13 Practice Strategies for the Intermediate-Advanced Pianist
Updated: Feb 7, 2022
By: Rosangel Perez
Here are some piano practice strategies I wish I had followed when I was a young piano student! A lot of these strategies take discipline and patience, but they really pay off in the end.
Although as teachers, we often tell students to practice a number of minutes or hours a day, what really matters is not how long they practice for but the quality of that practice time.
Below are some strategies that worked for me as I got older and learned more difficult repertoire.
1. Listen to/familiarize yourself with the piece
2. Listen to the piece while looking at the score
3. Identify meter, key signature, tempo marking, etc.
4. Break down music into sections
5. Create a schedule for the week so that you can work on each section individually during a given day. (Do not play from beginning to end every single day)
6. Identify potential challenges within each section
Write down fingerings for these potential challenges
From that point on, make sure to stick to written fingering. Otherwise, there will be inconsistency and inaccuracy
7. Practice without dynamics or pedal to focus on the technical components and to hear each individual sound clearly.
8. When playing through a section, if you make a mistake, stop.
-If this mistake happens repeatedly, mark it but be specific- don’t just circle it as there is no meaning attached to that and it won’t change much. (i.e, add an accidental, write down the note name, mark it in a different color, etc.)
-Isolate different elements of that passage (separate hands, rhythm, melody, hand motions, etc.)
-Do not only practice the area of the mistake, but also practice the transitions in and out of it
-Change the rhythm
-Create groupings for the passage, (i.e, only practice the four notes of the mistake, then add 1-4 more notes that come before) slowly incrementing the number of notes until you are playing the entire passage.
i. Consider working backwards
9. Practice measures in clusters (all notes pressed down at once as a chord, even if there is dissonance)
-Helps to identify harmonic progression
-Helps with memorization
-Requires reading ahead, as opposed to looking at one note at a time
10. When adding dynamics, double check that you are not accidentally changing the tempo à Practice with a metronome.
11. Once each section is coming together well, gradually add more from other sections (for example, on the same day practice section one and half of section two)
*Take into consideration how you’re feeling on a given day and which section it might be more effective to practice. It is okay to alter the weekly schedule if it results in more efficient practicing*
12. Once you have combined all sections, record yourself and assess.
-Once again, identify areas of challenges and repeat the steps above for those areas.
13. Even if you think you know the piece, always make time for slow practice. It might serve as a review to solidify passages that are technically overlooked when played fast and with dynamics.
I hope these help! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy practicing! ~
©Rosangel Perez, 2022