5 Tips to improve your Piano Practice | Elvire Boelee | Skillshare

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5 Tips to improve your Piano Practice

teacher avatar Elvire Boelee, Pianist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction to 5 tips to improve your piano practice

    • 2. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 1

    • 3. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 2

    • 4. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 3

    • 5. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 4

    • 6. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 5

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About This Class

How well you play is largely determined by the quality of your practice. Lots of people explain how to play piano, and tell you that you have to practice many hours, but there's way too few information out there about how to practice. This is my first video course of many to come, that will focus on the practicing aspect of the art of piano playing. In this video I will be giving 5 tips that will help you improve your piano practice.

Links of pieces discussed in video 2 (fingering):

Note: * Please let me know if any of the links aren't working properly!

1: Czerny Etude de Mechanisme, Op. 849:


2: Czerny The five finges, 24 practice pieces, Op. 777:


3: Czerny 100 practice pieces, Op. 139


4. LemoineEtudes Enfantines, Op 37:


PS. Did you know that on the website imslp.org you can find any score from any composer without copyright (they have to have died more than 75 years ago) for free? 10's of thousands of free scores, Beethoven, Mozart sonata's Chopin's Nocturnes, you can find literally any copyright free score there!

Meet Your Teacher

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Elvire Boelee



I started playing piano at the age of 6 and basically I've never stopped. I started winning prizes in competitions at just 11 years old, and at 19 I started studying at the Prins Claus Conservatory in Groningen (the Netherlands). I received my Bachelor degree in Classical Piano, and I've been teaching at the Music School Kunst&Coo (Art&Co) since January 2014. There I'm teaching piano to a little over 30 students of all ages and levels. It's from my students that most of my ideas for my Skillshare courses come. 

I've been drawing since I can remember. After choosing the Conservatory over Art school, art has been a little on hold, but I've recently started up my dream of trying to improve my art skills so that I'm able to depict all the stories and images music gives me.&... See full profile

