What got you interested in the piano? Was it compulsory at your school, or did you grow up in a musical family where everyone plays an instrument? Or maybe you heard one of these famous Mozart pieces in a movie or cartoon and you just had to learn to play it. Also, ‘faster’ is relative. Do you want to play quicker pieces or do you want to become a piano expert overnight?
Whatever your motivation is, the piano can be frustrating for beginners. Remember, orchestral maestros and professional pianists take years to master their craft. And some routinely rehearse for 8 hours a day on their chosen instrument. So while you probably don’t want to spend that long at the keyboard, here are some top tips to speed up your journey a little.
Tips to Learn Piano Faster
Tip #1: Start with Basic Music Theory
You may not think music theory is important. Especially if your focus is on learning pop songs to impress your friends. But by understanding the basics of staff notation, keys, scores, and sight-reading, you can find the sheet music of those pop pieces and learn to play them in a shorter time. Plus, understanding music increases your enjoyment and appreciation of the piano.
Tip #2: Set a Soft Target
If you’re just going to ‘sit at the piano and play for a bit’ you’re unlikely to improve or learn anything. You’ll play the same set of notes and hit the same wall each time. Instead, give yourself an achievable goal. Decide that you’ll learn one song line, or one chorus, or one complex chord.
Tip #3: Master Your Fingering
Self-taught players will generally place any finger anywhere. But in the same way touch-typists have a higher word count, learning the right technique and position for your fingers helps you learn faster and play better. Your flow improves, your musical expression is enhanced, and you can attempt far more complex pieces. Try numbering the keyboard or your sheet music.
Tip #4: Work With Scales
Again, if you’re mostly interested in pop music, you probably don’t care about scales. But they help you improve your dexterity and playing speed on faster pieces. Scales are also useful for practicing extensions and crosses, which you will need for complex pieces. So spend five to ten minutes of every practice session doing finger exercises, and play for at least half an hour a day.
Tip #5: Play Down Before You Play Up
Did you ever try counting backward or reading the alphabet backward as a kid? Maybe you’ve used it as a mindfulness tactic in adulthood. For piano practice, playing the scale backward teaches dexterity and polishes your fingering, so start by descending the scale then ascending.
Tip #6: Stop and Start
When you’re practicing scales and arpeggios, don’t just play through endlessly. Every time you start a new octave or change direction, pause for a moment. This makes you rethink your fingering and posture. It also gives your brain time to assimilate this new data so you can commit the sound, feel, and position of your fingers to memory. You’ll learn much faster.
Tip #7: Consider Your Posture
Holding your hands (and feet) the right way is an important part of piano playing. It’s also helpful for developing muscle memory and keeping you relaxed. So even when you’re not actively playing, practice your posture. Stand against a wall and lean your head back until it touches the wall. Put your feet flat on the floor and curl your fingers into a playing posture.
Tip #8: Use a Squishy Toy
Stress balls can be a useful tool for piano players, but squishy animals are even better. Practice your hand grip by holding the stress ball or squishy toy. If it squeaks, you’re pressing too hard. The ‘piano curl’ needs to be loose and ‘natural’, but it’s definitely something that needs practice. Holding your fingers wrong leaves you feeling tired and tense. You may even get carpal tunnel.
Tip #9: Do Finger Exercises
These exercises are a great way to improve your piano playing while also developing the muscle memory in your fingers and neural pathways. Useful exercises include finger drills for speed and positioning, chord patterns for left-hand rehearsal, and alternating between legato (smooth) and staccato (detached). Pick some popular pieces and use them as your go-to drill practice songs.
Tip #10: Use Hymnals
You don’t have to be religious or attend church regularly. You just need to practice with their music. Church hymns largely use chords and simple harmonies. So grab a songbook from a nearby church, library, or flea market. You want to practice reading the notes and fingering the chords. This lets your ears master the sound as your hands memorize chord patterns.
Tip #11: Look for Sheet Music
Contemporary piano players may not be interested in the fundamentals of music. After all, few modern songwriters can read or write a score. But you’re looking for tips to learn piano faster, and sheet music certainly helps. Practice your music theory by reviewing music scores. You can find them at thrift stores. You can even watch scored videos online and follow along as they play.
Tip #12: Mark Your Score
The more you work with sheet music, the more comfortable you’ll get. Before you start any piece though, visually study the score. Look for any patterns and musical phrases. For example, the main theme or motif is often repeated, either rhythmically or lyrically so label it when you spot it. Think of it as the ‘chorus’ or bridge. Highlight it on the page – the mental familiarity will help.
Tip #13: Cover Your Hands
To enhance your sight-reading while perfecting your speed and technique, don’t look at your fingers when you play. You could even cover them completely with a tea towel or a large cloth. This develops the muscle memory in your fingers too because they learn where the keys are.
Tip #14: Learn Pieces in Sections
We’ve mentioned that you should nark the sheet music for familiar rhythms and unusual beat patterns. You can now take these mini musical phrases and practice them in bits before putting them together. Learn the right-hand section first, then the left, practicing each bit at least 7 times before moving to the next section. This sears it better into your musical memory.
Tip #15: Start and End with Something Fun
The piano riffs in some pop songs make great practice drills. Clocks is good for speed practice and Someone Like You helps with crossing and finger extensions. Find a few signature pieces that have the technical skill you’d like to perfect. You can play these pieces as warm-ups and wind-downs to start and end your rehearsal sessions. They’ll motivate you to keep practicing.
