Learn how to bring joy and success to your daily piano practice!
It can be done! (Really!)
I came back to music after 10 years of not playing. College practicing and performance pressure burned me out. I didn't like practicing... at all!
When I started playing again, I knew I had to find a new way to think about practicing.
One day, it dawned on me:
What if piano practice was simply playing the piano?
Think about that for a second.
What if you left all of your expectations at the door?
All of your negative thoughts about how you play. All of your bad experiences of the past. All of your ideas about "making progress."
What if you just let yourself play?
I did. It worked!
And it's how I think about practicing to this day.
The first step in building a joyful, successful habit of piano practice is to simply play, every day.
Play what you love.
If you only know chopsticks, play it all over the piano, loud and soft, and on different keys! Play simple tunes that you learned way-back-when.
Noodle around with one hand, just enjoying the sound of the piano. Think how easy and fun that would be.
Wouldn't you look forward to such a relaxing time in your busy day?
As you develop of habit of playing what you love every day, you'll find yourself wanting to branch out and learn new things.
So you have assignments to conquer!
And you sit down at the piano bench every day with a big sigh. Bor-ing. Same old, same old.
First of all, have you told your teacher how you feel? Quite likely she thinks everything is fine - and would be happy to help you spice up your practice time.
Much of what makes us reluctant to practice has to do with overcoming difficult passages, scales, or whatever playing issue you seem to be facing.
We all have challenges as we learn to play, and most of us are out of practice at being beginners -- we're pretty good at our jobs, managing our homes -- all those aspects of our daily lives.
So here are some tips to help solve some of the more common practicing issues I've seen with my students.
Practicing Hands Together
It can be frustrating when you start learning a new piece and can't seem to get your hands to cooperate, but it helps to understand why it happens.
And here's my technique for learning music with both hands in the easiest, most frustration-free way: hands together practice tips.
When to Practice
If you're like many people, piano practice gets squeezed in after so much else in your day that you barely have any energy left. That's a recipe for frustrating, unsatisfying practice.
Think about when, in the time you have available, you are at your best. Are you a morning person or a night person? When do you have the most energy and a positive attitude?
For me, it's morning. I'm so much more productive before 2:00pm than anytime after! Make your practice time a priority by choosing when will work best for you, your mind, and your body. Work with your family to carve out this time.
Check out my page of piano practice tips, and especially #7 (the backwards method). This has helped me and my students break out of the "learned mistake rut" many times.
You know, when you make the same mistake so many times it's like you always play it that way, and you can't seem to stop it? Give my method a try.
Create a piano practice log. (Or get a copy of mine by signing up for my free eZine.) Pretend you're a kid again. Go get some construction paper, stickers, and markers.
Decorate to your heart's content. Make a graph for a week or a month at a time. You'll smile every time you see it! And, like a kid, you'll look forward to adding a sticker when you've finished practicing!
Silly things like this often help turn even repetitive, less-than-fun practice tasks (scales, anyone?) into something you might even look forward to doing!
Do you think this is completely ridiculous? :-) Letting yourself out of "grown up mode" and giving yourself permission to be a little goofy can totally change your practice time and lower your stress level. Go ahead. I won't tell anyone.
Another silly idea: make practice more exciting by keeping yourself surprised. Let's make a little piano practice game.
Use big popsicle/craft sticks (craft stores and WalMart have them). Write - or paint! - on one end the repertoire, scales, and exercises you need to practice.
You might write, "A major scale" "F major arpeggios" "8 measures of etude" and "something I love to play" Write down everything you're currently working on, plus some fun things. You can split things up if you're working on difficult passages (like my 8 measures example above).
Put the sticks in a cup. When you sit to practice, close your eyes and choose one stick at a time. Or, dump them on the floor and see what order they land in!
Sometimes, practicing everything in a different order will give you a fresh perspective and make things more fun!
It's not true for working out, and it's not true for playing the piano.
In fact, it's one of those enduring piano practice myths that make practicing dull and - yawn! - boring.
The truth is, you don't need to practice 2 hours per day to see success. (Unless you're a college piano major - then, you'll need even more.) You DO need daily practice for the fastest progress, but start with 15 minutes and build up from there.
When you practice to the point of being tired and cranky, you're not making progress.
Trust me on this.
The best learning happens when you are joyful and well-rested! So what are you waiting for? Go practice!
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