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1. Introduction to 5 tips to improve your piano practice: Hi, my name is Sylvia Will A. And I'm a Dutch concert pianist and teacher. Well, I'm sure you've heard often that if you want to play the piano, you have to practice a lot, and that is definitely very true. However, it's very, very discussed how you have to break, and there's a lot of things you could do wrong. Or at least there is a lot of things that you can improve. If you have knowledge about how to practice the more efficient, concentrated and smart to practice, the better you will play and the faster you'll improve. Now this will be one in many videos on the subject of practice. Since it's one of my favorite subjects in this specific course, I will give you five tips that you can immediately apply to your own practice to start improving it instantly. If you're interested, come and join me 2. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 1: this video, I'm going to talk about ah, few tips that will help you improve your practice and the better your practice. Of course, the better your results and the better you're playing. Okay, so let's start with my first step. I'm sure that you've heard people say that you have to break this slow, and that's definitely part of my first. But actually, I think it's important to know that you have to practice in different tempi. Um, it's very important when you start out a piece that you practice as slow as possible, that you choose a tempo in which you make no mistakes. Mistakes are always better to have avoided then then to make and the steak pretty much all my students make is to go too fast too soon. So even though even though you might seem like you're playing ridiculously slow, it's never ridiculous, because you need to true the temple where you make no mistakes, where you condone, observe everything observed of your using the correct fingering observe of you're doing the right articulation, the right dynamics, um, the right phrasing. Just everything should be in your control the way you want it, and I think that the reason why many students don't practice very slow is that they feel like it's ridiculous that they should be able to do it in a faster temple. But I can tell you there's never a temple that's too slow when you start out with a piece. So I'm going to show you that in a moment. But first I'm gonna talk about the next temple. So if you know, get to know the piece a little better. Um, probably you can practice very slow every once in a while, but that's not going to be the main temple that you're going to practice in the men temperatures you're going to practice is a middle tempo, something in between the slow and your eventual performing temple. So everybody has kind of a goal, kind of a tempo in their mind that they want to play a piece. Maybe you've seen somebody that you admire played in a certain temple. Maybe you just have a certain temple in your head. Um, everybody has kind of a goal, so when you get to know the piece a little bit better, you kind of went through it several times and it's starting to flow a little bit better. You would move onto the next temple sort of temple. The next temple will be a kind of a middle tempo in which it flows already a little bit, but it's not the performing tempo. Yet. This stage of practice usually takes the longest for the longest amount of time you were practicing around this temple. Now it's possible if you have a very fast temple in mind, that there's one more stage that you will go through, and that is the tempo that is close to your performing temple. My advice, though my advice is, don't confuse the performing temple with practice, so never practice in performing Temple. That doesn't mean that you can't try it in performing tempo, trying to see the results of your practice. But always remember, you cannot practice in a performing temple. Practices always under your temper, your final goal and that is the sole reason being that you're performing. Tempo is your final temple right is going to be faster, and practice is working and improving all things that the temple needs to be slower so that you can follow everything and and listen to everything experiment, Try out different things. You can do that in a performing temple so you could do a performing temple once a day to see how far you're going to see the results of your practice. But always remember that it's I don't consider it to be practice. Always consider that it is just looking at the result. So for all you can practice in three different tempi start always with slow and my advice is, take it slower even than you think it should be, because students always have the tendency to think they're silly for practicing so slow. But I promise you, you're not slow enough that you don't make any mistakes and that you can fall everything. Sometimes you might have the feeling like you're hands kind of played a passage by accident . Slow down. You're obviously not following and controlling what you're doing. It's important at this stage when you are learning a piece that you're controlling everything, that everything is conscious that you really study it very detail. So you need a various little temple for that. Then you move on when the piece is getting getting a little better to the Middle Temple in which you'll be doing most of your work. You can move on to a little bit faster, like just a little under your your final goal Temple to to practice, to see if something gorings are working or not working, and then finally know that's a practice. But as a kind of result, as a check is a check up to see how far you're going, you can. You can play it once through in a fast temple in the temple that you would want to play it . And, um, don't do that more than once after each other, by the way, because your hands might get stick. Okay, so I'm going to demonstrate knowledge, just a few examples of different tempi that you could practice in. With this. We'll start Sonata in C major. I can imagine if you're starting out. First of all, don't don't hesitate to to start out with separate hands, but maybe a good slow tempo would be etcetera, and I'll remember I have been playing panels or are they for 23 years. So if you are starting out ah, and don't have so much experience, don't be surprised if your tempo is you know, this is already slow. I can imagine you're