Learn piano online, breeze through demanding passages by practising these 3 tips
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln.
The former president who won the civil war and united a nation was talking about the importance of preparation before setting out to do something. Playing a song well on the piano requires preparation too.
The time that I have to practise the piano is limited. Every practise session is precious to me, so I jealously guard the time that I have for practising. I switch off my phone to deny distractions, fight the temptation to make visits to the refrigerator every 15 minutes and eat enough food to give me strength to practise continuously for two hours - small things that have had a huge impact on the effectiveness of my practise sessions.
The 45 minutes that I spend with my piano teacher once a week is not much. If I had gone to lessons without practising, not learning the piece before hand and no preparation, the time would be worth nothing.
I usually show up for lessons an hour early to prepare. I use the extra hour to warm up my fingers, go through the piece I was asked to play and do some final touches on parts that were troubling me. Such preparedness is what I arm myself with to play demanding passages.
Early in my piano learning career, I was late for lesson on one occasion. The lesson did not go well. Every phrase was an excruciating crawl. I could not keep one bar in rhythm and committed the mortal sin of hitting the wrong notes in an easy passage. The piano teacher did not even bother to correct me, when time was up she just got up and stormed out of the room.
I have never let that happen again. Prepare.
When playing the piano, muscles of the fingers and arms are involved in the action on the keyboard. Underneath it, the feet play its part in conducting the pedal. All other muscles not mentioned here are not contributing to the music making and should be relaxed. Taking piano lessons for beginners should be a relaxing experience.
However, the human brain can be inefficient - after all we are not robots. It intuitively locks the body into a tensed state when doing something difficult. We have to train ourselves to consciously be able to switch off the unnecessary muscles.
The unnecessary muscles have to be relaxed while the necessary muscles continue working. It is a challenge in coordination that takes practise to master.
Since birth we have been exposed to the wonders of sound - our mothers singing to us, jingles of the toys hanging over the cradle and the purrs of the pet cat. These sounds, regardless of how random they may seem have their own rhythm. We can always pick out the rhythm of any sound thanks to our early exposure that began at infancy.
Technical skills aside, nailing the rhythm with accuracy is a prerequisite in surmounting difficult passages in a piano piece. Counting is a good habit to have that can help you get the rhythm correct.
In the midst of deep concentration while playing, I commonly find myself having the urge to move to the next note too soon. I do this because I think that I am going to miss the note if I do not hurry up. But a note on the piano score is not a train. There is no need to chase it.
This usually happens to me when there is a quaver after a crotchet. Since the rhythm is faster with the quaver, I always lift my fingers off the crotchet too soon because I do not want to miss the quaver that is coming up next – an urge that is difficult to resist.
Finish counting the beat of the crotchet first before lifting the finger to go to the next note would have solved the problem.