by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
Learn to play piano with both hands based on a single-minded focus on goal-oriented, multi-step tasks. Approaching piano practice in this manner has proven highly effective for me.
One Hand Only
For example, choose one hand to work on at a time. Isolate the bass part in the left hand. Then, break down your left hand practice into feasible chunks; work on only playing the correct notes for example.
Practice the left hand part while fully focusing on the first selected goal (correct notes). Don’t worry about the rhythm, the fingering or any other aspect other than what you’ve chosen to focus on practicing (correct notes).
After you play through the section with full focus on that one goal, stop and evaluate. If successful at playing that particular section with no hesitation, move on to the next goal and repeat the process.
Multiply Your Focus
Then add the first two goals together (correct notes and rhythm) and practice that until you are able to play through successfully without any hesitation. Add the third goal, and so on.
Repeat Procedure With Opposite Hand
Switch to the opposite hand and repeat the process of focusing only on one goal at a time, stopping to evaluate, then repeating until you master each section and goal. Then repeat until you are successfully able to master multiple focus goals with the musical section chosen for that hand.
Put Both Hands Together
Finally, choose a small section, one goal (correct notes) and play both hands together. Do not jump to this part of practice until everything prior to this point has been successfully mastered. The same process applies when practicing hands together.
If you make mistakes, stop immediately and evaluate why, then go back and practice until that issue is resolved. For example, if you played through a few measures correctly and then made mistakes, determine what happened. Usually the problem is that mentally you dropped the ball. Were you daydreaming about lunch? Were you distracted by someone walking past your window?
Go back to the trouble spot and refresh your single-minded focus on the practice aspects you’ve chosen. Once you achieve success, play through a larger section, or the entire musical composition. Be sure to apply the exact same practice strategy and address any mistakes immediately. Otherwise, you may make the common mistake of practicing your mistakes repeatedly (This is how many students typically practice and defeat progress!), ingraining them further into your mental memory and making things more difficult to correct.
One Last Note (heh heh)
Practicing with clear goals, one hundred percent mental focus, evaluation and troubleshooting issues is an incredibly effective way to progress as a piano player. However, if you run into difficulty, besides lack of focus on a particular goal, the most common culprit for difficulty in piano practice is practicing too fast! So, if you are having problems with the above-described practice strategy, SLOW DOWN and try again! Most of the time, slowing the tempo resolves the problem.
Jenny Leigh Hodgins is a published writer, poet, lyricist, composer, vocalist, and pianist. She is founder and chief operating officer of Team4MusicandSound, a global audio post production team. Jenny Leigh has 30 years experience in music, piano, vocal and choral education and has performed for more than 25 years as a soloist throughout US and Japan. She is co-admin of multiple music-related social media groups (5200+ members), has coordinated promotional content, music-niche articles, scripts, podcasts, and multiple creative collaborations. Jenny Leigh holds a Bachelor of Music degree in music composition.