How to Practice Piano and Get The Most From Your Lessons
I’ll admit I am a piano “nerd”. If you want to call me that – a person who took lessons for half of their life from age 6 to 18. I love the piano, I felt like lessons were necessary for me to be called a “piano player” and for some reason that was important to me.
But I’ll tell you a secret. I hated to practice.
My parents even threatened to stop lessons if I didn’t practice (little did they know I played mostly when they weren’t home – that’s the truth, I swear). Unfortunately, I wasn’t home alone often. But I was good. I had a great ear, I could read music after my teacher finally taught me and I was really good at memorizing.
So in the end, I very rarely practiced. I mostly crammed before recitals so that I could play my songs. But the bulk of my time, I didn’t play that much.
The piano is still a HUGE part of my life and I know I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without it, and without the lessons. Even though, I really didn’t get as much from the lessons as I could have if I had practiced.
Lessons aren’t the important part. Practice is.
So how can you practice the piano and get the most out of it ESPECIALLY if you HATE to practice?
I discovered something new the other day while I was teaching my daughter a bit.
I realized she would be farther along if I didn’t HATE the lessons. But I think they bring back memories for me. The mandatory chunk of time each week I HAD to go to.
I loved my teacher, but honestly the best part was when she and I just talked to each other (which I got really good at btw, sidetracking her into conversation.)
I hated hearing the dreaded words, “You didn’t practice did you.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. It was obvious because I wasn’t making any progress. Each week was basically the same, my PRACTICE time WAS my lesson.
I would love to apologize to my teacher now (actually I think I have), because as a teacher I know how frustrating a lack of progression is for a teacher.
Anyway, back to what I discovered.
I don’t like the mandatory time that is supposed to be for practice. If I want to do something I’m going to do it. If I don’t, I won’t. And if you force me to do it, I’m probably going to hate it or get very little out of it.
So to compromise when I was teaching my daughter, I decided instead of setting aside 30 minutes for a lesson and sitting in the chair while I HELPED her navigate the books, I was simply going to do just a little instruction. Keep the lesson short.
My frustration level would be kept a minimum and she actually LEARNED a lot more and had a ton of fun.
For younger children this is especially important. But even if you are an adult you might also dread the MANDATORY lesson time you a lot. Now, setting aside this time is important or you simply aren’t going to do it, life will get in the way.
But what you can do instead of making yourself sit for a set period of time is simply give yourself ONE goal. Each day just give yourself ONE goal. Maybe it’s to learn a particular song, or a part of a song. Maybe you want to just have fun that day and play whatever you want. Maybe you want to work on reading music.
Whatever it is, focus on the ONE goal and don’t FORCE yourself to sit for any set period of time.
Usually, you’ll find more time has gone by than you realized and you had fun instead of staring at the clock.
When I did this with my daughter she learned about 6 different songs, some music theory and ENJOYED herself the entire time, and guess what? So did I. I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t get annoyed or wonder how long we’d been doing it.
We simply set ourselves a goal of ONE book and as far as we felt like going. When we were both DONE we could tell and we called it a day.
It was a very successful lesson and it will make it that much easier to have another one.
Practice is essential to get better at anything. But in order to really get the most out of the practice sometimes you can’t follow the norm of what everyone else has done. How to practice piano or any other instrument needs to be a personal experience for you. You need to find out what works the best for you and do that.
This technique might not work for you, but I’d love it if you would try it if you’ve struggled with practice time in the past.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and know if this worked for you to get past the dreaded “practice time”. Please leave a comment below 🙂