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#2048935 - 03/15/13 11:58 PM Practice routine ?
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
I'm new here and I'm sure this has been asked before and I have read a few threads from searching these forums, but I'm just not able to wrap my head around it. Maybe it's because it's late and I'm tired smile

I have been trying to relearn the piano for the past 9 months or so and, although I think I'm making some progress, I think I could do better. I'm currently in Alfred's all in one adult book 2. I'm thinking of picking up the children's books for more thorough education.

I'm currently not using a teacher as I took lessons when I was a kid ... I'm trying to pick it back up. But that may change and I might start taking lessons from my daughter's teacher.

So my question is this... What is the best practice routine? I am able to practice a fair amount each day, but it helps me a lot to have a plan and I don't really have one. What do you suggest?

Oh, I enjoy playing everything - classical, popular ... Haven't really tried my hand at jazz yet, although I love listening to it.

Thanks in advance!
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk

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#2048944 - 03/16/13 12:27 AM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1353
Loc: Southern California
Welcome to the forum HeatherMPhotog.

I got my time allocation from The Musician's Way book. For me the guideline is 40% new material, 20% old material, 20% technique, 20% musicianship. I practice in 15 to 30 minute segments, one hour per day. The time splits are over all for the week or month and only approximate.

Technique might include scales, arpeggios, slow work on difficult passages, working on phrasing, voicing, dynamics. Musicianship might include sight reading practice, ear training, working with the metronome (or is that technique?). Anyway that gives a person an idea. I don't do warm ups.

I like the 20% on old material so old pieces don't drop away. Yes, it means that I learn new material at a slower pace, but that is a good trade off. I have read posts from those with several years in, and they can't play anything but their last two pieces because they spend zero time on old material. It is also helpful to have something to play spur of the moment without having music handy.

I spend a lot of time writing new music, so my actual routine is quite different from most beginners. I record a lot, because if I don't the new ideas are lost. I am a one year beginner on piano, but I have been writing music for a long time. Because of physical problems, I limit myself to about an hour a day, split into several sessions. Some others spend three hours a day or more, but they still take breaks.

The most valuable forum tip is to practice slowly and accurately. Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses, so find what works for you. Some find it useful to read through the sheet music before trying to learn it, and specifically figure out fingering for difficult passages. Some benefit from hearing a piece before they learn a piece. Some like to see another person demonstrate (youtube) the fingering. Some like doing all three. There are a lot of roads to Rome.
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#2048950 - 03/16/13 12:55 AM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
Michael_99 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 935
Loc: Canada Alberta

I know nothing about the Alfred books but they seem very popular. I like the John Thompson Modern Course for the piano.

Well, the best practice routine would be to practice everyday. And to review what you have learned regularly. I had surgery and was not able to practice because of discomfort, not pain, for almost a month, and it has taken a few weeks to get back to where I was. I mention it that only in that one simply has to practice daily at least 20 minutes or for periods of 20 minutes thoughout the day. As to whether you require the assistance of a teacher depends on your goals and time frame. I also: "Oh, I enjoy playing everything - classical, popular ... Haven't really tried my hand at jazz yet, although I love listening to it."

When you say, "I think I'm making some progress, I think I could do better." - I think most of us believe that, too, but you must enjoy the journey and most importantly of all, as long as you are moving forward, you will get there. Even if I only have limited energy, I do what I can by reviewing, I am sitting on the piano bench and playing. When you read here as I have, people are taking 6 months to learn some of these large pieces, so it is important to remember that no matter where you are on the journey, it is a slow process, of sitting on the piano bench reading and playing the music. I think a lot of us know lots of people who have pianos but they don't play them. Having the desire to play and to play is about the most you can ask for.

Edited by Michael_99 (03/16/13 12:56 AM)

#2049054 - 03/16/13 09:01 AM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
Thank you both. I do sit down everyday and play something. Currently I'm just working through the Alfred book and an Alfred repertoire book. But I find myself avoiding scales and finger exercises at all cost. Much like I did as a child. I know myself and know that if I don't have a specific plan to work, then I will continue to avoid practicing the hard things that I really need to work on. But I certainly do need to work on my scales and exercises and I'd like to memorize some pieces, but I don't really know the best way.

