Technique: Maximum Benefit, Minimum Time

Piano Lessons / music performance / Technique: Maximum Benefit, Minimum Time

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about getting the maximum benefit out of your practice time. That’s the way I like to work. I get a lot of people who are really gung ho to learn the piano. They’ll say, “I’ll work hours a day on scales and exercises. I just really want to get better.” But there is a point of diminishing returns with working on technique for technique’s sake. I always believe in working on music. Learning music will help you solve more technical problems than just focusing on technique, and you’ll get more benefit.

How can you maximize the effectiveness of working on technique?

If the primary time you spend daily on the piano involves technical exercises, including fundamentals like scales, arpeggios, octaves, and things of that nature, it doesn’t leave enough time for what’s really important, which is repertoire. You will grow more from learning music than you will from simply playing exercises. Ten minutes a day of really good scale and arpeggio work is a great warmup. You’ll get the maximum benefit with a minimum amount of time.

The secret is consistency.

If you only work once a week on scales and arpeggios, you’re not going to get much benefit. But if you spend a little time each day you will see improvement. Five or ten minutes a day is all you really need most of the time. There may be times you’re having an epiphany and you feel like you’re finally playing arpeggios well. In that case stay with it or you’ll end up with a hump to cross later on anyway. It’s not an absolute science that you spend X amount of time for maximum benefit. But generally speaking, minimize pure technical work.

Use your music as technical exercises.

When you have a part in your score that you can’t play well, figure it out using various practice techniques. You can turn your music into exercises! If you’re playing a Bach prelude, for example, like the Prelude in C Minor from book one of the Well-Tempered Clavier, it lends itself to exercises. It’s most like an exercise in itself. So how could you practice that? Slow practice with a metronome is invaluable. Use raised fingers, delineating every finger that’s down and every finger that’s up. That’s a great practice technique! Another technique is to use different phrasings. For example, staccato fingers. Or you can play one hand staccato and the other hand legato. You can benefit from this because any weakness will evidence itself in your playing. Or you could just do small snippets at a time. You could also play the music with various rhythms, such as dotted rhythms or you can play the music with different accents. There are countless ways you can turn music into exercises. This way you don’t have to resort to mindless exercises that don’t have the benefit of music you can play at the end of the line.

Musical etudes are your best source.

Whether it’s Chopin and Liszt etudes or Heller or Burgmuller studies, these etudes are richly rewarding music that can solve technical problems while offering you great music that you can play and enjoy. So that’s my recommendation! Utilize minimum time and enjoy maximum benefit for pure exercises. But spend most of your time with music and turn problem areas into exercises where necessary in order to improve your technique on the piano. Let me know how this works for you! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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