Piano Basics

For the pianist, the goals of practice remain the same as for other instruments: establishment of routine practice, with technique for skill, playing by ear and improvisation for confidence and facility, and practice of solo literature. This basic treatment learning to play a musical instrument required, constitutes a fundamental practice. A daily supply of pencils can help!

This begs the question, exactly why am I supposed ot do when sitting at the piano? First, correct posture. You would be surprised how bad posture can limit your abilities, or develop problems down the road. Let your hands rest, dangling them to your side full length. Notice the NATURAL curve of the hand that is the relaxed and normal state. Without changing this position, lift the hand to the keyboard, using your forearms and shoulders. One teacher implored me to play from the heart. Both our emotional seat and therefore a means of expression, the heart also connected with the muscles through the arms and into the fingers. So, heartfelt playing takes on a new meaning.

The muscle, and to some extent the tendons express themselves from the bottom of the arms. The larger fleshy part is muscle and controls the movement of the fingers, for the most part: not all ways. The third and fourth fingers share the same tendon and thus move awkwardly. It takes time to practice separate functions/roles for these fingers. Once fingers rest on the keys, the goal is to strike the keys evenly, and with enough force they vibrate in an acoustic piano all one, two or three strings.

Sequence and pattern development are key in this next phase. Edwin Gordon, at Temple University, studied the sequential patterns we use to understand music. We use these to build a phrase and larger forms. Sequences simply put are differences in patterns.

So, for piano, learning basic pattern skills lays the foundation for pattern development and understanding later on, in turn preparing us for more advanced controls over the music we make.

This is why all types of scales, arpeggios, keyboard progressions, and good sight-reading skills all are necessary in order so a student will be prepared to handle increasingly difficult playing. In my teaching, I use Hanon, Czerny, and Cooke (at times. ) Knowledge of the circle of fifths is essential, as is understanding the meaning of the circle and how scales and chords depending upon their usage, develop tonalities. Tonality is one of the most stabilizing concepts in music.

Notes surrounding a piece all relate to a single tone, the tone note or tonality of any given


There is a basis for technical work, to learn how patterns work formally to create music.

Then, the preparation of songs, ensemble music, sight reading, improvisation and exploration of what you accomplished on any given day lay the groundwork for future progress.

Here in summary are the elements of good routine practice. Make sure to practice for whatever YOU need. Rotate the entire routine. Do not rely on the teacher.

I. Technique routine of scales, arpeggios, keyboard progressions, technique builders such as Czerny, etc.

II. solo literature, ensemble music if any.

III. Sight reading, improvisation. One voice added at a time. One skill, rhythm, pitches, hardware, etc. Then play all together. Beginners who may not grasp all of this, do not lose hope, rather recognize these words will come back to you when you are ready.


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