Are you trying to get better at piano playing? We can help!
Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been playing piano for years, sometimes it can feel like it’s really hard to get better at piano. That can be frustrating, but don’t give up! We can help. If you’re ready to break through and see your piano skills grow, here are some tips that will help you with your piano playing and also some principles that will help you not only in piano but in anything else you want to improve!
Basically, to get better at piano (or anything else) you need practice, feedback, and challenge! We’ll go into these concepts in more detail below.
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How to get better at piano: principles of progress
Sure, we all know that you need to practice the piano to get better, but are there better ways to practice? Absolutely. When you sit down to practice a piece of music, instead of simply playing it from start to finish, first look through and find the parts that are going to be challenging for you. Take one of these parts and play it very slowly, as slow as you need to in order to play accurately. Don’t just do it once! A good rule of thumb is to play a few measures of music until you can play five times without making any mistakes. Then go and find another challenging part of the piece. By spending more time practicing the difficult parts of a piece, you’ll find that when you finally play through the whole song those parts aren’t so difficult anymore!
The great thing about playing the piano is that you get instant feedback. You hit a key and you hear a note! The piano will tell you if you’re playing the right notes, but only if you know how the song is supposed to sound. That’s why at Hoffman Academy we recommend that students listen to the pieces they’re learning on the piano. When you know how a piece should sound, you can hear when you’re doing it right and when you need to stop and make corrections.
Feedback from other people, such as teachers and other piano players, can also be really valuable.
In order to get better at playing the piano, you need to be working on pieces that provide the right amount of challenge for you. If you are working on a piece that’s too hard you might get frustrated and give up before you finish learning it. If you only choose pieces that are too easy, your skills won’t grow.
So how do you know if a piano piece is going to be too easy or too hard? Sometimes the only way to find out is to try playing it. If you can sight read it easily, that’s great, but maybe you should try learning something more difficult that will stretch your skills. If you’re working on something and you haven’t been able to make progress on it for a few weeks, you may want to set it aside and learn a few other pieces first, then come back to it.
Are you looking for something new to learn? The Hoffman Academy Store has piano pieces sorted by level so you can pick out something that will give you just the right amount of challenge.
How to get better at piano: playing with both hands
Playing the piano with both hands at the same time is no easy task! Just imagine what your brain has to do in order to make it happen. The key to successful playing with both hands is to patiently train your brain and your fingers to work together. This can be done by breaking down the complex task of playing the piano hands together into smaller, easier to manage tasks.
Before playing a piano piece with both hands, play each hand’s part separately. Start by playing the part slowly and accurately. Practicing slowly allows your brain to create the neural pathways that will eventually give your fingers lightning speed. Remember, practice slow, learn fast!
Does the piece you’re working on have different rhythms for the right hand and the left hand? If so, it can help to practice the rhythm separately. Close the lid of your keyboard and, while counting out loud, tap your left hand on the lid when your left hand should be playing a note, then tap your right hand on the lid when your right hand should be playing a note. Finally, try tapping the rhythm with both hands. Don’t worry about notes or fingerings. Start by getting the rhythms right.
When you can play the right hand part and the left hand part separately, consistently without making mistakes, and you’ve got the rhythm down, then it’s time to put everything together. Remember, start slow and be patient. Take a few measures at a time and keep working on those measures until you can play them five times in a row without making a mistake. Then move on to the next few measures. Finally, try playing the entire piece together. If you make a mistake, stop and work on that spot until it is as easy to play as the rest of the piece.
How to get better at piano: left hand playing tips
If you’re right handed, then you should simply plan on practicing extra with your left hand. To strengthen your left hand, make sure you practice playing chords, scales, and arpeggios with your left hand alone and also together with your right hand.
As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to practice each hand separately when learning a piano piece. If your left hand needs extra work, then let your right hand take a vacation. Maybe give your left hand an entire practice day all to itself!
Another thing you can try if your left hand is having trouble playing is to play the left hand part with the right hand, and then have your left hand try to imitate what your right hand just did. The body is very good at imitating, even if it’s imitating itself.
How to get better at piano: sight reading
One of the most important things to remember when learning to sight read is that you should start by sight reading music that’s a few levels below what you’re capable of learning to play. For example, if you’ve been playing the piano for one year, you should practice sight reading piano music that’s meant for absolute beginners to play.
If you want piano music that’s perfect for sight reading practice, check out our Hoffman Academy sight reading trainers!
Here are some tips that will make sight reading easier:
- Learn to see melodic lines not as individual notes, but as a series of familiar intervals that your fingers already know how to play. Then all you need to worry about is the location of the first note in each melodic phrase.
- Learn to see chords not as individual notes, but as familiar shapes on the staff that mean a particular hand position. Then all you need to worry about is the location of the bottom note and the rest of the notes follow a pre-learned pattern.
- Look ahead! Don’t keep your eye on the note you’re playing. Look to the next note, and the next! As your sight reading skills grow, you should be able to look ahead a few measures so that you’ll always be ready for what’s coming up.
How to get better at piano: improvisation
Improvising on the piano is so much fun, but it can be intimidating too. If you want to get better at piano improvisation, try these tips:
- Listen to lots of piano music
- Start improvising with one hand at a time
- Try to hear in your head the way you want the music to sound before you play it
- Use mostly repeated notes, steps, and skips when improvising a melody
- Create short melodic phrases and repeat them with small variations
- Learn your chords and common chord progressions so they’ll be easy to play with the left hand while you improvise a melody with the right
- Try making up a piano part to go along with recordings of your favorite songs
Learn more about how to improvise on piano here.
We hope you’re feeling inspired to get better at playing the piano! Check out Hoffman Academy for hundreds of piano video tutorials and music learning resources to help you on your piano journey.