thinking, Wow, that's that's slow. Don't hesitate ever to go slower. So my middle temple in which I'll be doing most of the work would be something like this. So, for example, I was not very happy with that trailer. And this is a perfect temple in which I can I can work on that, Um, because in this old empowers, they're happy with it in this temple. However, I'm thinking this is can use some improvement. So this would be that my working temple, which I'm most using on because it's not such a few fast piece. I probably not practice in any faster temple than this. Eso My final temple would be looking something like this so I could do a check to see and and I'm not a big fan of doing very often check. So I definitely wouldn't do that once a day myself. But if you're still on your way to you haven't played so many pieces yet. You haven't performed so many concerts yet. It's possible to do that once a day to check up policy going house. My practice doing what's the results Ah, yeah, but I'd like to do that maybe once a week or once, Two weeks. Um, also for me when I played concerts. That's kind of you know what? That moment I'm checking to see how would was the result of my breakfast. So, um but yeah, that that's definitely good to do If you don't have so much experience yet is good to check it up. Just don't confuse it with bricks. This urinal practicing this kind of temple. So in conclusion, make sure to practice very slow when you start learning a new piece. Once you get to know a piece, you could practice slow every once in a while to help protect your hands and work on your precision. But once you know a piece very well already you will want to move on to a faster practice temple, a temple in between your slow practice and the final temple that you want to reach in this middle temple. You'll be doing most of your practice. It should be a fast enough temple to train your reactions, but a slow enough temple to be able to follow everything you're doing and to experiment and to try out. Finally, you can try your piece out by practicing in the fast temple that you want to achieve. Just remember, this is not practice anymore. Is just the checking of the results of your practice. Don't do this more than once after each other because your hands will get stiff. That's all for this video. In the next video, we're going to look at my second step to improve your piano practice. 3. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 2: So my second tip is, if you've seen my very first course, the fundamentals of piano playing Part one, I'm already discussing this. And this is because it's definitely one of the biggest secrets I could ever give you about Playing piano fingering is essential. Just, I would say, is one of the most important things. Bad fingering. Or let's better say great fingering can save you hours and hours of practice. So so mind my advice about fingering would be several things. First of all, when you first learn a piece, gold through the piece, separate hands and wherever you you are doubting about fingering or it's not written, write it down, figure it, I'll write it down. Fingering is like the road map. If you don't right any fingering, you don't know where you're going. Fingering is absolutely essential. It's a lot of work in the beginning. Eso choose in addition, when you're when you're practicing truth. In addition, that already has some fingering written that will be very pleasant. But don't hesitate also, that if it's uncomfortable for your hands to change it, everybody has different hands. Of course. Ah, larger, smaller, more flexible, less flexible So If if it feels uncomfortable for you, try to try to see if you can find an alternative fingering. Okay, so going through the piece before you start learning it's and putting the fingering the right fingering will definitely speed up the learning process. So the next thing that I would give the advice about fingering is once you move from your slow practice temple to your middle practice temple and from your middle Brexit simple to your fast temple, check to see if the fingering is still pickle. I've had cases in which fingering worked out very well in Slow Temple, but as soon as I moved up my tempo bit my breakfast simple. It actually was clear to me that it wasn't going to work out. Make sure that when you're switching up and you're getting to know the peace, better that you're fingering is still fitting. So don't be afraid to check up on your fingering So and then. The last thing about fingering is if you have a passage, a fast message that's not working right, an alternative fingering. I remember very well I had to pay a multitude Sonata four hands, and there was a passage That really wasn't working, and I thought I wrote a really good fingering, so I was pretty sure it wasn't. It wasn't the finger rings fault. However. My do a partner suggested a different fingering. And I mean, I had been practicing this passage for already, probably 100 hours and instantly. It worked. So save yourself a lot of trouble if you are having a difficult passage. If you're having trouble with with learning a passage, just write an alternative. Fingering tried out takes you five minutes to try it out, um, and and see if that's actually not the problem. So to sum it up, find some music, preferably with at least some fingering written before you start practice apiece. Make sure to pick up your pencil and go through the peace with separate hands in a slow in a very slow temple and check if all the fingering is good and if everything is clear and if there's enough fingering everywhere. When adult, just write it down. Make sure to always check your fingering when you move up your practice time so you have to check your fingering when you move from your slow practice tempo to your middle practice temple, and you also have to check your fingering when you go from your middle practice temple went to When you try out your piece in Fast Temple, check to see if the fingering is still applicable. Also, whenever a passage isn't working, even after you've put quite some work into it already, right and alternative fingering and try it out. Even if you think the fingering isn't the problem, sometimes it actually is. Sometimes you can find a better fingering. It might solve your problems, so make sure to try it out. It's costs you only a few minutes as a final tip. Practice some Czerny. You choose to start developing a good feeling for fingering. There are some great standard fingering for third octave scales, which you can learn by playing journey. It shoots. I'll put a few links for gratitude in the description. Now let's move on to our third practice step in the next video 4. