This is a blog where I post updates about learning guitar and music theory.

Fundamentals of Piano Practice

Here’s a free online book on Fundamentals of Piano Practice.

There are some interesting comments over on Hacker News, including some summaries.

The main takeaways for me were:

  • Do not try to practice the whole piece at once. Split it into pieces

  • Start by listening to the piece. If possible get multiple performances/recordings (usually easy with YouTube) to get a feel for different interpretations.

  • Take the piece and number each measure from 1 to finish. Figure out where the repetitions are, which measures are the easiest, which the hardest (this will differ for left and right hand usually), where key/timing changes happen

  • Practice both hands separately, start with a single measure that is one of the hardest (if need be you can split it up even more). Overlap the measures slightly so that you also practice the transitions. Play as slowly as you need to so that you can play expressively from the very beginning (albeit with only one hand). As you learn the measure, increase speed, but only so much that you can still play expressively. Switch hands once your hand gets tired.

  • Since one hand (usually the left hand) is often much easier to play in many measures or even entire pieces, it will get much less practice. To offset this, make sure to also practice the hardest measure for each hand first. Sometimes you might even need to practice the left hand from a different piece (if the current piece only has easy stuff), while the right hand is resting.

  • Keep practicing all the measures in the piece in this fashion (with one hand) until you can play them expressively even at higher speeds than the piece is usually played at.

  • Now is the time to put the hands together. Use the same method of practice as described above (splitting up the piece into overlapping measures, starting with the hardest one), only this time use both hands.

There are other nuggets of wisdom in the book, for example:

  • How to properly practice playing chords

  • Very fast notes played in succession are really just “imperfectly played chords”, where your hand is already in the position of playing the chord, except one or more fingers are slightly lower than the others as your hand goes down. Thinking of it this way, you’re not trying to speed up individual notes, but “slow down” a chord.

and:

Do not try to practice the whole piece at once. Split it into pieces

This has been my biggest ever piano hack. I now practice bar-by-bar and don’t move on until I’m happy, and its taken my practice to a whole new level