Quick Tips

Top Piano Practice Tips and Resources for Beginners

By Hoffman Academy Team
Piano practice fun with Hoffman Academy.

Discover tips and resources to make piano practicing more fun!

At Hoffman Academy, our goal is to help piano students LOVE playing the piano from the very beginning. Making daily practice a positive experience is the key to helping students succeed. Read on for some suggestions to help your piano student look forward to practice time every day.

How often should you practice piano?

Piano practice requires consistency and discipline. Everyone has busy days, so it’s OK to occasionally do a very short practice session when that’s all you can manage. Being flexible with the amount of time you spend on piano practice is fine, but try to be consistent about the habit of going to the bench every day. 

To help motivate daily piano practice, try our Hoffman Academy practice tracker! Hang this chart next to the piano and check off each day as you practice. It’s a great way to visualize your progress.

How long does it take to learn piano?

The amount of time spent practicing every day makes a big difference in how long it takes to learn the piano. Try our piano practice calculator and see for yourself!

It’s simple! If you practice twenty minutes a day, you’ll learn the piano twice as fast as if you practice only ten minutes a day. In fact, you may learn even faster because you’ll feel encouraged by the good amount of progress you’re making.

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How to create an effective piano practice routine

A good practice routine includes working on technique, developing music skills like sight reading or playing by ear, working on new songs, reviewing old songs, and also time for creativity and fun. Here’s an example:

  1. Check your piano posture
  2. Do some finger power exercises, such as playing scales and arpeggios
  3. Practice a new piece
  4. Practice sight reading
  5. Review pieces you already know
  6. Improvise, compose, or try playing something you’ve heard by ear

The order of the steps depends on the piano student. Some may enjoy starting by playing piano pieces they already know. Others may want to save that for the end of the practice session. The important thing is to be consistent and make sure that daily practice time is balanced between developing a variety of piano abilities. 

To help keep on top of your piano practice routine, we have a free piano practice chart for you to download.

Hoffman Academy Premium also includes detailed practice instructions for each lesson to make sure that piano students are keeping all of their piano skills sharp.

Can piano be practiced on a keyboard?

Yes, you can practice the piano on an electric keyboard, but there may be some disadvantages depending on the size and quality of the keyboard. 

The best keyboards have 88 weighted keys. These keyboards, which are usually called digital pianos, are designed to mimic as closely as possible the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. With a keyboard like this, a piano student can develop finger strength and also the ability to play at different dynamic levels. Moving from a high-quality digital piano to an acoustic piano will require a little adjustment, but it won’t require that the student acquire completely new skills.

If you’re away from your usual acoustic piano or good-quality digital piano keyboard for a while, there’s no harm done in practicing on a smaller electric keyboard for a few days. However, it’s not recommended to learn the piano exclusively on a lower-quality keyboard. Here’s why:

  • If a keyboard is not touch sensitive, a student won’t be able to practice playing with dynamics (loud and soft). A piano’s dynamic range is one of the things that make it such a great instrument. Piano students will miss out on a lot of the piano’s potential if they can’t practice on a keyboard that allows them to play both loud and soft.
  • An electric keyboard without weighted keys won’t develop a student’s hand strength. They may be able to play the right notes, but it will be more difficult to move to playing an acoustic piano. Their ability to play with good dynamics will be affected as well.
  • Lastly, if a keyboard doesn’t have enough keys, students won’t be able to play more advanced piano pieces. Common finger exercises like two-hand two-octave scales and arpeggios may not fit on a smaller keyboard. 

Having an acoustic piano or a good quality electric piano keyboard has one more big advantage: it makes playing the piano a more enjoyable experience!

Learn more about how to choose the right keyboard or piano for you.

How to practice piano scales

Piano scales are an important part of learning the piano, but for some students they can become a source of frustration if they’re not introduced in the right way. At Hoffman Academy we start by teaching pentascales, which are five-note scales that can be played with the hands in one position. Read “What is a pentascale” to learn more, and download our free guide to all pentascales!

After students learn their pentascales, they’re ready to start the one-octave scales. At first, these scales are practiced hands separately. Only when students have reached a more advanced level do we have students play their scales hands together. By building up a strong foundation, step by step, starting with simple pentascales and then progressing a little at a time, piano scales are much easier to manage.

When practicing a piano scale, always play slowly at first. A metronome can help you choose a slow tempo and keep a steady beat. As the scale becomes more familiar, gradually increase the tempo. It can be fun to see how fast you can go!

To learn more about piano scales and tips for playing them, visit our Guide to All Scales: Major, Minor & More. You can also download our printable major and minor scales chart and our Fingering Guide for Major Scales and Fingering Guide for Minor Scales.

Use piano practice games

Children love games, and when it comes to piano practice there are lots of ways to have fun and be creative. A good practice time game will have a clear and specific goal with results attached. Within those guidelines, your imagination is the only limit.

To create a great piano practice game, first decide what skill you’d like to target, such as piano posture, or playing a section of a piece without missing any notes. Then choose a clear, specific goal that’s attainable for your child.

