its inclusion! As a pianist, one of your main goals is to transform black and white notes on a page into an auditory experience that is technically accurate and emotionally moving.

And as a fellow pianist, I’m confident you will agree when I say this goal is often much easier said than done!

But even as difficult as pulling off a Rachmaninoff concerto can be, a compelling performance is our goal. With that said, how often do you take the time to determine whether you’re meeting this goal?

Even if you regularly take lessons from an outstanding teacher, it’s essential to develop the ability to listen to yourself critically. After all, you are the one who listens to you the most. And wouldn’t it be incredible to provide feedback to yourself between lessons?

Looking for another unique way to up your piano game? Check out this post!

Self-Analysis Made Simple with a Piano Practice App

Luckily, Modacity tracks more than simple practice stats. This piano practice app also has a convenient recording feature that allows you to hit record at any time during your practice session.

You may be asking yourself whether the extra effort of hitting the record button and listening to the playback is worth it. Doesn’t listening while playing serve the same purpose?

The answer to that question is a resounding no.

And Gerald Klickstein, author of The Musician’s Way, has the best explanation I’ve heard yet about why simultaneous playing and self-analysis of the playing are impossible. His answer has to do with music existing in time rather than space. In other words, once you play something, it’s gone forever. After you’ve finished playing, only your memory of what you played exists.

Memory is often incredibly fickle, influenced by both emotion and the perception of your performance. Furthermore, the areas of the brain used to make and analyze music are different.

As an example, and according to the University of Central Florida, the cerebellum is the area of the brain used to coordinate movement, while Wernicke’s area assists in musical analysis. And although it’s possible to use multiple regions of your brain simultaneously, it’s challenging to focus on more than one thing at a time.

It’s almost like adding 368 and 863 in your head while spelling Claude Debussy aloud. It simply doesn’t work.

Recording: The Easiest Solution

Despite the tendency to convince ourselves otherwise, the example above proves multitasking is a myth. Therefore, the simplest way to determine whether you’re meeting your practice goals is to record yourself. And then play it back to decide whether you’re hitting the mark.

Luckily, Modacity makes recording a breeze! During every practice session, you have the ever-present option to hit “record.” After doing so, listen back and determine whether you met your mark. If so, saving the recording is as easy as hitting a button and naming the file. If the recording didn’t meet your standard, you could just as effortlessly delete and record again.

And you have the option of recording as few as one note or as many as an entire sonata. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever the length of your recording, taking the time to listen AND make improvements are both crucial elements in your development as a pianist.

Be Intentional

Although recording in and of itself is of incredible value, Modacity even takes it a step further. This piano practice app allows you to select a specific area to make improvements. And by doing so, it forces you to focus on the ONE thing you most want to improve upon at this moment.

The app first gives you the option of selecting a pre-filled area such as rhythm, tone, enjoyment, or filling one in yourself. You then have the opportunity to give it a try while recording. The app automatically plays it back and then asks whether whatever you tried worked. If the targeted practice improved your playing, you can either try it again or move on to a different area.

And if the targeted practice did not improve your playing, you can either try again or move to a different tactic.

Methodical Practice by Using a Piano Practice App

This particular feature has been one of the most valuable to me in creating more intention around practice. Before the app, I did SO MUCH mindless repetition. Deep inside, I knew that repetition does not result in improvement. But I had never found a better way. I had never forced myself to be intentional with my practice time.

My practice had always felt somewhat haphazard. As if there wasn’t enough time in the day to practice everything I wanted to practice. I also felt as if I had no idea how to make progress in my playing in the first place.

Therefore, the combination of overwhelm and uncertainty resulted in a tendency toward mindlessly repeating my pieces instead of approaching practice with a sense of mindful intention.

But Modacity taught me the importance of systematic practice. It helped me understand how focusing on ONE thing at a time creates faster progress than trying to make a bunch of changes all at once. And it gave me ideas about where to focus during practice.

Modacity has been the blueprint for the positive changes I’ve longed to build into my piano practice sessions.

It’s Your Turn

Modacity has been a staple in my practice life for over two years now, and I owe my piano progress over that time to this miraculous app.

I believe so strongly in the transformative power of Modacity that I sought out an affiliate partnership and am ecstatic to be able to offer an incredible discount to you! By clicking this link, you will have exclusive access to a discount on the yearly Modacity membership. Instead of paying $107 for an annual membership, you will pay only $65!

If you’ve also been struggling with various aspects of piano practice, it’s time to embrace a change. It’s time to consider a piano practice app that intuitively fosters better habits. And better practice habits mean faster progress, more satisfaction from your playing, and an even deeper love for the instrument.

