Piano Practice Disguised

Occasionally I hear from my students “I practiced very hard!”.  Then I respond, “That’s great! Let’s hear what you’ve got!”

Sometimes I realize that there is not much progress from the last time I heard the same piece of music that student played.


Emiko Hori currently teaches piano at Mercer Island, WA.

I have to admit that do this to myself, too. Culprit can be that I am indulging myself during piano practice time, “Piano Practice Disguised”.  What this mean is that sometimes I enjoy playing my favorite piano piece but neglecting practicing.  Oh, but it’s so much fun! Simply playing piano.

However, “Playing” piano may be different from “Practicing” piano.

What is the definition of “Practicing”?  Play the music from the beginning to the end without stopping and be satisfied?  No.

“Practicing” means that we have to identify the weak spot(s) within a piece of music and work at it.

Yes, “Practicing” = “Working”.  It is a workout.

How can we identify weak spots?  Here are a few examples:

  • I always stumble on same technically challenging passage no matter how many times I play this same music
  • There is a particular measure which I don’t quite understand musically
  • I use different fingerings inconsistently on certain measure(s) every time I play
  • Balancing of sound between right hand and left hand is off; (1) teacher told me that is off (2) I can hear that is off (3) instinct tells me it physically doesn’t feel right
  • I blank out at the same measure all the time
  • I cannot play in desirable faster tempo throughout the piece
  • I cannot slow down a tempo throughout the piece; sounds out of control
  • … and so on

Some possible weak spots as above (and even more) need to be worked on. It is a workout. Just like we need to strengthen muscles (do yoga, weightlifting, running, stretching, bicycling, etc.). After all, piano practicing is quite a physical activity, if you noticed.

If we do not do workout properly during piano practicing time, obviously, we will not improve our musicianship. We cannot convey and deliver beautiful music for our audience. However, Piano “Practicing” (“workout”) doesn’t have to be lengthy. Once I determined that I need to work on 4 measures that I have technical challenges, I can plan my “Practice” time accordingly, say 15-20 minutes. Short, focused Practice to solve problems.

Are you “Indulging”, meaning is your Practicing disguised instead of actually “Practicing”?

Of course, we need to have fun time, too. Go ahead, play your favorite piece. But wait, if you want to improve your piano playing and want to play a variety of music, you cannot avoid “Practicing” / “workout”. 

Happy “Practicing”!