Piano Lessons For Beginners – How To Maintain A Piano Song You Have Already Learned

Nothing beats the sheer satisfaction of having executed a rendition of a piece by Beethoven or any of the icons of classical music with perfection.

It is a feat that can never be accomplished without raw passion and hard work. Rehearsing the song bar by bar to the point that we have its delicate melody singing to the bidding of our fingers brings out the best in us. The time and energy spent feels all worthwhile.

‘Great! Now I can fly off to Bermuda to sip on margaritas’.

Not so fast…

The expertise we have acquired to play a piano song requires constant maintenance. Without which, soon the piano song will fade from our memory.

How do you maintain a song you have already learned? The piano lessons are constantly progressing. The teacher is always bringing out new compositions to learn. Practising scales alone takes almost an hour. “Eventually I am going to forget the song that I have just managed to play so well” - I too have heard myself lamenting as such.

Here are a few ways to keep a song safely secured in your memory, ready for recital at a moment’s notice - anytime, anywhere.

Piano Lessons For Beginners - Maintaining A Piano Song: #1 – Allocate 15 minutes for the songs

In a typical practise routine, I usually start off with some fingering exercises from Hanon, followed by playing the scales. Then proceed to play the piece I am currently learning. Being a slow learner, it takes an hour for me to make any siginificant progress in the new piece.

As I learned more songs though, this routine was no longer sustainable because I would loose the fluidity and smoothness playing the older songs. Even while looking at the score.

Realizing the problem, I asked myself “What can I do about this? Is there any way to build on my ever growing collection of songs without forgetting how to play the older ones?”

I posed this question to my piano teacher one night. Her answer was simple yet profound - Instead of warming up with the fragmented fingering exercises or the scales, it is a lot more fun to stretch your fingers playing the songs already in your repertoire.

Before starting work on improving technique by practising Hanon’s fingering exercises, scales and arpeggios, prior to beginning practice on the latest piano piece, I now spend the first 15 minutes of every practice sitting playing the songs that I learned weeks and even months earlier. After a few weeks of religiously adhering to this retooled practise program, songs that were lost from my memory began to return.

Piano Lessons For Beginners - Maintaining A Piano Song: #2 – Play at least 3 medleys

I used to resist playing too many songs in one sitting out of fear that it might distort my focus on the new piano piece I was working on. On the contrary, herein lays the beauty of doing something you love – playing the earlier songs that you have learnt actually helps you learn the new one.

How is that so?

After about an hour of repetition trying to bring a movement to perfection, it is natural to start to grow weary and even frustrated if you are not progressing as well as you had hoped. This is a good time to revisit an earlier song.

Play a song you know that you can play so well that you are awashed with pride the instant the last key is struck. You will find that your confidence has been restored when you return to practising that vexing piece by Mozart.

Have another two fully learnt piano song on hand so that you can play them in alternate turns to keep things fresh. They also serve as a source of motivation. Remember, if you keep practising, one day inevitably you will be able to play the piece by Mozart just as well.

A medley of at least three songs breaks the monotonous cycle of trying to master the bewildering piano piece you are currently working on.

Piano Lessons For Beginners - Maintaining A Piano Song: #3 – Blend in some diversity

This month, basketball fans watching the NBA are all abuzz about an unassuming young player who burst on to the court out of nowhere to set it ablaze with his 3 point jump shots, dizzying cross court dribbles and laser guided passings - helping the New York Knicks to four consecutive victories.

Just a week before no one knew who Jeremy Lin was. As more stories about his background emerged I found out that before playing for the NY Knicks he was rejected by two other teams.

But he kept honing his skills. He worked to sharpen all technical aspects of his game while he continued to find a spot to fulfill his dream - playing in the NBA. This is not a guy who dropped out of high school with only basketball in his life - he has an economics degree from Harvard.

Inspired by his uplifting story, the same attitude can be applied to learning the piano, I thought. We have to keep sharpening our skills in playing the piano even when it feels like not a soul in the world believes in us. Irrespective of your goal, whether it is to become the next Lang Lang or just to pass the Grade 5 practical exams.

An excellent way to improve technical skills and maintain a piano song at the same time is to play songs from different genres. Blend in some diversity - include a Baroque piece together with your favourite romantic song and sign off with a rockin’ Jazz tune.

Le Coucou by Daquin is a Baroque piece. It was composed at a time when the piano was not yet invented. The music was intended to be played on its predecessor the harpsichord, which did not have a paddle to sustain a sound.

To compensate for the gaps, notes were inserted in their place, leaving us with a piece that calls for a great deal of finger maneuverings and hand movements. Play this song regularly to acquire such skills.

Legendary Hong Kong songbird Teresa Teng mesmerised audiences worldwide singing ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’. Kenny G covered this song on the saxophone during a live concert once.

I began studying this romantic song last week after collecting the score from a friend. The title was written in Mandarin, so I had to ask my colleagues at work for its translation. When I did, a small frenzy erupted in the office - so popular is this song that the ladies started singing it to me.

Romantic songs are calm and solacing affairs. Holding down a note and lifting up off it at just the right moment to generate the appropriate decay is one of the crafts one needs to acquire. Soft touch of the keys playing legato is another constant necessity in any romantic piece.

Piano Lessons For Beginners - Maintaining A Piano Song: #4 – Invite family members to listen

None of my family members are musically inclined, unless you count watching MTV as music making. When my parents found out that I was taking piano lessons, they were baffled.

Puzzled though he was, my father has always been supportive of me - one day he asked me to play something for him. I played ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles. He instantly knew the song and his face brightened up.

Seeing how hearing ‘Yesterday’ on the piano made my father happy, the song has stayed with me ever since. Invite family members or some of your closest friends to listen. Their reaction will have a lasting effect on you.

Piano Lessons For Beginners - Maintaining A Piano Song: #5 – Impart the knowledge

What little knowledge that you now possess about playing the piano can be useful to someone who does not have a clue. The 10 year old nephew who can not keep his hands off your piano whenever he comes for a visit or the girl next door who turns her glance towards your window everytime she hears you play – they are potential unofficial students you can share your piano playing knowledge with.

Teaching someone benefits the knowledge giver as much as the student because it tests the depth of your understanding of the subject. Let us say I am teaching my 10 year old nephew how to play ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – an easy enough song for a hyperactive boy to learn.

Everyday I spend an hour with him explaining the fingering, tempo and expressions in every musical phrase of the song. Isn’t it likely that I would be able to remember and play this song better than any other piano song?

It takes weeks and sometimes months to completely master a song. Without regular maintenance they fade from our memory and our fingers. Do not let all the hard work we have put in go to waste.

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