The foundations of our piano practice will have a role in the direction of our progress and how fast we move towards our goals. It is difficult to see and feel improvement when our foundations are shaky; that is, when we don’t adopt a few healthy basics before we move on to a more advanced, dedicated practice.
Fortunately, it is painless to lay good foundations for our piano practice. It comes down to sticking to basic principles that will serve of great purpose every time we sit down and dedicate time and effort to practicing on the piano.
In this article, we will navigate through some of the ways at our disposal to start a piano practice with good foundations.
Embracing the Difference Between Practicing and Performing
The mindset we adopt every single time we sit on the piano is highly important. We must acknowledge the difference between practicing a determined piece of music with careful attention and trying to remember the song in from of an audience.
Besides the well-known pressure that most people experience when playing the piano in public, performing is about automatically connecting with our inner knowledge of the music and how to play it. Some even call it “muscle memory”. When we are practicing, this is not what we do. Instead, we are carefully focusing on perfecting every movement and keystroke, recording those little details in our memory, and making such performance a natural product.
A good foundation to lay is to differentiate both situations and embrace each as they are. This will help us to be deliberately more focused and attentive when practicing, memorizing as many details as possible without letting ourselves be carried away from the moment.
Memorization as a Key Element of Practice
Pianists rely heavily on the active, conscious activity of memorization. The belief that makes us think that through mechanical practice our muscles somehow will learn the music we want to play is dangerous (the so-called muscle memory mentioned before). It can easily undermine our piano practice and the efforts we are making.
Instead of hoping that our fingers will remember the music we are practicing, we must place the act of memorization right at the forefront. We need to memorize with intention the most important details of the piece and the techniques we are learning. Reliance on muscle memory is far from enough if we want to achieve solid progress in our practice.
Memorization techniques such as assigning your own meaning to the music you are learning, playing lines with a single finger, playing the notes with the wrong hand, and several others will help you seriously influence the degree to which you know and understand the music you are learning.
Structure with Your Preferences in Mind
Before we talked about smartly structuring the piano practice as a good habit to adopt. Part of the smart structure is to make sure that you include the music you like as a part of your practice. We are not saying to just practice those songs you like but to make sure they are present in your itinerary.
Striking a balance between practicing the essentials (including music, technique, and theory) and the songs you like, even if they don’t pose the maximum benefit for the overall practice, will help you to engage deeper and more frequently, to keep the motivation on a healthy high.
While relying on motivation is not a good idea for a consistent piano practice (eventually our motivation will go down, as natural and expected, but we cannot allow that to throw us off), making sure that we help ourselves by knowing and complying to an extent to our personal preferences is something we must recommend as a good foundation to the practice.
Be Generous with the Time You Invest
When laying the foundations of your piano practice, try to be as generous as possible when choosing and allocating time. Most of us have plenty of commitments and life always gets in the way of those goals we set for ourselves. However, if we pay enough attention, we will find that we have more time than assumed to invest in our piano practice.
To start with, try to schedule as much time as possible and gradually dial up or down while going through the practice. Stick with this effort and you will adjust over time to find that sweet spot. As progress in piano practice does require a solid effort from us, time will be our biggest ally.
Practice with Patience
Our last suggestion when it comes to laying down the foundations is to be patient. It is too easy to get frustrated if we don’t see clearly the progress we are expecting to come our way fast. We may think that we don’t have the capacity, the skills, or the possibility of becoming good pianists. Yet all of these are terrible distortions we tell ourselves after a while of trying.
However, we must from the very beginning embrace the fact that progress we are expecting will take its time and, for most of us, that progress will come in little doses. If we put the time in and practice as planned, we will be improving our skills and knowledge by minor percentages each week. And while it is not very noticeable from one day to the next, we can be sure that it compounds. In that compounding, we will find the greatest progress in our piano practice.
But to appreciate that progress, we must make sure that we are being patient with ourselves, not blaming ourselves in any way possible for our perceived lack of improvement.
At Hidrau, we want to see our pianists thrive. That is why we go beyond designing and building world-class piano benches but also share valuable information on how to improve your piano practice, especially for beginners and amateurs.