Although there might be pianists that claim to enjoy all their practice sessions, this is not the case for the vast majority of pianists. However, this does not in any way suggest that pianists do not appreciate the importance of their practice sessions.

A professional in any field gets better at his or her trade through many hours of drudgery. The same applies to pianists; they develop their skill during practice sessions.

Even with this appreciation of the importance of practice, a lot of piano students still do not get the most out of their practice hours. Most will put in a good number of practice hours each week, but that doesn’t mean they all get the same value from their work.

best practice
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

As any professional pianist will tell you, there are right and wrong ways to practice. We discuss some of the mistakes piano students make during when practicing that renders their practice hours less valuable than they should be:

1. Practicing too long

Instead of practicing for 30 minutes each day, I’ll just practice 3 hours once a week.

Piano students need to understand that the most valuable practice time is when you have full concentration. In fact, it’s actually better to spend just five minutes of fully concentrated practice rather than spend five hours moving your fingers as your mind wanders. British Virtuoso Jonathan Plowright shares this piece of advice:

Everyone is different and we all have limitations when it comes to concentration. Some can concentrate for longer periods than others, and you should be able to find out your own limit, and realise when your concentration is dipping. That is the time to stop, have a break, go for a walk etc… Personally I find 45-60 minutes to be an ideal length of time for each session and I will do 4 – 5 sessions a day depending on my workload of pieces. Via Limelight Magazine

2. Being mechanical instead of analytical

If I can just complete two hours of practice, I’ll be a pro in no time, right? Wrong!

piano student
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It’s important to have your practice objectives in place, but it’s just as important to be fully engaged and aware of the progress you’re making (or not making). According to Melvyn Tan:

A lot of students don’t really know how to practise. The way to practise, I think, is to really listen to yourself, but in a very analytical way. So you almost don’t think of the musical emotions in the piece, but you’re thinking of being able to project each note, thinking about why the composer wrote certain sequences of notes. And then you apply it to a much bigger canvas, you apply the colour and then emotions – and that is a long process. Via Classic FM

3. Trying to learn pieces quickly

You know you’re getting better at piano when you can learn pieces faster, right? Wrong!

You’ll actually find that most piano pros deliberately take their time learning piano pieces. Plowright shares:

I have come to realise that the slower, more pragmatic the approach to learning a piece results in learning it better and ultimately faster. Treat yourself as an idiot and do not take anything for granted. Via Limelight Magazine

4. Going for difficult exercises

The more difficult the pieces you’re learning, the better you’re getting, right? Wrong!

piano lesson
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According to Plowright:

The only exercises I have ever done were given to me by my teacher Alexander Kelly when I was a teenager, and I still do them now. Created by Oscar Berenger, they follow a simple premise – a shifting harmonic progression (C- D- E- F- G, C-D-Eb-F-G, C-Db-Eb-F-Gb, etc) that slowly and simply moves you up through all the keys. If an exercise is simple to remember, you then spend more time concentrating on what your hands and fingers are doing. You should not be worrying about what the next note is. Via Limelight Magazine

5. Multitasking

I can cover a lot more ground by working on more than one piece at a time, right? Wrong!

Discipline yourself to complete each practice goal before moving on to the next. In the long run, you’ll save enormous time by completing the day’s work on your Mozart sonata before studying Debussy, rather than bouncing back and forth between them at whim. While you might not get that new Chopin etude note-perfect and up to tempo today, you can indeed ‘finish’ a given passage with musical polish at a slow tempo. Via Key Notes

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