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 3: Okay, so my third tip is to practice with maternal Now. I I think that there's a lot of controversy about the maternal. There's many people very much for it than many people, very much against it, and I'm sure that could be very confusing when you're not so experienced yet. But there's a few very distinct advantages to working with the maternal. I don't think you should always like every single second of your life. Brexit with metronome. I just think it's it's really good for especially one thing. It pushes you to stay in. The flow of the music is very often that if you don't practice with Metrodome when you don't have a very strong pulse or the inside, you don't have a very strong feeling for rhythm that you would take various very few time. Whenever it's difficult that you slow down in a passage, and especially in chamber music if you play, if you think you breakfast really well and you start playing with your partner, suddenly you'll find yourself messing up all kinds of passages that you were thinking. I thought I played this really good, but very likely it's because you take this milliseconds of time every whenever against too difficult for you without noticing when you're practicing with somebody else, this somebody is staying in tempo and forces you to actually not take this time that you obviously needed. So practicing with the metronomic is really a great way to be very stable and very prepared . Now there's, of course, ones distinctive disadvantage to the Metrodome. So as long as you have that in your mind, I don't think you need to worry about that. The timing is not natural, of course, in any instrument. Ah, and off course. Also piano. We have to breathe. We have to breathe between phrases because it sounds natural. Eso with the Metrodome you miss out on this breathing, and that's why I think that if it's possible, you can also practice with the recording. There's one, of course, this advantage to Brexit with the recording. That's usually recordings are just too fast. They're not in a practice temple there in a performance temple, and that is why I am creating a library of recordings in practice Temple separate hands, slow temple together, hands slow temple than both of that in a middle temple and and then in a performance tempo or close to performance tempo, depending on how fast the pieces. So feel free to check that out. That's just completely free and advantages. That is, that you get a natural kind of timing, like the time you die and using get a feeling of how the music breathe naturally, yes, so practice with the Metro Home. Or, if it's possible with the recording, just never practice in performance tempo with the recording, because that will make your hands really stiff. In conclusion, practicing with Metrodome is really great to help you keep a steady temple to improve your reactions, and it makes you very stable and prepared. A disadvantage to the Metrodome is that it doesn't allow you to breathe naturally as music always does. Feel free to check out my YouTube channel, which is a free library of recordings of different pieces in different practice tempi, which you can use to practice along with. I put the link for you in the description 5. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 4: my fourth chip is on relaxation. So a few exercises to loose enough and and try toe always have in your head that you have to feel relaxed. Now when I say we relaxed, obviously is not like you're doing nothing. There is some muscle tension. If you want to bring them your finger, you need to do something. This is this is creates a little bit of muscle tension. That's why I have these few exercises to make sure that you actually relax as much as possible. In between, for example, I actually will take the same. So I'm outta here and the exercise the first exercise it I'll give you is about relaxing whenever you can. So you have Teoh, um, when you push down a key that takes some kind of muscle tension, right, so you push it down and now you have to try immediately to relax your hands. So make sure that it's only gravity at work. Now that you're not actually pushing because pushing after it went down already is absolutely unnecessary and will cause tension to build. So do the exercise. I like this one very much. I developed this exercise when I was having to practice. A lot of Fort ER was practicing Xuan Sonata. It was having a lot of vast nose and a lot of forth, a lot of octaves, a lot of big things. And I, um, develop this exercise for myself and I think that you can use it very, very well, too. Make sure that you're using separate hands. Don't Don't try to play your left hand during this exercise exercises are really meant to take up most of your attention. So try to be really focused on Lee on this. Not too much on any other things. Okay, So you the point is to push down the key. And after that, try to lift your wrist as you see that I'm Can you see that I'm doing that now? Actually, from talk, try to lift your wrist. I know looks ridiculous, but that's kind of a check to see. Am I as relaxed as I can? And you see that even though I'm totally relaxed, the note, the key is still down. That's just gravity at work. You know, I see those students pushing down like this. Note. It's not necessary anymore. Relax because you need your strength, Let's say for the 16 such are coming up in the second in the second system. So if you allow attention to build already now, no way that you are you will be able to play your 60 notes after. Okay, So in the next note we have again the you will be like there. Right? Okay, so you push your dome and you relax. You see, it's relaxed because I can just jerk it up. It's still don't because of gravity. You don't need to push same thing. You see my risk going up there. That is the exercise risk going up and down just to check that you re next. Don't and don't push anymore. The pushing is for the initial moment for the initial moment. After that, the next instantly. Okay, that's the first exercise. The next exercise is about using your wrist, so