Less than a year ago, I was a young professional trying to make time for creative endeavors, including piano practice. I’d been playing piano on and off since starting lessons at age six.
How to practice piano
If you’ve ever listened to a professional recording of a piece you’ve been working on for your piano lessons—say Yuja Wang playing Schumann’s The Smuggler—you’ve probably been struck by the obvious: she plays the piece way faster than you do. She plays some passages so fast you can barely process the notes and rhythms in order to see how you should practice.
Looking down at our hands as we play breaks the continuity of reading, prevents us from looking ahead, and undermines concentration. Yet for many piano students, even some who have played for years, it is a frequent temptation.
“It’s tendonitis,” the doctor said, cradling my left arm. “Playing a lot of tennis?”
What are the best apps for adult piano students and amateur pianists?
In this video, Ricker Choi is performing an excerpt of Liszt’s Totentanz during the final round at the 2010 Berlin International Piano Amateur Competition.
Most pianists have been tripped up by difficult rhythms at one point or another—such as counting a 16th-note rest in a Bach Invention, or trying to play triplets on one hand while maintaining eighth notes with the other.
Imagine you’re seated at your piano with sheet music. But as soon as you begin to play the first note in a measure, the entire measure is erased from the score. You’re forced to play what notes you remember and move on, whether you’ve made mistakes or not. This persistent score-eraser chases you until you finish the piece.
Do you ever wish you had all of your sheet music with you constantly so you could play anything, anytime, anywhere? Or perhaps you’re studying a long piece and find turning the pages mid-phrase to be cumbersome?
What strikes me first about the online music-learning app Meludia is that it doesn’t tell me precisely what to do. The six initial exercises are arranged in a circle so I’m not sure which one to start with—but the order doesn’t matter.
For several years after I reclaimed my passion for the piano, I struggled with the concept of tempo rubato.
Piano keys are an iconic image for music throughout the world, but they represent much more than sound. While their distinct arrangement of white and black have been featured in paintings, sung about by pop singers, and reproduced on everything from napkins to neckties—these keys are not only visual reminders of a piano.
Jeremy Denk says he never plays a piece of music the same way twice. Reading that, as a longtime fan of the celebrated pianist, reminded me of an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while: At what point will I have finished learning a composition? Does the finish line come when I have played the music at a consistent tempo?
On a whim, I slipped a Joni Mitchell songbook into my tote bag along with my classical piano scores, before scrambling for my keys and rushing out the door for my session at the new music studio where I’ve been practicing once a week, since I don’t have a piano at home.
Think of a simple song. “Happy Birthday” will do. Imagine the rhythm of the words, the bouncing melody soaring out of you as you make the birthday candles flicker. Hear the happy crowd harmonizing. Feel the music building to a rousing climax as everyone belts out “to you!” at the end.
This past summer, armed with 12 years of weekly lessons and two years of music theory, I achieved a goal I never thought possible—memorizing a piece of music.
The piano duet pair Anna Shelest and Dmitri Shelest first met at the Kharkiv Special Music School in Ukraine when they were 12 years old.
When I joined the concert pianist Simone Dinnerstein in her home studio, I asked questions not as a classical music critic or a piano pedagogue.
For many years, I regarded my adult piano lessons as showtime. Of course my teacher and I worked through the material, but I saw the lesson primarily as a chance to perform work I had accomplished the week before.
Since beginning adult piano lessons a decade ago, I have tried to ignore my left hand. Fixated on the treble clef and my right hand, I viewed the bass clef as a nuisance, a mere accompaniment to the more seductive melody.
The Music Animation Machine helps pianists visualize the counterpoint in Bach with videos showing each of the voices.
Almost everyone has struggled with at least one subject in high school. Mine was language.
Sometimes when seated at the piano–besotted with the harmonies, exalted by the rhythms–adult piano students relegate their careers to time-consuming day jobs. Their chief concern becomes finding time to practice piano.
In this final article on how to find a good piano teacher, I describe how to make your decision after you take trial lessons from a short list of teachers.