5 Ways to Level Up Your Piano Technique

Written by Megan Yim

Looking to master and perfect your practicing habits for music? Megan Yim, Director of the Music Program at CDM shares her top 5 techniques for perfecting your music training and making the most out of your practice time.

Here is a sample 15 minute breakdown of a scales exercise you can do.

 You’ve probably heard enough times from your teacher to review your scales every day. Trouble is, we aren’t all big fans of playing scales. But there is truth and value in playing scales, mainly because of its target focus on improving your technique. 

Every day, choose 1-2 scales to focus on, and spend 15 minutes working on just those two. Don’t take breaks, don’t jump back and forth, just focus.

Ever notice how repetitive your left hand is? Are you finding that there’s always the same 4-finger pattern in that one Bach piece? Take one more good look at it, and close the book. If your pattern starts in G, try the same pattern starting on A.. then B.. and so forth. Building off of already composed patterns help with creativity as well as technique!

That is the fancy French term for “Study” – a stylistic piece that focuses on 1-2 technical challenges. If you’ve ever prepared for a Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) practical exam, you’ll know that etudes are mandatory. Etudes are assigned at every level because they help to improve 1-2 technical exercises while applying appropriate stylistic elements. Don’t ignore them! Some might be boring, but try learning two contrasting ones at the same time: a slow and fast one, a sad and a happy one, etc. Some good composers to check out for this are Czerny, Concone, and Bürgmuller!

Muscle memory plays a huge role in your level of music technique. When learning piano, muscle memory is built off of how you practice, not what you practice. So, when practicing, always be sure to change up the tempo—especially the slower tempo.  Never ignore the fact that even though Mozart said to play Allegro (fast), we should always practice slowly first.

If you’re a runner, you may know all about the “cool down” as a warm down exercise after a good workout. As musicians, we are not always familiar with this. I mean, after a 45-minute practice session, the last thing we want to do is play another scale or technical exercise. But hear me out, just by spending 5 extra minutes running through a scale again, you’ll remind your fingers of the technique its capable of, and be all the more prepared for the next day!