Introduction: How to Practice a Hard Piano Piece

What an exciting place to be in your piano learning when you are ready to learn your first concerto, or sonata, or really any kind of music that we consider to be more "advanced" music than what we learned when we first started playing the piano.

Think about all that you have learned since you first started playing the piano:

  • Scales
  • Notes in your music and where they are on the keyboard
  • Rhythm and counting
  • Key Signatures and Time Signatures
  • Playing with a metronome

You have a lot of tools in your toolbox to approach this next level of your playing with confidence.

Now you're ready to learn a longer piece that may have different movements - such as a concerto or sonata; and it will be filled with lots of different rhythms, notes, key signatures, time signatures, articulations, dynamics, and other things. Looking at all of this, in the beginning, can seem daunting! How in the world do we learn all of this?

There are certain ways that you can approach learning a hard piece and getting through it the first few times so you will set yourself up for positive growth in your practice time each day.

Let's find out what those specific things are that you can do so you will be successful in learning whatever level of music you want to play on the piano!

Step 1: Warm Up With a Scale

And...not just any scale.

Find out what the key signature of your new piece is, and then play through the scale that is in the same key signature.

For example, if your piece is in the Key of D Major, play through the D Major scale a couple of times to refresh your memory on where your half and whole steps are, which notes are sharp and which notes are natural.

We know already that the key of D has 2 sharps: F# and C#.

Do this for both major and minor key signatures. If your piece is in a minor key, try playing both the natural and harmonic forms of the minor scale.

Ready to fly through that piece yet? Not so fast...find out why a slower approach helps much more in the next step.

Step 2: Take It Slow

After you have played through your scale a few times, you're now ready to play through the first few measures of your new piece.

The most important thing you need to do at this point is play through these measures slowly! If you go slow enough, you can play the notes and rhythm pretty close to perfect, with both hands together.

If you find that you're having trouble, slow it down even more.

Remember this: if you can't play something, it's not the notes that you can't play, it's really the tempo that you're trying to play the notes to, that you can't do. Slowing down the tempo will show you that you can, in fact, play the notes once you find a tempo that is comfortable in the beginning.

So it's tempo...not notes, that prevent us from playing something well at any given time.

Play these first few measures this way several times to get more familiar with and secure with the music.

Step 3: Target the Hard Spots

There will usually be a few measures that are more challenging than the others and many times we slow down while playing through a large section when we hit these hard measures.

The best way to handle these specific places is to separate them out, go back to a slower tempo and play through the notes one measure at a time.

It's really important to learn everything correctly in the beginning and this is why slowing down is necessary; and quite helpful.

Make sure you continue to target and work through the harder sections in your piece.

One way to make sure you are doing this is by starting with those measures in the beginning of your practice time, instead of always starting at the beginning of your piece.

Let's take a quick review of all of this now so we can put it into practice!

Step 4: Key Points to Remember

Your goal - is to learn a new piece that is more advanced than any piece you've ever played before.

Here are the key steps to take so you can reach that goal successfully and quickly.

  1. Play through the scale that has the same key signature as your piece, and do this several times before you begin playing the piece.
  2. Start playing through your notes very slowly - giving yourself plenty of room to learn the notes without feeling stressed or frustrated.
  3. Target the measures and sections that are more challenging than the others. Practice these areas very slowly and more often than the measures that you can easily play.

Now it's time to apply this information to some real-time playing! Come Practice With Me in the next step!

Step 5: Come Practice With Me!

In this video tutorial, we will not only go over all of the steps discussed in this lesson, but you will also see me use these steps to learn a new piece that I've never played before; just so you can see how it all works!

It is valuable for you to also see me make my own mistakes in learning this music and how I handle and overcome the challenging measures so I can play it by the end of the video.

Now you're ready to learn your own new piece and achieve your dream of playing the piano!