Don’t wait! Take advantage of this incredible offer and start transforming your piano practice today!

And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post! Make sure you drop a comment below about how this piano practice app revolutionizes your playing!

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

Elton John

Music is a gift, as is the ability to create music yourself. And maybe your goal is to deliver a flawless performance to a packed audience. Or perhaps you’re happiest in your living room, content to play only for yourself.

Whatever your piano goals, practice is the difference between achieving success and remaining stagnant. And unfortunately, practice tends to be one of those activities which gets a bad rap.

This is especially true for anyone who has taken piano lessons from a young age. Many parents and piano teachers mistakenly believe forcing kids to practice is the secret to musical success.

Unfortunately, forcing kids to practice often ends in fighting and resentment. Even worse, kids begin to associate the piano with negativity and eventually give it up entirely.

And even if you didn’t take lessons as a child, you may be somewhat mystified when it comes to practice. What is the best way to practice? Does it only mean countless repetitions? Are there secrets to making piano practice more effective and exciting?

These are the exact questions I found myself asking. My piano journey started at the age of 7 and led me toward a baccalaureate degree in music. To this day, I continue to be fascinated by the topic of piano practice.

And I’m constantly searching for the best piano practice techniques. If you’re also looking for ways to upgrade your piano practice, read on!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Preparation

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin

Mindful, inspiring piano practice starts with preparation away from the piano.

Select the Ideal Time

Start by deciding when you will practice. Try to pick a time when you’re at your best, physically and emotionally. As a busy working mom, I realize this is NOT always possible. Just try your best. Then commit to this time by blocking it off in your planner.

It’s also ideal if you select a time with few distractions. Again, my experience as a mom who works full-time contradicts this ideal. My practice sessions are typically peppered with requests to fix toys, wipe tushies, and the occasional work call.

Between being forced to practice when I’m fatigued and the perpetual interruptions, tailoring my expectations has been a necessary part of the journey.

And honestly, the lack of progress due to factors outside my control is frustrating sometimes.

But I’ve learned to be reasonable and give myself grace. I’ve also started planning by taking a few minutes to clarify my practice session. Planning sessions involve setting goals for what I will accomplish today, tomorrow, and throughout the week.

Check out this post for my #1 piano practice app and an exclusive discount!

Upgrade your Piano Practice by Setting Goals

Start by listing all the different pieces you’re aspiring to learn. Then brainstorm every little thing that needs improvement in each piece. Now is the time to unleash your love for the details! Nothing is too small to write down.

Is the fingering in measure 34 awkward? Or are you having trouble nailing the trill at the end of that Chopin Nocturne? Do you forget to breathe when you play and, therefore, tense up? Maybe you’d love to work on memorization but have never taken the time before.

List each area where you are seeking improvements.

Once you have it all down on paper, it’s time to figure out a schedule. Consider your time constraints. Remember to be realistic about your time and ability to accomplish goals in a single session. Being practical is especially important if your time constraints are similar to mine! It always feels better to cross everything off a small list than to leave things unfinished on a larger one.

Although time is a crucial factor in the preparation phase, there’s another equally important factor at play; a factor that can also make or break your practice sessions’ effectiveness.

It’s All About Balance

You will find that some piano practice goals are more straightforward to accomplish than others. For example, memorization may require more brainpower than correcting the fingering in a trill.

Therefore, it’s essential to organize your goals by time and consider difficulty. How challenging is each one? And how can you arrange them to maximize your practice time?

Consider tackling one larger goal per day and throwing in one or two smaller ones to balance your session out. Or you could save the more complex tasks for days when you have fewer distractions.

To truly upgrade your piano practice, stack the more challenging task(s) at the beginning of your session, after your warm-up. Organizing your routine this way ensures you’re at your best and can effectively process the practice.

It can also be helpful to do several short practice sessions during the day instead of one long one. Personal experience has taught me that my brain grasps information better in shorter sessions than in longer marathons.

Block off time each week to prepare for the upcoming week’s practice sessions. By taking time to prepare and set goals, you will soon see your piano playing improve dramatically!

Warm-Up

Another often overlooked way to upgrade your piano practice is to warm up at your session’s start.

I know what you’re thinking. Your practice time is limited as it is. Why spend extra time on anything that isn’t a specific goal?

And the answer is that the warm-up is the ideal way to get your mind in the right space. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your intention for practicing.

Warming up also gives your muscles time to adjust to the upcoming session. Whether it’s a Chopin etude, Rachmaninoff prelude, or your favorite pop song, playing the piano requires a certain degree of physical dexterity. It’s the combination between brain and body that ultimately produces a particular sound.

