Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a more advanced musician, learning the piano with private lessons is definitely worth every ounce of work and every penny you pay.
But you should be sure you are making the most of them. There are many aspects to take into account over the course of your instruction, from what work you should be doing at home, the right mental attitude to adopt, and of course, how to choose the best instructor. Then you can worry about the details, like achieving proper posture, distinguishing between quarter notes and sharps, and, oh right, what to do with your left hand!
Work efficiently on your at-home piano lessons
It would never be said that lessons alone are enough to learn how to play the piano. The key to success lies in practicing, training, piano exercises, recitals, etc. There’s unfortunately no way of avoiding the laborious side of piano instruction. Beethoven didn’t get to where he was for nothing!
The benefit of private lessons is that they allow you to organize your playing, so it remains focused and not off in a million directions. A piano teacher should guide students on the right path to progress, suggesting a methodology, relevant exercises and piano music that gradually increase in difficulty.
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The music instructor also teaches a work method and explains to students the best ways to practice the piano at home. Improvisation is not always the ideal method, especially for beginner piano!
Because, as for many other things, quality is often more important than quantity. Work hours don’t equal progress. 30 minutes of intense piano playing is better than an hour of work with no focus. Besides, playing the piano won’t be as fun!
All progress on your piano or keyboard requires effort and work. For example, we master a piano song after playing it for the 30th time. A piece of advice: if you are stumbling over something, it’s a good sign!
In order for your piano teacher to help you work efficiently at home, ask him or her to implement a training plan.
Ask your piano teacher for a training schedule
You’ll never become more advanced as a pianist if you don’t practice in between lessons at home. But how can you know what you should be working on if your teacher doesn’t explain it clearly and in detail? That’s why we at Superprof advise you to ask your piano teacher for a piano playing plan that’s clear and precise. Having a thought-out plan will allow you to know where you are going and how to get there. You’ll learn piano much more efficiently this way.
A schedule is also a very practical tool for motivation. With a schedule, you’ll identify one or several objectives to attain, such as working on a particular exercise for an hour on Tuesday, reading a piece of sheet music on Thursday, playing a song in its entirety on Sunday, etc. As you can see, the schedule is a tool that plays an important role on a psychological level.
You have to frame your music training in terms of objectives. This is the key to success at piano playing. Practicing just for the sake of it is not enough, and music is not as complicated as you think. Even if at-home practicing is at the heart of piano training, aimless practicing without clear challenges will make your head spin – not a good look! For instance, when you work on a piece of piano music without a clear objective, you’ll need much more time to master it.
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Find out how long to practice the piano
We’ve briefly brushed on this question earlier: it’s better to work intensely for 30 minutes at your keyboard rather than one hour without concentrating. And to achieve optimal concentration, organize work sessions of at least 30 minutes. This is the minimum to have you’ll need to soak up what you are working on, whether it’s an octave, arpeggio, chord progression or a concerto!
So, should you tap the keys 30 minutes or one hour every day, every two days, every three days? There is no definitive response to this question, as it depends on your objectives. It’s obvious that the more you work, the faster you’ll advance. But be careful: working too much leads to burnouts and can be counterproductive. Why not alternate music genres to diversify your practice sessions? Classical piano one hour, then jazz the next?
Communicate your progress aims to your piano instructor. He or she will be able to better guide you on how many weekly work sessions are necessary to attain your aims. Generally speaking, it is thought that you must work at least twice per week to advance and get that musical ear you’ve always wanted! Otherwise you might never learn how to read music or play piano by ear, if that is what you want. If you work one hour every day, that is perfect (as long as you are working well, as we said above). But don’t forget that what counts is regularity.
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Adopt a positive attitude
Did you know that the organ that we use most during piano training and practicing is the brain, and not the hands? In fact, that’s what makes piano training so tiring and frustrating, because it mobilizes both our intellectual and physical faculties.
The more we use our brain, the more productive is our training: practicing for hours and hours on autopilot will make you progress much slower than if you concentrate on what you’re doing. In piano training, quality work equals intense work. And if you play without thinking you risk taking on bad habits when you make music.
Your brain must be constantly alert when you are working on your tempo, piano scales and sheet music! More precisely, you must:
- Focus on trouble spots you encounter in your work and find solutions to them. Piano training is largely about identifying and resolving problem areas (techniques for instance).
- Don’t focus all your attention on your hands: you must also concentrate on the sounds made by your hands, that is, listen to yourself play. Listening allows you to detect any eventual wrong notes, notes held too long or not long enough, errors in rhythm, etc.
- Concentrate constantly: concentration is the key to efficient work. For training, choose the time during the day when your concentration capacity is at peak levels (even if it’s difficult because of work or school).
- Don’t get annoyed, stay calm. Irritation will not help piano training for children or adults.
- Stay motivated: when you’re working on piano exercises or songs on your baby grand, you’ll encounter moments of laziness and discouragement. Keep at it, which is easier when you’ve set piano objectives (see above).
Find the right piano teacher
One can never put enough stress on the importance of finding the right piano instructor, that is, someone capable of helping you progress. This aspect is essential, because so many piano students decide to quit playing when they don’t get along with their private instructor. Don’t settle on the first free piano lesson you find on the web, research your music teacher carefully!
If you’ve found the ideal piano teacher (not ideal in itself, but ideal for you), he or she will guide you and explain how to work, how to organize your training sessions, what rhythm to work at, and what attitude to adopt.
The piano teacher is also there to answer students’ questions, about doubts, lack of motivation, or anything! He or she should be teaching all aspects of piano playing, including:
- Posture work
- Solfège training
- Practicing songs
- Piano scales, chord progressions, octaves and arpeggios
- Reading music and music theory
Lastly, you shouldn’t need this article if you already have a good piano teacher! A good piano teacher is one who gives challenging and informative classes and who explains how to work to ones full advantage and potential.
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Two final pieces of advice for making the most out of your piano lessons
So that you make the most out of your private lessons given by your piano teacher, remember two things:
First, perfection is not human. Even the best pianists play wrong notes. Don’t look for perfection in the exercises and music pieces you play (unless they’re very simple tunes). We are not robots: you can aim for perfection, while holding on to your individual sense.
To progress on the piano, it’s essential to mobilize and develop your music awareness and ear. One might even say that it’s central in the sense that it bridges the physical and intellectual aspects of piano training. For both adults and children, this awareness speaks to the body and the soul, and should guide your playing.
You’ll see that it isn’t easy to distinguish between the artistic and technical sides (think of artistic skating competitions) of performance. Musical sensitivity is the motor behind developing one’s technique and is therefore a measure of how well you use your piano lessons!
To succeed at playing a piano tune, the song must move you.
The Internet is an excellent source for online piano tools and songs to help hone your music appreciation and awareness. But it should not replace listening to live music in theatres and bars. Online piano classes and video lessons are a gold mine of efficient, fun, and motivating learning methods. Why not start right here at Superprof? You’ll be playing like Mozart sooner than you think!
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