Tips for Pianists

Here are some tips for beginning piano students.


  • Play the piano every day. Even if it is only for five minutes.
  • Think of piano study progress in terms of years, not weeks.
  • Progress often comes in sudden leaps rather than gradual progress. These are called plateaus.
  • Learn all twelve major & minor scales in two hands by memory.
  • Remember Henry Ford’s words, “whether you believe you can or you can’t, you will be right.”
  • Replace the word “difficult” with the word “unfamiliar”.
  • Replace the words “I can’t” with “I choose not to”.
  • Replace the word “talent” or “natural ability” with “grit”.
  • Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to others. You are not on their journey!
  • Always take responsibility for your own work. Never blame someone else. Even if it is their onus, forget it and do what you need to do to be the best you!
  • Remember the words of Bela Bartok, “Competition is for horses, not musicians.”
  • Lose any need for praise, applause, and showing off. That is not what making music is all about.
  • When learning new music (manuscripted for two hands):
    1. Repeat the right hand, first phrase, until played with ease.
    2. Repeat the left, first phrase, until played with ease.
    3. Repeat playing left & right hand together, one measure at a time, until plated with ease.
    4. Move on to the next phrase & practice the connection between each newly learned phrase.
  • Sight read easy music every day for at least a half hour.
  • You can’t sight-read if you are looking at your hands!
  • When learning a jazz chart, follow these steps:
    1. Repeat the right hand melody, first phrase, until you can play it with ease.
    2. Arrange your left hand chord changes, first phrase, until you can play it with ease.
    3. Repeat the right hand mode or chord scale and arpeggio that “fits” with the harmonic progression until you can play with ease.
    4. Move on to the next phrase and repeat until you can play the entire tune.
    5. Repeat this using novel harmonic chord substitutions for each phrase.
    6. Consider doing this in all twelve keys (advanced!).
  • Memorize all major and minor pentatonic scales in both hands.
  • Improvise every day! Improvise in the style of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Satie, and Bill Evans!
  • Free Improvisation is for all musicians. It is a great mediation.
  • Always know when to stop working at a difficult passage. Allow time for the nervous system to respond to your efforts.
  • Always know when you are resisting fully-absorbed practicing. Be honest with yourself!
  • Set a regular practice time each day.
  • Select one or two things to work on, don’t try to do too much at once. Put all your resources into one goal at a time.
  • Learn all Major, minor, augments, & diminished triads & seventh chords in both hands.
  • You don’t have to perform or be a performer to be a musician. Teaching, practicing alone, and playing with friends are also ways of being a musician.
  • Practice your five-finger exercises & your scales with your eyes closed. Visualize the key signature and the piano keyboard in your mind’s eye.
  • Get a teacher that challenges you with lovingkindness, one who inspires you to be the best you!
  • Avoid toxic musicians who are into ego games. They will put you down to feel better about themselves. Trust your gut reaction to the people you meet in music and gravitate to the ones with an open heart!