Therefore both the brain and body must be prepared for the session to succeed.

And there are so many distinct ways to effectively warm-up. One of my favorites is to simultaneously play and sing whatever strikes me as fun or appealing at the time. I have found that accompanying myself kicks things off in an entertaining way and makes my entire practice session more enjoyable.

Keep It Fun!

As someone who adores classical piano, I recognize that sometimes, I take myself and my playing way too seriously. On those days when I’m either dreading practice or simply not feeling it, I like to make sure the warm-up is fun! Oddly enough, one of the ways I do this is by singing.

Although you won’t see me headlining Broadway any time soon, I dearly love a catchy show tune. And I’m a sucker for anything by Matchbox Twenty. I especially love accompanying myself because it stretches my brain and keeps practice entertaining.

It brings back the simple joy of creating music my way.

On other days, I warm up by playing scales or various exercises to work on technique. You may also consider pulling concepts out of the pieces you’re working on to use as a warm-up.

The possibilities are endless, so see where your creativity leads!

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of my favorites.

, , , ,

Upgrade Your Piano Practice Through Memorization

Before studying piano in college, I admittedly had done very little memorization. It was somewhat of a foreign concept. And it was incredibly intimidating at first.

It wasn’t until after college that I became genuinely interested in memorization. Don’t get me wrong. I did plenty of memorizing in college but never truly embraced it.

After college, I took a job in a completely different field that I didn’t particularly care for, and playing the piano became my escape. Ironically, although I no longer had access to the college practice room grand pianos, I was more motivated to practice than I had ever been.

At that point in my life, memorization became more of a game and less of a graduation requirement. It’s interesting how much more appealing something becomes when no one is forcing you to do it.

And I suddenly realized how memorizing a piece of music could make the piece a part of you in a way that reading from a score can’t. Musical expression, phrasing, and dynamics suddenly come alive as all your focus goes toward playing instead of the sheet music.

Although memorization takes practice in and of itself, it’s absolutely worth it! And in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to instantly upgrade your piano practice!

Memorization Tips and Tricks

Whether you aspire to perform a Rachmaninoff concerto someday or whether you want to impress your friends, memorization is a tool that can close the gap between dream and reality.

And although it may seem difficult at first, there are a few tips to make the process a bit smoother. The first is to start with songs well below your playing capability. Memorization is a tricky skill to learn when you’re also struggling with technique and artistry. And if it’s a piece you can sight-read correctly (or nearly so) at first glance, even better!

The second trick I use is to memorize one measure at a time. And there are many times when I don’t even start at the beginning of the piece. Sometimes it’s beneficial to start either at the very end of the piece itself or the beginning of a particular section of the piece.

If you always memorize only from the beginning of the piece and you have a memory lapse (which is, by the way, completely normal!), it can be difficult to start again mid-piece. But if you are constantly working to build your memory starting at various places throughout the piece, picking up anywhere will be easier.

The third tip for those new to memorizing music is to keep your memorization sessions very short. I’m talking about a maximum of 5 minutes. Learning new skills, especially memorization, requires a great deal of focus. If your sessions are too long, your brain can quickly become overwhelmed, and memory lapses can take over, stalling progress and leading to frustration.

If you would like to start incorporating memorization into your practice sessions, make sure you check out this post.

It’s Your Turn to Upgrade Your Piano Practice

Whether you’ve now resolved to prepare for practice sessions in advance or to starting memorizing your music, I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to upgrade your piano practice! As someone who has played the instrument for upwards of 20 years, I can assure you that your desire to practice will ebb and flow at times.

It’s normal to go through periods in your life when you’re so motivated to practice that it’s difficult to peel yourself away from the keyboard. And it’s just as normal to have others when you couldn’t feel less compelled to sit down at the bench.

It’s easy to show up when your motivation is high, and you feel like practicing. But continuing to show up, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, is the mark of a true musician.

Motivation comes and goes, but you can also instantly upgrade your piano practice by creating foolproof systems to get you closer to your goals. For more on setting goals and creating habits, check out this post dedicated to the topic. I guarantee you won’t look at either goals or habits the same way again!

Although there are seasons in life when you may learn piano independently, there are others when getting instruction from a teacher is key to continued improvement. If you’re currently searching for a teacher, make sure you visit my resource page for online teachers with current openings in their studios. This list includes a diverse range of teachers with diverse backgrounds and specialties, but all have a passion for teaching and helping students accomplish their goals.

