Posted in Practicing, Rhythm

Practice Tip: Use a Metronome!

When my grandmother gave me her piano when I was in 4th grade, she included many things with it. Sheet music, a lamp, even a padded cushion for the bench! But the most important thing that she passed on with the piano to me was her metronome. She had played piano and cello for much of her life, and I know that metronome gave her much assistance in playing music.

But as for me, I learned to HATE that metronome. Do you know why I hated it? Because I either played faster or slower than the speed of the metronome. So, it quickly became an annoying reminder of the fact that I was off. It aggravated and frustrated me. But now, as a more mature and well seasoned musician, I know better.

I will still use that metronome (or the app on my phone) for difficult passages that I’m trying to work out. But, the most important thing for me is that I start slower than the finished product will be. Why? Because if I can get it down and confident at a slower speed, as I slowly increase the speed, it will become easier.

I encourage my students to use a metronome, not because I want them to be ahead or behind the beat. I want them to be on the beat. It is possible to do, and when you effectively use the metronome at a slower speed, then you will find yourself being more competent and steadier in your tempo without having to use it!

Posted in Practicing

Top 5 practice tips

If you can suggest it, I’ve probably done it. I’ve been a musician for 39 years. I’ve tried lots of different ways to practice, sometimes out of creativity, out of boredom, even out of challenging myself.

 

The biggest thing is to go slowly! You’re building up your brain/finger connection. The slower you go, the easier it is to get things right as you begin. It doesn’t mean that you have to go slowly forever!

Separate your hands! If it’s challenging to put both hands together, then focus on one. More often than not, it’s our non-dominant hand that needs the focus. So make sure you don’t shy away from that hand!

 

“Chunking” music is a great way to put things together. Normally, our challenge comes in going from one measure to another or one line to another. So if you take it apart and focus on the smaller sections or chunks, the easier it will be!

 

Finding the hardest part, or the most challenge part, whether it’s rhythm or coordination, is counter to what we want to do. We want to focus on the easy parts, by nature, and avoid the hard parts. But if we attack the hard parts first, that makes everything much easier!

 

Finally, as I said before about splitting your hands, focus on your non-dominant hand. It’s non-dominant for a reason, and it’s the one the needs the most attention! It’s always going to feel awkward and weird, but the more time you spend with it, it feels less awkward and weird.

 

So what about you? If you’re a piano player, what’s your go-to practice tip? Comment with what works best for you! If you’re wanting to learn, I have times available this week in person or online. You can find out more at harmannymusiceducation.com/lesson-schedule

Posted in Podcast, Practicing

Practicing is WORK

Taking lessons can be fun. Making music can (and should be) fun. But practicing? That’s not always fun. Practicing is WORK. There’s no getting around it. You can get by on natural ability for so long and it will take you so far without putting in work. The work will help you improve as a musician. The work will help stretch and grow you to be able to try new things and pick up harder and harder challenges a little bit easier. 

Patience is something we all struggle with. It’s HARD. Whether we’re making music or having to wait for something, it’s really tough to be patient. Find out what Craig has to say in this episode of The Harmanny Music Education Podcast!
  1. Patience
  2. Performing
  3. Goal Setting
  4. Motivation
  5. Discipline

To download Craig’s 10 tips to practice better PDF, click here.

To find out more about Craig and his teaching, go to www.harmannymusiceducation.com 

Posted in Practicing

Bad Habits

One of the HARDEST things to do as a musician is going back and fixing what you’ve practiced incorrectly. I’ve had to do it. Or, even worse, when we’re talking about fixing bad habits. When I first started the piano, I had the awful habit of dropping my wrists. And so, my piano teacher threatened to put a quarter on the top of my hand to keep my wrists where they needed to be. Thankfully, I fixed that habit very quickly!

Here’s a fun video about what happens when we try to fix bad habits.

It’s hard. It’s frustrating. And it makes you want to give up. But, if you keep at it, keep focused and put in the work, soon that good habit will take hold and you’ll be a better musician for it!