As people progress in their piano training, the natural tendency is to put in more practice hours. It’s easy to think that the longer you practice, the better. And that could be true in some cases. This is especially prevalent in music schools, where it’s not uncommon to see students practice for at least six hours a day and even more. But practicing harder doesn’t mean you’re doing it better.
If you’re getting piano lessons, your goal should be to get the most out of your limited practice time. If you’re younger and you have all the time in the world, you can easily devote huge chunks of your day to piano practice. But if you’re an adult with a job and responsibilities, your practice time will be limited by your availability. If you only have one hour of practice a day, how do you make the most of it?
1. Eliminate sources of distraction
A productive practice session can easily be derailed by a text message or a nosy family member. While some distractions just can’t be avoided, there are things you can do to minimize them. For instance, you tell your family that you can’t be disturbed during practice time. Practice alone whenever possible and turn off the television, if there’s one.
Most importantly, put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. All it takes is for one notification to grab your attention, and soon enough, you’re looking at memes. If you’re expecting something important, adjust your settings so that only calls and texts from essential contacts will push a notification.
2. Identify a goal
Playing mindlessly does not make for a practice session. You need to decide on a specific, measurable goal for each session. Having a goal allows you to structure your practices better and gives you the push you need to arrive at your desired outcome. For instance, you can dedicate a few sessions to improving your speed or accuracy.
Another variation of this technique is a no-mistake challenge. Identify a piece or specific section that you’ve been trying to master. The goal is to play from the beginning until the end ten times without making a single mistake.
3. Give yourself a reward
What’s a goal without a reward? Let’s say you’ve managed to play a tricky section ten times without hitting the wrong key. The next step is to treat yourself to a reward. Positive reinforcement has been proven as an effective method of improving training sessions. If you have something to look forward to, you’re more likely to do better during practice.
In the end, these techniques will help you get the most out of your practice sessions. Better piano training isn’t about putting in hundreds of practice hours. The critical indicator is what you do with those hours and what you gained from them. If you play three hours a day and you still haven’t progressed in your training, then it might be time to adjust your training style and try something new.