And if you’re searching for a complimentary program for your classical piano training, don’t miss out on the ProPractice course created by Dr. Josh Wright. It’s absolutely the best and most thorough instruction on a wide variety of pieces from the classical piano repertoire. If you’ve never heard of the course, click here to read about my experience and the reasons why you’re missing out by not investing in this incredible resource.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below with your thoughts on this post. Where are you on your piano journey? What are the best ways you’ve found to upgrade your piano practice? And what are your struggles with learning piano, either independently or with a teacher?

Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and never stop learning!

7 Simple Tips for Adults Who Want to Learn Piano

7 Simple Tips for Adults Who Want to Learn Piano

Deep down, you have a secret desire to learn piano. Maybe you even took lessons as a kid but had an awful learning experience. You had one of those “old school” teachers who rapped you across the fingers with a ruler after every wrong note. Although you have always loved the instrument, a prodigy you were not, and the consistently negative feedback chipped away at your self-esteem. Perhaps your teacher even chain-smoked during your lesson.

And not only did you struggle with your teacher, but your parents were constantly harping on you to practice. Unfortunately, practicing turned into a chore instead of a delightful pastime, and eventually, you gave up the instrument entirely.

Or maybe you played saxophone in the school band, but it’s been years since you’ve picked it up. You’re now looking for an entirely new challenge and love the versatility playing piano provides.

Whatever your reasons for considering the instrument, congratulations! Learning to play the piano is one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences out there.

And there are incredible benefits to learning as an adult versus a child. One of the most compelling is that you have a choice in the entire process. You get to decide the musical genre, what you do with your newfound skills, and even how you want to learn piano.

As an adult, you’re entirely in control of the entire learning process.

Whether you’re just starting or are picking the instrument back up after a hiatus, these seven tips will inspire and motivate you to chase your piano goals! Let’s get started.

This post may contain affiliate links and as an Amazon Affiliate, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1. Learn Piano by Finding a Teacher

As with many life skills, learning piano requires expert guidance. Depending upon your learning style, goals, and previous experience, this guidance will likely come from a teacher.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to come from one-on-one lessons. It could come from an online program, virtual lessons, an app, or even a combination of sources. The learning possibilities are endless!

For example, you could take lessons (either in person or virtually) and sign up for either a membership site or even access specific course material depending upon your playing goals. Alternately, you could sign up for a membership and supplement your learning with an app.

There are so many great learning combinations!

And the field of piano pedagogy (the art and science of teaching piano) has changed infinitely over the years. The chain-smoking, knuckle-rapping days of demanding perfection from students are gone. In its place is a genuine desire to instill a love of music in students. If you still don’t believe me, check out this list of incredible piano teachers currently accepting new students!

And speaking of finding a piano teacher, gone are the days of limiting yourself to teachers within driving distance. Technology allows you to study with virtually anyone in the world without even leaving the comfort of your home. It’s an incredible perk that makes it easier than ever to learn piano!

2. Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there’s at least one topic in which you’re an expert. Maybe you even consider yourself an expert in multiple topic areas.

And once you’ve become an expert, starting something new can feel intimidating. Being a beginner can be especially difficult if you’re someone who is even the tiniest bit of a perfectionist. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with being an expert. You’ve mastered a particular area and maybe even enjoy guiding others on their journey toward mastery.

But there’s also something magical that happens when you’re a beginner. As a beginner, you’re free to ask questions and make mistakes. Your mind is open to all possibilities, and you feel limitless.

It’s fascinating that you often put more limits on yourself as you become more experienced in something. Limitations that hold you back from your full potential.

Starting something new, such as learning piano, can inspire you to open your mind. And an open mind is always a beautiful quality!

3. Learn Piano by Practicing Daily

I’m sure you’ve heard that tired old saying about practice making perfect. To some extent, I do agree that it’s true. You’ll never get better at anything unless you put in the time.

I used to define practice as mindless repetition. And I used to think that if I could somehow repeat something over and over, it would magically perfect itself. I felt that if I repeated something enough times, the kinks would work themselves out. But nothing can be further from the truth.

Actual improvement at the keyboard requires your brain to engage in what you’re doing. Practice is an art form unto itself.

But it’s not something to be dreaded and despised. Practice is an opportunity to fall in love with the instrument. It’s a time to let your creativity shine! Find ways to make practice entertaining, whether by playing music you love or experimenting with something new.

I also used to think that the amount of time I spent on practice made a difference. Over time, this has again proven to be a myth. I practice less now than I did in my college days and feel like my playing has made more remarkable strides than it ever did back then.

