Are you trying to learn a new piece of music on the piano, and it seems like it’s taking forever? Would you like to know the fastest way to learn a new piece without making mistakes?
Well, there is a simple way to learning and practicing a new piece, and a much faster way to learn the piano overall. Here are a few tips that are essential when learning a new piece, which ensures you get to the end result much quicker –
Split the piece up into sections
… and only practice these sections rather than the full piece. The length of the sections depends on how long the piece is, so this is left to your discretion. Shorter pieces may need you to practice it a bar at a time and a longer piece may allow for 4-6 bars at a time.
It may be extremely tempting to ignore this rule and practice huge chunks of the piece in one go, or even the entire piece; but it’s really important you follow this rule and control your urges. This tends to be the most difficult part of the practice routine, but is possibly the most important. There’s nothing wrong with having a go through the whole piece on your first few times of playing, as this is a good way to identify the areas of difficulty, but make sure this is the only time. Once you’ve had a go you then need to mark the piece into sections immediately, and get to work on the first section only.
Once you can then play this section at a reasonable speed (in relation to the correct tempo of the piece), and without any mistakes, you can then move onto the next part. If you are still making mistakes, you cannot move on until these are corrected.
Practice the right and left hands separately
Alongside practicing the piece section by section, it’s important to note that you should also practice the right and left hands separately. There is an exception to this rule, and that’s if you can play a section at the correct tempo with both hands without making any mistakes. However, typically when learning a new piece you would need to practice the hands separately for the most part. Once you can play each part separately you can try it with both hands together. Again, don’t move on to the next section until you can play this at a reasonable tempo without any mistakes.
Play it slowly
… to begin with even if you are way under the correct tempo. It’s important to ensure you play the notes correctly before you pick up the pace. You may play certain sections faster if you are able to without mistakes, but remember that it may sound a little disjointed if the piece is speeding up and slowing down throughout. So try to find a slower pace overall for the piece that allows you to play it at the same tempo without the need for slowing down or speeding up.
If you try to play the difficult parts too fast then you will inevitably make mistakes. You must ensure you don’t sacrifice a couple of mistakes for the need to play it quicker. In the end it will be much more satisfying to play the piece without any mistakes, rather than trying to rush to learn it and end up with permanent mistakes that you can’t get out of the habit of making.
Don’t forget that your muscle memory will try to learn what you throw at it, so if you constantly make the same mistakes over and over, then your hands will continue to make these mistakes for a very long time, and it will be much harder in the future to correct these mistakes.
So by slowing down difficult sections to a speed you can play it at without any mistakes, you are teaching yourself the correct way to play it, and you will not fall into any bad habits. No matter how impatient you may become with this method, it’s important you stick to it.
Take a break if you need it!
Sometimes practicing the piano can be very tiresome and mentally draining, so it’s important you know when enough is enough, and a break is needed. It could be a short 10 minute coffee break, a few hours, or even a whole weekend.
From my own personal experience I’ve found in the past that too much practice on one thing can sometimes be detrimental. You may think I’m going crazy by saying this, but I’ve often found myself struggling with a certain section and no matter how long I practice, I just can’t seem to master it. However, come the next day when my mind is fresh and less frustrated, I can suddenly play it.
So if you do find yourself getting frustrated and impatient, then it’s time for a break. This could mean you play something else, or it could mean you stop playing altogether – the choice is yours. If you do choose to play something else then make sure it’s something you can play well, otherwise you will just frustrate yourself even more. If you plan on practicing for an hour, then it may be a good idea to incorporate both. You could maybe play something you know for the first 15 minutes to get warmed up, followed by about 30 minutes of a new piece. That may then leave you about 15 minutes to finish off with something you can play again, so you don’t finish your practice feeling drained and that you haven’t accomplished anything.
It’s important to remind yourself of what you can play to keep your motivation levels high. Another good way of doing this is to record yourself once a week when you are learning the new piece. That way you can then listen to how much better you’re getting. You’d be amazed at how far you advance when learning a piece, but you won’t appreciate this until you hear it!
Listen to how it should be played
… before and during your practice. It’s important to understand how the piece should be played as it will help you play the rhythm correctly. If you have a piano teacher then they will be able to keep you on the right track, but if you are teaching yourself then it’s important to listen to someone else playing it otherwise you won’t know you’re playing it wrong. However, don’t forget that you can also create your own interpretation of the piece if you wish, so you don’t have to play it exactly has you hear it.