The New Year begins with good intentions – here are some good ways to improve your piano technique this year…
When the New Year begins, most people have some very good intentions, if you’re a pianist, these will no doubt extend to your playing in some way. This is very commendable, but if you don’t approach this in the right way, it can quickly go the way of most New Year resolutions, to be abandoned before February even starts.
To help you achieve your goal, here are some great tips to help you to improve your piano technique
1. Regular, quality practice is key…
This may seem really obvious, but hear me out. Some players, when attempting to be more disciplined, and improve technique, will start to practice for hours on end, without much of a plan or any defined goals. The result is that they play more (which is good), but make slow progress because they’re not aiming at any particular target.
Regular, structured practice, even for shorter periods, is better than long practice with now defined goals. Set manageable targets that will be achievable within daily, shorter practices. This will keep motivation levels high, as progress will be far more obvious.
2. Improve your sight-reading
Confidence in your ability to read music makes the process of playing far easier. It stands to reason that getting your hands moving in the right way is easier if reading the music is intuitive and natural. Practice playing pieces that you’re completely unfamiliar with, alongside those that you are. Start with pieces that look simple, but gradually increase their difficulty, and your sight-reading will improve massively. This will remove one of the biggest obstacles to improving technique.
3. Take your fingers to the gym
Though it often gets overlooked, playing a musical instrument places physical demands on your hands. Keeping the relevant muscles trim and flexible is important. There are numerous famous exercise books to help, such as the Czerny and Hanon exercise collections. Plus, some Kawai digital models even have these built-in. Alternatively, if you have a Roland HP piano and an iPad, you can take advantage of the excellent Piano Partner free app.
4. Use the technology available
There are all manner of technological tools that can help you achieve productive practice these days. Nearly every digital piano has a built-in metronome, but if not, or your piano is acoustic, there are inexpensive metronomes available (see online here). This can be one of the most useful tools for structured practice. Aside from making you practice to a real, regular rhythm, which will improve your natural timing, it also enables you to slow things right down whilst you master a piece or exercise and get it perfect, then gradually speed it up to the correct speed.
Recording your performances is also a great way to assess your progress. This can be as simple as using a mobile phone, but there are some superb quality hand-held recorders which are capable of capturing stereo audio at incredible quality. Some of these are surprisingly inexpensive, too. Many digital pianos have built-in recorders these days, making it even easier to hear where any technique issues may lie.
The key thing when trying to improve technique is to stay motivated, and to do this, you need to be having fun and seeing progress. The tips above should help to ensure that this happens.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.