If hand position is the issue you’d like to tackle, make the object of the game to keep fingers curved and relaxed, and don’t worry about anything else. Next, decide how you’re going to give feedback. One fun way to do this is to have a small object like a toy or a coin set near one end of the keyboard. Move the object one key closer to the end every time the child succeeds. Make up a story about the object that your child will enjoy, such as a prisoner trying to escape from a dungeon, or a lost pet finding its way home.

Above all, piano practice games should be positive. Don’t set objectives too high. Children will enjoy games most if they can be successful 85% of the time or more. Use your imagination, be creative, and find out what clicks for your piano student.

Older students and adults can enjoy piano practice games too! When practicing with a metronome, make up some rules, such as “play this measure three times without mistakes and advance the tempo by ten, if you do make a mistake set the tempo back by five.” When you reach your tempo goal for that practice session, you win!

For more piano practice game ideas, check out this list of Great Piano Games for Students.

How to practice sight reading for piano players

It’s important to understand that sight reading is a specific skill that is independent of playing practiced pieces at the piano. For most students, sight reading will not come automatically as they progress through their piano studies. It’s a skill that must be developed intentionally.

To practice sight reading effectively remember these tips:

  • Choose a piece of music that is much simpler than a song you could learn to play with practice. 
  • Start by carefully looking over the piece of music. Check the key signature, the time signature, and look at each measure to get an idea of what to expect as you play.
  • Sight read slowly at first. If you find you’re making a lot of mistakes, slow down or choose a simpler piece of music.
  • When reading melody lines, look for relationships between notes. Do they repeat, step up, step down, skip, or move in a larger interval? Focus on relationships rather than the absolute positions of the notes.
  • When reading chords, focus on the lowest note and the shape of the chord rather than on each individual note.
  • As you sight read, look ahead so you’ll know what’s coming. Expert sight readers often learn to look several beats ahead of where they’re playing!

Get more tips on how to become a great sight reader.

How to practice piano chords

Piano chords are a wonderful way to add richness and color to music. Piano students should become familiar with all the various types of piano chords, how they are built, and the different forms they can take. Knowledge of chords will help with playing, sight reading, playing by ear, improvising, and composing on the piano. 

When playing a chord, listen carefully to make sure all notes are sounding equally. Keep your wrist flexible and use the full weight of your arm to play the chord, not just your fingers. 

Chords come in different sizes and shapes, and it’s good to practice as many of them as you can. Try to look at the shape of a chord and connect it with the shape that your hand makes to play that chord on the keyboard. This will speed up your reading and playing.

For a handy reference chart that has every chord in every key on the piano, download our FREE Ultimate Piano Chord Chart.

What is the best way to practice a piano piece?

The best way to practice a new piano piece can be summed up in two concepts:

  2. A little at a time

Think of learning a piano piece as training your brain to do something. Every time you play a little piece of the song correctly, even if you’re playing it very slowly, you’re teaching your brain and your fingers how to do it. If you play it too fast and make a mistake, now your brain has learned that mistake! When learning, it is better to play slowly and accurately than up to tempo and making mistakes.

When practicing the piano, it works best if you focus on one small part of a song at a time. Choose a few measures to work on, and once those are learned, move on to another few measures. Once all the small sections have been learned independently, it isn’t very hard to put them all together. This is much more efficient than practicing by always starting at the beginning of the piece and playing to the end.

How to practice piano without a piano

Practicing every day is important, but what if you don’t have access to a piano for a few days? You can practice the piano even when you’re not at the piano! Here are some ways to do this. 

One way to practice without a piano is to use a flat surface like a table or a desk and place your hands on it as if it were a piano keyboard. Move your fingers through the motions as if you were playing a song on the piano. You can do this for finger exercises, songs you know, and songs you’re still learning. Go slowly and make sure you’re using the right fingering! Doing this exercise will help with finger strength and muscle memory.

You can also practice the piano without moving your fingers at all. Simply imagine yourself playing a piano piece. Think about how your fingers will move and how the keys look and feel while you play. You can do this while looking at the sheet music, or if you have the piece of music memorized you can do it with your eyes closed. After doing this exercise, you may be surprised at how much your playing improves when you get back to the piano.

Another way to practice without a piano is to listen to recordings of the pieces you are learning. Knowing how a piece of music should sound allows you to know instantly when you’re playing a wrong note. It can also help you develop your musical sensitivity. Listening to different interpretations of a piano piece by various expert pianists can be very insightful and inspiring. Hoffman Academy Premium comes with listening tracks for every piece in our curriculum to enhance your piano learning.

Experience the power of piano practice

When you consistently practice the piano, using smart techniques, focus, and a positive attitude, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish. Piano pieces that you would never have dreamed of playing will become easy, and there will always be more challenging pieces to try. We hope these piano practice tips will help you on your piano practicing journey!

Join Hoffman Academy Premium and get great piano practice support, such as daily practice instructions, both listening and play-along audio tracks, piano practice games, charts and reference guides, and more!

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