I describe this blog as “musings on multiple matters,” but somehow I’ve neglected to writing about my two biggest passions in life: Sports and music. So, I’ve decided to go ahead and include that here so that I can share some of the things I’ve learned and experienced with whoever reads this blog. I’ve played piano all my life, guitar and drums since I was 13, and I occasionally fiddle with the bass. For sports, I played basketball and volleyball in high school (had aspirations to play college and beach volleyball) and after high school I played competitive tennis. To start, I’m going to give a few tips on improving your piano ability so that you can enjoy playing a little more. So, hit the “more” link and let’s get started!

1. Relax, keep your fingers curved and keep your wrists above the keyboard

One thing that bothers me when watching beginning pianists is seeing their wrists go limp and sinking below the level of the keyboard. When you do this, you lose the ability to keep your fingers curved and relaxed over the keys. Now, this isn’t a hard and solid rule as we know greats like Cziffra played with his hands almost flat on the piano, but until you’re playing like him it’s best to stick to this advice. When you hold your hands out in front of you like you’re going to play, what happens to your fingers when you completely relax? That’s right, they hang with a natural curve. Your fingers don’t stick out and defy gravity, so don’t do this when you’re playing or it will make your forearms more tense. Keep your wrists above keyboard level to maintain this natural curve so that you are more relaxed, have better dynamic/volume/attack control, and keystrokes are more natural and flow smoothly.

2. Posture up, feet flat on the ground

This isn’t really a tip I should be telling you, but it makes me feel lazy just watching a hunched pianist with legs crossed underneath the bench. One you start hunching over, you’ll slowly start becoming lazy at the keyboard. Stay alert and attentive so that you play and practice with purpose. When your feet are not on the pedals, keep them flat on the ground. Don’t cross your legs or play around with your feet because it won’t help with your posture. Stay relaxed and keep good posture and you’ll notice a difference in the way you play over time.

3. Stay focused when you practice

If you’re not just toying with the piano and you actually sit down to practice, you should practice! Once you start becoming bored with a piece, get up and walk around or have some coffee or water. Remaining at the piano when you get bored will cause you to become distracted and next thing you know, you’ve been sitting at the piano for an hour goofing off without accomplishing much. There’s nothing wrong with getting in some time to play your favorite pieces or getting playful with some tunes, but if that’s not why you’re sitting at the piano it’s time to get back in focus. Half an hour of solid, productive practice time is better than two hours of practicing and just goofing in between your bouts of concentration.

4. Play slowly when learning new music and do not rush through the music or notes

When beginners start moving into the intermediate phase of piano, they grow impatient when learning new material. At this point, sight reading has become easier and correct fingering starts to come naturally. It’s easy to get ahead of onesself so take it easy and continue slowly. If you play through the same pages over and over again but you’re making a mistake or two here and there, those mistakes will stay with you and it will be hard to get it right. How slowly should you play? You should play as slow as it takes so you don’t make mistakes. We all want to learn the piece and move on already, but why not get it right? Playing piano involves a lot of muscle memory, and believe me when I say that the mistakes you make when learning new music will become a part of you if you don’t get it right. Play slowly and hit every note perfectly. If you make a mistake, keep going and go back to it later at a slower tempo. You’ll eventually get it and speed and expression will come later.

5. Use a metronome during practice!

With any instrument, a metronome should be used often during practice – especially on the piano. In the video I posted (sorry for the bad quality, it was on a camera phone years ago), I am playing Solfeggietto by CPE Bach. It’s not a difficult piece at all. It’s simply going from scale to scale and the fingering is very easy. However, I find that a lot of people completely ruin the timing for such a simple piece. The entire piece is played in 16th notes but a lot of beginners want to play it very fast and start sacrificing the proper tempo. Playing with a metronome alleviates these problems and also gives you a better sense of the music. You’ll also know that you’re playing too fast if you’re making too many mistakes and you can incrementally lower the speed by one or two beats-per-minute until you can play it perfectly. Once you do that, you can slowly bring the speed back up again until you’re playing it at the speed at which it was intended to be played.

Nothing I’ve written is groundbreaking information. The problem with these “5 easy steps” and “7 ways” and “20 tips” lists on the Internet is that they rarely offer anything of real value. Blogs and articles that start with a number and offers steps, tips and ways to do something is simply linkbait – maybe this is one of them. Remember, if you’re attempting something or working on a new project, there is no magic list of tips that will get it done for you. Always keep a solid foundation, practice correctly, and work hard. When it comes to learning a new instrument, no book, DVD, or list of online tips is going to make you an overnight sensation. Keep at it and stay patient and you will reap the rewards. Trust me.

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