When you start to learn the piano you have no idea of how good at it you’re going to be. Some people take to the piano like a duck to water, while others, like me, need to practise, practise, practise to make headway. So how much practice is the right amount for a beginner? If you fall into the first category (ducks) then, although it may be easier for you, you’ll still need to practise. It depends how your day is structured. If you are out at work all day you may find that, by the time you’ve got home (possibly via a tiring commute) head a meal, helped the kids with their homework, fixed up that curtain rail and taken the dog for a walk, that you don’t feel particularly like sitting down and studying music. Well, playing the piano is supposed to be enjoyable and, once you are able to play a reasonable tune, you’ll find that piano playing is relaxing rather than demanding.
This is why the piano lesson software that we feature at Piano Detective is so effective. It makes it easy to practise, even when you’re not sitting at a piano.
You might be able to do some of your practice while you are away from the keyboard. If you are using Rocket Piano for example you could print out a chapter or load it onto a memory stick then take it to work and read it during the lunch break. You can practise your fingering technique on your desk and work out the rhythms and melodies in your head. Harmonies are somewhat more difficult but, as you become more proficient, they’ll come too. By the time you’ve done that you’ll be itching to get onto the piano to try out what you’ve learned. Sometimes it won’t always sound like you expected it to but that’s part of the learning experience.
It’s also worth pointing out that some packages (and again rocket Piano is good here) include additional software programs that help you with note recognition and pitch control. You could easily take these programs to work and use them during your lunch break.
If you have an internet connection at work then again, during the lunch break, you could log on to one of the sites recommended here and do some ‘away from the keyboard’ practice. So, if you can do 20-30 minutes practice while away from the piano then another 20-30 minutes while in front of it than that will give you a very solid grounding. But don’t spend too long practising, especially when you’re tired – it can be counter productive. Little and often is the best recipe for success. If you can leave the piano lid open, you can always have a quick dabble while you’re walking past. Do this ten times a day then again, you’ll have done another 20-30 minutes without even noticing it.
Another way to squeeze in a bit more practice is to get up 15 minutes earlier. I find that playing in the early morning, while I’m fresh and not tired after a long day can be twice as productive. In this instance it helps if you have an electric piano or keyboard so that you can use headphones to avoid waking up the rest of the house. Whichever regime you use, the key is to keep at it, be methodical and work towards a goal. Even if you haven’t got a teacher looking over your shoulder or expecting a well-played piece by the end of the week you must still work towards incrementally set targets. Remember, it’s not a race and it’s undoubtedly more productive to become proficient at one level before moving on to the next.