Practice Tips

The Piano Workshop

– by Dorian Morales


This blog post explores how to effectively practice while saving time and frustration.  I find myself saying everything from this list several times daily!


  • Give it the time it deserves

Devote a minimum of 15 minutes a day to practice whenever possible.  Not much can be accomplished in less time.  For real gains, try 30-60 minutes some days. Real pros will practice for hours each day!


  • Slow down!

If there is one thing you should remember about effective practice, it is to slow down!  All practice needs to begin slowly- slower than most people would even consider to do. One must walk before learning to run!  Play with a strong sense of “pulse” at a very slow speed.  And “if you think you are practicing slowly, slow down some more.”- Franz Liszt

It is only when things are mastered at a slow tempo that they can be sped up effectively.


  • Set goals

The expression “practice makes perfect” is not necessarily true; a truer statement would be “perfect practice makes perfect.” And part of practicing ‘perfectly’ is to be focused and have specific goals. Sitting at the piano playing aimlessly is NOT practicing.  You should sit down each practice session with a set of problems that need to be fixed- and fix them! Much of your time should be spent ‘looping’ or repeating these problem areas over and over (at a slow speed) until they are fixed!


  • Write things down

If you are making a recurring error in a piece, consider writing in the note or circling the problem. It is definitely ok to write in reminders to better master a piece.


  • Hone in on the problems

Often times, students will only play passages that they are good at, and completely avoid what they are not good at. In fact, practice should be the complete opposite; it should be a slow and methodical breakdown of problem areas, where incremental improvements lead to perfection. If practice sounds too good, you may not be doing it right!


  • Divide and Conquer

Trouble sections should be isolated and repeated over and over, slowly and mindfully, until there is improvement.  Another great practice technique is to play hands separately. Many times, it is the only way to learn more complicated pieces that require hand independence.


  • Do it right from the start

Learn your piece properly from the very beginning.  Often times, students will learn something wrong and then get used to playing it that way all week. It is extremely difficult and frustrating to ‘unlearn’ something that has already been committed to muscle memory.


  • Don’t ignore technique

Scales, arpeggios, and technique exercises are essential to improving musical ability. There are no shortcuts. Simply put, if you want to play faster, smoother, stronger, more amazingly- scales and the such are the only way to do it! Practice sessions should include and/or start with technique work.


That covers the most common and beneficial techniques for efficient practice. We should relax and strive to enjoy ourselves as we practice our instruments. Remember that playing an instrument is a gift. We must remember to view it as such!