This short list is the result of being asked for some practice tips from students and audience members. It’s by no means complete, but a few pointers in no specific order, that I find are important when I sit down to do my daily work at the piano. 


1. Have a plan. 

In order to have a truly productive and worthwhile practice session, it’s very important to know exactly what your goals are. I'm often asked after concerts how long I practice every day, and my answer is usually “until I’m done”. It might seem like I’m avoiding the question, but this really is the truth. Most students sit down at the piano with a time-oriented goal in mind, like “I have to practice 2 hours today”. In my mind, that is wholly misguided. You can spend 6 hours at the piano a day, and if only one of those hours is really productive, what’s the point of the other 5? 


2. Take breaks. 

Practicing is tiring. You are working muscles all over your body (hands, arms, shoulders, back, core, and legs). You are also (hopefully) concentrating, which is taxing to the brain. When you feel yourself starting to get either mentally or physically tired, take a small break to walk around, stretch, take some deep breaths, and then get back to it. You will then feel refreshed and less fatigued, which will make your practicing more efficient. 


3. The 90% rule. 

This has to do with practicing slowly. I always tell people that 90% of my practicing is under-tempo. Sometimes it’s half-tempo, sometimes varying speeds, but this is very important. Even pieces that are concert ready need this slow work. This gives the brain and muscles the slow detailed training they need to react quickly under pressure on stage. 


4. Have a snack. 

This is an easy one! Having a snack nearby, or enjoying one during a break will help with concentration. When you get hungry, your brain is not as quick - and neither are your muscles! 


5. Enjoy mistakes. 

This is perhaps the most important one. Mistakes NEED to happen during practicing. This is where they should be welcome, since it is during practicing that the problem-solving of working on a piece happens. Getting frustrated does absolutely no good and is always counter-productive. When a mistake happens, it’s your chance to become a better pianist by working to identify and eliminate mistakes as much as possible!

AuthorChad R. Bowles