My thoughts on practice have shifted over the years, and now I have two daily goals. The first is to play something every day. Even if I only have two minutes, I play something. The other is to relish the time I spend playing. Especially if you are a busy adult with work, kids, and a million daily obligations, make your goals simple and your practice enjoyable.

Make sure to check out this post for my secret practice weapon and an exclusive offer!

4. Listen to Great Pianists

When you learn piano, take advantage of the resources all around. YouTube, for example, has a plethora of free resources. Finding performances from all the great pianists is only a click away.

Research great performers in your chosen genre and listen to their recordings. What sets their performances apart from others? And can you identify anything specific that draws you to their performance versus other pianists? Most importantly, how can you mirror those qualities you love in your performances?

Although I love the piano in all its forms, classical is hands down my favorite genre. And over the years, I have started compiling my list of pianists I aspire to emulate.

These pianists inspire me to reach new heights in my playing and keep going, even when things get tough. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out any of the following pianists:

5. Take Advantage of Performance Opportunities

Music is all about musical expression, and learning how to convey emotions to others effectively is all part of the charm!

Whether you aspire to play on a massive stage in front of thousands of raving fans or simply want to serenade your dog on a Sunday afternoon, performance is an essential part of learning piano.

And depending upon how you decide to learn the instrument, performance opportunities are everywhere. If you are taking one-on-one lessons with a teacher, you automatically have the chance to perform regularly for your teacher. Many teachers do host regular recitals, which allow you an opportunity to perform live for an audience. Recitals are a fun opportunity to connect with other students and celebrate your learning milestones!

Many teachers also encourage students to take piano exams as it provides a guided way to learn piano. Exams typically consist of learning a piece to perform for judges and a written music theory component.

There are also supportive Facebook groups for piano enthusiasts, including Pianists and Piano Lovers, The Art of Playing the Piano, and Piano Performance Anxiety Practice Room. Each group has various opportunities for you to post piano videos to gain performance experience and obtain feedback from the group.

Churches also offer the opportunity to gain performance experience in a low-pressure setting. Whether that experience is as the keyboardist in the praise band or as the pre-service music, performance opportunities abound.

6. Join a Community

In your quest to learn piano, don’t go it alone. Pursuing a hobby is always more fun with other people! And thanks to Facebook, you can find groups for basically any imaginable hobby.

If your interest is specifically classical piano, make sure you check out the ProPractice course. The course itself was created by Dr. Josh Wright and includes video tutorials of a diverse range of the classical repertoire. From Bach to Beethoven to Chopin to Rachmaninoff, Dr. Wright covers the most popular pieces that most pianists want to learn at some point.

The ProPractice course also includes various technique videos and general tips on playing. It’s a fantastic resource for pianists of all levels and abilities! And not only does the course have resources that pair well with one-on-one lessons, but it also comes with access to an exclusive Facebook community. This community consists of pianists passionate about the piano and helping others on their piano journeys.

If classical piano is your goal, make sure you check out the ProPractice course here and take advantage of all the incredible benefits from the course. You can also read about my personal experience with the course here.

7. Learn Piano by Starting Today

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Zig Ziglar

Perhaps one of the most crucial tips for adults who want to learn piano is to start today. Life is crazy busy! But it can be all too easy to get so wrapped up in your daily to-do list that you forget to truly live.

You forget to include those small things in your life which light you up inside and inspire you to new heights. And the piano is one of the best ways to challenge yourself while finding inner peace simultaneously. It’s a fantastic way to connect with your emotions while learning a completely different skillset. And it’s a skill set applicable in various other areas of life, including at work and home.

Whether you’re brand new to the instrument or whether you did learn piano at some previous point in your life, now is the time to start. And if you’re looking for an online teacher, don’t forget to check out this list of piano teachers accepting new students.

If you’re looking for an online arsenal of classical playing resources, make sure you consider Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course. Finding similar resources from a pianist of his caliber is utterly impossible, and thanks to his course, my playing has improved significantly. Investing in the course is the next best thing to taking private lessons from Dr. Wright himself. 

It’s Your Turn

I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to learn piano! Although my piano journey has had its ups and downs, I am incredibly thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained. The piano is that one thing that gets me through the tough times and makes the good times that much sweeter.

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from the instrument that I highly encourage everyone to give it a try. And if it’s not for you, that’s ok, but at least you gave it a try. It’s always better to have tried and figured out it’s not a fit rather than live your entire life wondering what could have been.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts after reading this post. Were you inspired to learn piano? Or are you currently learning piano and looking for a specific resource? And what are your favorite piano resources? Who are your favorite pianists?

Make sure to check out the following posts for more on playing the piano:

Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and keep chasing your dreams!