Practicing the piano can be both extremely frustrating and very rewarding. Some days you make noticeable improvements, while others days it feels like you've taken a step backward.
This can be especially true for those who are learning piano as their first instrument. However, even seasoned musicians still run into roadblocks.
Today's article is going to give you 5 ideas you can implement today to instantly improve your playing.
1. Chord Changes
Chord changes are one of the biggest sticking points when you are first tackling the piano. It can seem overwhelming trying to keep time, remember the chord position, and sync both hands at once. Luckily, there is a quick tip you can use to quickly nail your chord progressions.
Let's take a 4 chord progression here as an example - say, C, E, Am, F. Once you've decided on your fingering and inversions begin playing the progression in a simple 4/4 signature.
The trick here is to play each chord for 4 beats. Use the sustain pedal to hold the notes while simultaneously moving your hands to the next position. Your fingers should be resting on the keys of the next chord long before you play.
This trick reduces a lot of the pressure of playing in time and finding all of the correct notes.
You should also be looking at the next chord while playing the current chord. A lot of beginners have trouble deciding which hand to look at while playing. This problem is solved when you are always looking forward.
Finally, make sure all your fingers are resting in place before you play the chord. You should have plenty of time to make sure everything is lined up. If you still feel rushed, reduce the tempo to something more comfortable.
Here is a video showing this exact process:
2. Finger Exercises
Finger exercises are one of the most helpful tools a piano student can use. The improve finger dexterity, hand synchronization, accuracy, speed and overall feel for the piano. However, there is one exercise that I found instantly improved my playing once practiced. It involves playing up the piano using all the major notes. Both hands should be in sync while using the same fingers from each hand.
Here is the exercise illustrated below:
Play each major key starting from middle C. The trick here is to skip the first note in the sequence. Remeber to still use every finger (start with your thumb of your right hand and the pinky of your left). Move up the scale playing the same note (only an octave lower with the left hand).
Once you've played the five notes, move back down the scale using the same fingers. Instead of playing the root note you started with, end on the note that was initially skipped when you first started. Repeat this process going up and down the piano.
Remeber to take things slow when you first start. This exercise takes practice, but will drastically improve your playing over the long run.
Here is the video I used when I first learned this technique:
3. Hand Independence
Practicing hand independence is one of the more strenuous activities you can perform when practicing the piano. I'm always on the hunt for new ways of improving my hand technique. One of my favorite techniques involves something really unique - playing the same simple melody, just one bar apart.
For example, if you were to take a simple melody everyone knows, say - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you would start the melody in the right hand, wait for one bar and then begin the melody in the left.
It is crucial that you pick something really simple to start with. Your brain should be feeling it by the end.
Keep the pace very slow at the start and see if you can keep everything in time. If everything works out, you should be finishing the melody one bar later with your left hand.
Here is the video I used to learn this:
4. Finger Staccato
This trick is for more advanced players. When you're looking to increase your speed there are a number of different tricks you can use. I found one to be particularly helpful for breaking me out of my old habits. It involves deliberately using a finger staccato technique while moving up and down scales.
Hold your fingers flat and quickly flick them downwards when playing each note. You should be moving up the scale using both hands in sync. With every note, your fingers should be returning to the flat hand position. Slowly move up the scale and get used to this staccato sensation.
Once you have become comfortable, you can begin to increase the speed of your playing. It will soon become difficult to return to a flat hand position. This is when you can start to relax, but still, use the quick staccato motion.
If you repeat this process enough times, you will find the speed of your playing is taken to the next level. Keep in mind that this technique avoids the use of your thumbs. This might be an issue for the purist reader.
Here's the video that shows it in action:
5. Work Your Pinky Finger
This is something that I see a lot with beginner piano players. They avoid using their pinky finger (or 5th finger in piano talk) at all costs. Now, this makes sense, the dexterity of your 5th finger is much less compare to your dominant fingers. However, if you avoid using your pinky from the start of your practice, you will inevitably build bad habits that will impact you down the road.
If you are avoiding using a single finger you end up not using your full capacity. This slows you down, limits your accuracy, and will make easy songs harder and hard some impossible.
For those familiar with piano lessons, you can easily spend some time focusing on Hanon exercise #4. For those of you who are still learning, here is a video demonstration:
That pretty much wraps it up for my 5 tips to instantly increase your skill at piano. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will provide a few ideas for new piano players to increase their playing quickly.
I know what you may be thinking, none of these tricks will actually have instant results, but you should know by now that something comes quickly when it comes to piano. You still need to put in the hours and practice sessions. The catch is, you should be focusing on exercies that push the need instead of playing pieces you are already proficient at.
Do you have any tips that people may find useful? If so, leave them in the comment section below. As always, if you've found this useful, I'd appreciate a share on social media.
Until next time!
Side Note: If you are still on the fence about buying a piano, remember to check out my buying guide here.