My 7-year-old daughter inspires me ... She loves to do anything on the piano - pieces, scales, exercises. I'm learning from her attitude. I'm so impatient and I need to learn to enjoy it all ... to enjoy the journey! Thanks for saying what you did, Michael! If I change my attitude and find it all joy (like my daughter), then coming up with a plan and sticking to it will be easier to think smile

And thank you, Sand Tiger, for writing out your plan ... That's really helpful smile
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk

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#2049111 - 03/16/13 11:53 AM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
Sand Tiger Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1353
Loc: Southern California
Heather, if you want to memorize one or two pieces, I suggest the following: Start with a song you know by heart already, and like. For my first, it was Somewhere Over the Rainbow. If there are none, then pick one favorite from the book. Keep playing that song every day as part of the 20% of practice time. Sometimes test yourself by looking at the music first, then put the music away and see how much you can play. Pull out the music again to finish.

Perhaps the next day or after a few days, study the part where your memory fails and try to memorize that little bit. Again study the sheet music first, try to form a pattern in your mind, then test yourself, again, pull out the music if you need help. Do this for a number of days and bar by bar, the piece will go into memory. You already know the song, you just have to remember the physical motions of getting the song out.

As for scales, there are many different kinds. Parallel (hands going up or down in unison), contrary (one hand starts at the top note, the other at the bottom note), multiple octave scales (exams often involve 2-octave and then eventually 4-octave scales with both hands). There is a grand scale which is combination of several parallel and contrary motions. I also use offset scales to help with hand independence (offset by half a beat). Some like to learn the scales in every key. I only tend to do scales for pieces I am working on.

At 10% of time for scales that is six minutes for every hour of practice time. That six minutes can go quickly if a person does several different types of scales in different keys. You might try scales with eyes closed. Rhythmic scales, two and three notes in different rhythms. Faster scales, slower scales with a metronome. Scales at different dynamic levels (soft, medium, loud). All of these exercises will eventually be helpful for pieces.
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#2049133 - 03/16/13 12:26 PM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
zillybug Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/11/11
Posts: 333
Loc: upstate NY
Hi Heather,
My practice routine is similar to Sand Tiger's. I also returned to the piano about 2 years ago, on my own for about 3 months and then decided I needed a teacher. At my teacher's suggestion, I spend about 25% of my practice time on technique
(scales, arpeggios, and Czerny), about 20 % on old material, the rest on new material and sometimes a little on sight reading. I need to do more on sight reading since it is definitely a weak area for me. Heather, I also do not really enjoy practicing scales and finger exercises but know I need to do them if I want to improve and be able to eventually play more difficult music. For me I need the structure of having a lesson and working with a teacher. On my own, I would play every day but would not practice the right way or spend much time on technique. I now work only 25 hours a week and my children are adults so I am fortunate to have plenty of time to practice. I generally practice between 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day, broken up into 2 to 3 sessions. Good luck with your studies and enjoy it. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a teacher. I would not be at the point I am today without my teacher.

#2049186 - 03/16/13 02:56 PM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
fifi m Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/19/13
Posts: 16
My practice routine is 20-30 mins of scales - I pick keys at random and do scales, contrary motion scales, arpeggios, chromatics etc. It's the best discipline to build in at least a few scales every time you sit at the piano to practice - they're boring but necessary (secretly, I kind of enjoy them.)

I then do a few sight reading exercises.

Then I start on my pieces. I try to play each piece though once first to wherever i'm up to to see where it's at and what needs work. Once I've identified the weak spots I go back and work on them over, and over, and over again, until I feel comfortable, and then work them back into the piece, playing the whole thing at the tempo of the weakest section. I find doing this helps to avoid "bars of doom" - you know, the bits you dread coming? I do this for each piece - tends to take 1-2 hours in total.

After that I usually pick up a random piece, or an old one, and try and sight read it or play it through for fun.

I really should start doing some Czerny studies or an exercise, but with my job I find it hard enough to get in the practice as is.

#2049229 - 03/16/13 05:00 PM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
Polyphonist Online   content
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 9110
Loc: New York City
I'd recommend 5-10 minutes a day for technique, for a beginner who's practicing about an hour a day.


#2049350 - 03/16/13 09:08 PM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
Mark... Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 4462
Loc: Jersey Shore
You should do scales, arpeggios, chords with inversions. Do them till they become second nature and part of you. These skills then transfer into your music and helps smooth things out.

I try to do it everyday and have been at it for a few years.

#2049378 - 03/16/13 10:22 PM Re: Practice routine ? [Re: heathermphotog]
heathermphotog Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/12
Posts: 90
Loc: Georgia
Thanks, everyone! That really helps a lot smile
~ Heather smile

Knabe WMV247
“When you play, never mind who listens to you.” ― Robert Schumann
“The piano ain't got no wrong notes.” ― Thelonious Monk


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