Tip #16: Do Some Classical Practice
This doesn’t necessarily mean using pieces from the classical period. You could sample the baroque era or even the romantic period. The point is to work with some non-pop pieces. These ‘classical’ compositions will help you improve your fluency, skill, and technical musicianship. Look through our list of classical piano pieces for beginners as an achievable starting point.
Tip #17: Try the Easy Version
With every YouTube piano tutorial, you’ll find an easy version and a tougher version. The simplified version may be in a different key to eliminate black notes. Or it might have some of the faster notes lengthened. So it’s not just about speed. You can also start with slower versions so you can master the fingering, melody, and technique. Later, you can learn the advanced song.
Tip #18: Use a Training Piano
Just like training wheels, the verdict on ‘trainer pianos’ is divided. Some pianists think it slows your progress because you just blindly follow the blinking lights. Other learners feel it builds confidence and develops interest, especially for kids. If you don’t have a light-up keyboard, you could manually label the keys with their scale letters or their finger numbers.
Tip #19: Work With a Teacher
You don’t have to get a face-to-face teacher, but it does help. A piano tutor can identify mistakes and give you actionable hacks. They can also teach you the right technique and posture. If you can’t afford paid lessons, try using a piano app that had video tutorials. Yes, you can go to YouTube, but many of the trainers there may have your same mistakes so check their creds first.
Tip #20: Use a Metronome
Metronomes are great for keeping time, whether you have a manual ticking pendulum or an app on your phone. But when you want to learn faster, you need to set your metronome slower. Practice each scale, phrase, or piece slowly to ensure you have the right form and rhythm first.
Tip #21: Pick Songs You Like
Start with your favorite genre of music, whether it’s a pop song or something indigenous. Look it up online. YouTube has thousands of tutorials ranging from Mozart to Lil Nas X. Find a slow or easy version. It will inspire you to practice and as you work your way through familiar pieces and increase your repertoire, you’ll be driven to play more. It’s a self-sustaining feedback loop.
Tip #22: Always Pre-Listen
Whenever you start working with a new piece of music, play it to the end. YouTube is useful here – you can always find a video. Some versions will have lighted keyboards as part of the demo. Others will have generic landscapes in the background. But always pre-listen to get a general feel of the pace, mood, melody, and rhythm of the piece. If you can, watch a scored scroll video.
Tip #23: Use an App
These days, almost every music school or piano manufacturer has an app. Some digital pianos even come with free subscriptions. Get an app that has teacher-led video lessons and libraries of sheet music. They’re as close as you can get to a physical musical school without leaving home.
Tip #24: Do Some Air Piano
Everybody knows about air guitar. Their championships even get televised! But air piano can be a great practice tool. Whenever you hear a piece on the radio or in a movie, play along. Try to figure out the keys, pedals, and rhythms. Drum out the fingering on nearby surfaces. You can even use a song-recognition app to identify the piece and pull up its score or its easy tutorial.
Tip #25: Point a Little
Work out a routine when you’re learning a new piece. Divide the piece into sections and phrases. Practice each section seven times – right hand first, then left, then both. Play the sections separately until you master each one, then combine them. As you play, slightly lean your fingers in the direction you’re playing. This primes your fingers into the right posture. But keep it slight.
Tip #26: Record Your Sessions
This is a helpful tool, but it’s one to use with caution. Some students love hearing themselves play because they can spot their progress. Others may focus on their mistakes and end up getting anxious and giving up. So if you’re a perfectionist, avoid listening to recorded sessions. Or at least wait longer between listens – review your progress every quarter, not every week.
Tip #27: Buy The Right Piano
It may seem odd to see this advice so far down the list. But we’re thinking about a practice piano here. We’ve mentioned buying a piano that lights up. But you could also buy, borrow, or rent a piano with ‘duo mode’. These pianos have optional settings to split the piano into twin keyboards with matching pitches and timbres. This way, you can mimic your teacher’s fingering.
Tip #28: Play More Quietly
Some people practice for 8 minutes a day. Others play up to 8 hours. But on average, you’re less likely to rehearse if you’re worried about waking the neighbors. Or if you’re self-conscious others will laugh at your mistakes. Invest in a digital piano with convenient volume knobs. Better yet, get a silent one. If no one can hear your errors you’re more likely to keep at it and iron them out.
Tip #29: Add New Pieces Regularly
If you’re studying for formal grade exams, you probably have a set-piece. It’ll be a complex one so you’ll spend a lot of time on it. But if your family or friends know you play the piano, they’ll always randomly ask you to ‘play something’ any time they spot a keyboard. Broaden your repertoire by actively learning a new piece every month or two. Diversify your genre selection.
Tip #30: Set a Time and a Routine
Again, this may seem odd so far down the list. But we’ve placed it here because we’re assuming you’ve been playing for a while. Maybe your progress has stalled so you’re seeking tips to learn piano faster. You’re looking to jumpstart your playing. Set a specific time each day to build up a habit. That way you’ll practice even when you ‘don’t feel like it’. Use a stopwatch for finger drills.
Tip #31: Define Yourself
Go online and listen to different versions of the same song. They could be played in different styles or different piano models. Listen to pieces by beginners at kids’ recitals and professionals at concerts. You want to get a feel for amateur attempts versus expert execution. This will help you identify unique playing characteristics so you can add your own special touch to your music.
Do you have any other piano playing tips and tricks? Share them with us in the comments!