- Practice major and minor scales every day
Learning to play scales on the piano is one of the most important technical exercises you can do to improve your piano performance skills.
Scales can serve as the foundation for piano technique because they are used so often in classical and jazz piano performance repertoire.
But what is the best way to practice your scales?
In one word: slowly.
When developing the muscle memory required to perform scales and arpeggios, it’s very easy to learn bad habits by playing too fast.
Particularly with piano lessons for kids, it is critical to practice scales slowly to ensure that both major & minor scales can be performed evenly without thinking.
Ideally, when practicing scales, it is best if you can play with both hands at the same time.
However, if you can’t do this, then isolate each hand one at a time until you have mastered the major or minor scale you are practicing.
Another tip that can dramatically help to improve your piano technique is to practice your scales in more than one octave.
Making a habit out of performing two, three, and four-octave scale patterns can do wonders for improving piano technique and help you feel more comfortable at the piano when performing songs.
- Isolate & Repeat
One of the biggest mistakes that too many young musicians make when practicing is failing to isolate a technical issue that they are having.
When practicing scales or arpeggios, it’s common for the pianist to be able to play 80% of the given scale and have problems with the remaining 20%.
The key to rapid improvement is to isolate these “problem” areas that you are having and practice them slowly over and over again.
The goal is to develop the muscle memory in your fingers so that you do not have to critically think as much when performing but can rely on the good habits you’ve developed.
This particular practice formula can be used on scales, arpeggios, and songs!
- Practice with a metronome
This might be the most important tip that can help to dramatically improve your piano lesson results.
When taking beginner piano lessons, it is common for students to rush their scales, phrases and songs.
This can be due to nerves, poorly developed muscle memory or from a lack of metronome practice.
In order to develop an evenness and control in your piano lessons, it’s essential that you consistently practice with a metronome.
If you don’t want to buy a metronome, then just download a Metronome app on the App store (I like MetroTimer).
Make sure that when you are practicing your scales and arpeggios that you are using a metronome to ensure that you develop proper piano technique.
The goal to metronome practice is to start with slower tempos to ensure that you have control over the song, scale or phrase you are practicing.
When you feel you have complete control over the phrase, you can adjust the tempo upwards incrementally until you’ve hit your target speed.
- Start with practicing 30 minutes each day
Consistency is one most important things when it comes to improving piano performance.
In order to learn any instrument, your brain needs time and repetition to build the neural pathways necessary to perform a scale or song.
Most beginning piano students underestimate how long it takes for their brain to move a particular passage or phrase from short term memory to long term memory.
Ideally the more information or muscle memory that you can move into your long term memory from consistent practice, the less you will need to actively think about it when performing in front of others.
In addition to simply staying consistent with your piano practice routines, it’s important to initially keep the time spent practicing to a relatively low amount to start.
It’s very easy to lose focus when practicing for long hours, and the time you spend practicing should be spent actively thinking about improving your skills.
- Practice with Slower Tempos
Many young pianists love to play fast!
And while there is nothing wrong with playing fast (when it’s clean!), for younger performers the speed of work typically takes precedence to the detriment of creating a musical phrase or simply staying in control of the instrument!
By slowing down the tempo that you practice your scales, arpeggios, and songs, it will be easier to develop the muscle memory required to perform them.
A good rule of thumb is that if you can’t perform something perfectly at a slow tempo, then you shouldn’t be performing it at a fast tempo.
If you do, you run the risk of creating bad habits and poor technique because your muscle memory wasn’t properly developed.
6. Listen to great musicians to get inspiration
One of the best things you can do to improve the results you are achieving in your piano lessons is to listen more to musicians that you aspire to play like and works you would enjoy performing.
Getting inspired is perhaps the most important tip when it comes to improving piano lesson effectiveness because the more inspired a student is, the greater the likelihood they will practice more and more.
- Have Fun and Mix it Up
When practicing the piano, it’s important to add variety to your practice routine to ensure that you stay engaged with the music that’s in front of you.
For example, if you were planning on practice for 30 minutes, instead of spending all of that time only practicing major scales, you might try splitting up the session like this:
- 10 minutes of major scales
- 10 minutes of arpeggios
- 10 minutes practicing a song
The above is just an example, however, the idea is to cover a variety of topics within your practice routine to ensure that you are actively thinking about what you are playing and also covering a variety of piano performance segments.
KW Music Studios offers in-home Irvine piano lessons for kids and adults of all ages and skill levels.
Their experienced piano teachers can help both beginner and advanced piano students reach their piano performance goals by following a structured piano curriculum designed to get the most out of each lesson.
They hold two piano recitals each year to give students the opportunity to show off their newly learned skills to friends and family!