Introduction: How to Practice a New Piano Piece

Learning a new piano piece is fun, challenging, and rewarding once we can play it successfully.

When we look at a new piece for the first time, there is a lot of information to observe and absorb. If you notice in any music, there is information on there that is more than just notes - that we have to incorporate into our learning the entire piece.

If you approach a new piano piece with a specific plan you will be able to learn it correctly faster, than if you randomly start playing from the beginning to the end, the best that you can.

With any new piece that you learn, you will also be learning new techniques, possibly new notes and/or even new rhythms.

Let's take a look at the best way for you to approach learning a new piano piece so you can play it well and have fun learning it!

Step 1: Look for These First

Count how many sharps or flats you have in the Key Signature. The Key Signature will always be at the beginning of each line, on the right side. see image 2(In more advanced pieces you can also find changes in your Key Signature in the middle of the piece, and more than once!)

Now, play through the scale that is in the same key that the piece is in and include the arpeggio if you know it, just to get your fingers used to the finger patterns.

Next, look at your Time Signature and figure out how many beats are in each measure and what kind of note gets the main beat. see image 3

Now you know what key your piece is in and how many beats your counting and for what kind of note in each measure. You're ready to start playing.

Where's the best place to start? Let's find out.

Step 2: Take One Line at a Time

Before you tackle the whole first line, take the first measure and play through that slowly.

Play it a couple of times correctly and then add the 2nd measure to that. Keep doing it measure by measure until you can then go through the first line of the piece.

It's important to go slowly in this first stage so you can learn the notes and rhythm correctly.

Then go on the 2nd line and play through that one slowly several times.

If you have any trouble, (expect to the first couple of times), just slow down even more and play through the notes that are challenging to get them secure. Once you get those notes and rhythms learned, play through the whole line again.

Then review lines 1 & 2 together by playing them all the way through several times, just like you did with each line.

Always, go slowly and then speed up your tempo a little bit each time. (This will save you a lot of time later on!)

Keep doing this throughout the whole piece.

*Are you still having trouble with some of the notes? That's fine! Don't expect to get it perfect the first day or even the second. Keep working at it at a slow tempo and you will get it! Your main goal at first is to play everything correctly slowly, so find the tempo that you can play it at, even if it is the slowest one on the metronome.*

Next, we'll find out where in your piece you should start practicing each day to learn all of the piece and not just a few sections.

Step 3: Start at the Harder Sections

We do usually start at the beginning when we're learning a new piece.

Just as I mentioned previously, you want to get a good feel of the piece by learning the first few measures and lines and get those secured in your fingers.

As you progress through the entire piece though, you will probably run into spots that will take several practice sessions to really get them learned.

So you don't want to always start at the beginning like you did when you first started learning the piece. You want to start your practice sessions with those harder sections first, then move onto the sections that you know well and can play easily.

You'll want to practice them the same way you've been working; slowly. But you want to start with them because they need the most work.

If you always start with the parts that you know the best, it will just be harder to conquer those more challenging sections because they haven't had as much attention.

There's one more thing that you need to do in your practicing to really get secure with your new piano piece.

Step 4: Play Through Everything at the End of Your Practice Session

At the end of your practice session, go back and play everything that you've been working on since you began learning the piece.

This is the fun part and usually feels like a reward because you get to see the fruits of your labor. It will also help you know just where to start from in your next practice session.

Just to review:

  • Look at your Time Signature and Key Signature before you start playing
  • Take one measure at a time and then one line at a time and practice slowly
  • Don't always start at the beginning once you get through the piece, but tackle the harder sections first
  • Play through the whole piece, or as much as you know of it at the end of each practice session

Now, to reinforce everything we've gone over in this lesson, come and practice practicing with me and watch how I tackle learning a new piece in the video tutorial!

Ready to practice?

Step 5: Come Practice With Me!

I think that it's really beneficial for you all to watch me practice a new piece by using the tools in this lesson.

You'll see how I work on challenging spots and have to do them slowly, several times to get the notes and rhythms correct.

And you'll also see how successful you can be at learning something new by taking it one step at a time and at a tempo that is slow enough that you can figure everything out easily.

Refer back to this video anytime you have questions when you're learning a new piece and keep a look out for other practice video tutorials because it really does help to watch what we go over here in real time at the keyboard.