Practice is an important skill for every music student to learn. It enables you to work on what was covered during the lesson. Practice also gives you the chance to experiment with different aspects of the music, such as phrasing, tone colours and dynamics. I recommend that all beginners practice at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week. Every practice session should cover warm-up, technique, pieces, sightreading and extra.
Practice Routine 1: Warm-ups
Every practice routine should start with a physical warm-up. As in sports, a warm-up before music practice will help prevent injury, get the muscles moving and prepare the body for playing your instrument. First, take a few slow, deep breaths in and out. Next, do some basic stretching, such as stretching your arms up as high as and can and bringing them back down. Flex your fingers and rotate the wrists and shoulders. Gather all your materials, such as music, pencil, notebook etc. Now lets move on to the next stop of our routine.
Practice Routine 2: Technique
Technique is the physical actions required in order to play your instrument. Without taking the time to develop good technique, you will find it very difficult to play your pieces. Even though it may be boring at times, it is a necessary part of a practice routine. Start your technique with scales and arpeggios. These are usually assigned by your teacher depending or what level you are at and if you are studying for music examinations. As you play your scales, focus on evenness and tempo. In later grades you will also focus on dynamics and articulation. To improve evenness and speed, play your scales in different rhythms and accenting different notes. Added to these scales, you can also do strength finger exercises studies etc. Ask your teacher for advice on how to do them.
Practice Routine 3: Pieces
Now comes the bit you have all been waiting for. Usually, you would be working on two or three pieces at a time. Start with a play-through of the piece. Take a note of where the mistakes were by writing down the bar where it was made. Think about why you made the mistake you did. Was it a wrong note or rhythm? Was it the phrasing? Maybe it was the balance between the hands? Write your reasons down also so you can come back to them. Now go through each of these passages, only focussing on those areas you wrote down. Take that bar and section and play it slowly; think about each note before you play it, and try not to rush it. Repeat it a few times until it is perfect. Move on to the next piece and follow the same format for each piece. You will find that your pieces will really improve after doing this between lessons.
Practice Routine 4: Sightreading
Sightreading is an extremely important skill. It will enable you to read music that is put in front of you. This aspect of practice is often neglected, but your ability to read music will improve even with five minutes a day. Consult your teacher about good materials to use.
Practice Routine 5: Extra
Now here is a chance to have some fun. You can chose what you want to do to end your routine. Would you like to do some composition at the piano, improvise or play one of the many ipad music games available? It is up to you. With all those things in place, you now have an effective, structured routine to follow. You will see great improvements in your technique, your playing and ability to read music. Happy practicing!
Author: Stephanie Mitchell
Stephanie Mitchell is a piano teacher living in Melbourne Australia. She teaches classical piano, along with theory and composition via skype and FaceTime. She also enjoys writing about all things piano at her blog me and my piano If you would like to learn more about taking lessons online, visit Mitchell Piano Studio.