one of the ways to to be as relaxed as you possibly can, especially playing 16 notes and other fast, faster passages is to remember that you don't play with fingers. You play with your wrist and arm. You have to. If you have a passage going up, you have to move along with your wrist towards that direction. So I'll give you now once I'll show you what it's like to practice. Practice the second system? No. With with the 60 notes starting, I'll show you the first time will be only from fingers and notice that this well, my hands will get stiff. And second fall doesn't give a very pleasant, uh, salt and not a very beautiful phrasing. Okay, so here's just from fingers, okay? So try to avoid that at all cost. So what you should be doing is moving along with the wrist and really try not to keep this tense. Don't try to keep the hand on the wrist tense. Try to keep that loose and move along in the direction you're going. So if you're going up moving along that way, if you're going down, move along that way immediately. Notice it sounds more musical sounds more pleasing. And also I notice. And if you were practicing along with me now here, you'll notice that, um, that was much more pleasant for your hand. So if you notice I move up with my wrist, do you see that when I use just my pinky my hand is kind of tilted. That's to do with relaxation. If I was like that, I'm not as relaxed. This ensures that my weight is here supporting my pinky. And if I go down again, I shift again. My wage. Now my weight is on the left side supporting the thumb. So switch around with that. A good exercise to do is just is to go from the C to the G, trying to make a circle with your wrist. So when you go up, you go under and make the circle complete when you go down. We tried to trying to play the scale with the feeling of not moving your fingers at all. Try to move the wrist along. So when you go up, you go under the circle, the circles drawing it under and then above. Okay, so that is about relaxation. And also remember that if you are practicing a fast passage, one of the reasons that it might not work is because of tension build up, so you might be able to do it separately. So that's very often. When you're practicing a passage separately, it works, and then when you practice it like when you practice the piece from beginning to end, the passage again doesn't work. That can be simply from tension. Build up because the more tense your hands are more easily, you will play wrong notes or mess up, get tired and so on. So definitely practice difficult Passers separate. But don't forget to try to use your relaxation moments during the peace and to also remember it might not be working simply because you have this build up of tension to try to release the tension whenever possible. And, of course, it's also a little bit of matter off. You know, when you go to the gym, you have to get a little bit of fitness. You have to get used to. Your body has to adjust. It's also a little bit just a little bit the same with the piano. You have to get some kind of your fingers, have to get used to a little bit. They might get tired in the beginning and that that might improve just with some with breakfast. So in conclusion, relaxation is very important in piano playing, even though some muscle tension is necessary to play too much muscle tension can build and cost sloppy playing unevenness and wrong notes. You lose the connection between your brain and fingers, and it seems like your fingers aren't listening to you and have a will off their own to avoid this, tried to relax your hands whenever you have arrest or a long note in order to stop the tension from building. Also, try to imagine playing from your hands and wrists instead of your fingers. Try to do the exercises I show in this video every day. And please remember these air exercises that I designed to trigger the feeling of relaxation. You won't actually be making such an exaggerated motions in your playing, especially in your fast messages. Stansted for relaxation, Let's continue to my fifth and final tip. 6. 5 tips to improve your piano practice video no 5: all right. And now for my final tip, the fifth tip. It's about attitude. So when I'm teaching, I love teaching young Children because they have the perfect attitude to learn whenever you ask a young child. Wow, you're doing really well. Don't you think You're really good at this. They will always tell you. Yes. I think I'm really good at this. If this just such a great attitude for learning, they'll never answer the question with all. Well, I don't think really That was good enough. And maybe that could be better. Never is just that they're enthusiastic. They're learning, and they think they're doing well on. That is an attitude that speeds up your improvement so so much. I see my older and my adult students. I see them judging themselves for the most ridiculous things that that I'm thinking when I was your age or when I was having as few years lesson as you are. I couldn't do that either. There are many challenging things in piano playing that need a lot of hours of practice and experience, and you know it's gonna take the time is gonna take. And the more accepting you are of that, the faster you will go and try and try really to focus on the practice itself instead of where you are, because trust me, you will always try to get better. I always have this ideal kind of playing in my head, and I'm always trying to get better and it never stops. You will never be satisfied with the results in I don't mean it in a negative way. It's just something to work for. It's why we still practice. It's why I go behind the piano every single day to get that improvement. And you know, if you have a critical attitude, first of all, I can tell you it's always when I see it from a side. When I see a student criticizing themselves, they're criticizing themselves for things that just they just take time. You know, they just are difficult, and they just it's no no reason to criticize every. There's nobody who can do that at once. There's a lot of things in piano playing that you really can't do at once. You can't learn a piece at once. You can't learn different articulations or different rhythms in your hands at once. This this all takes weeks and months and years. So don't don't ever judge yourself. It's challenging and things need time. Well, A crappy attitude is unpleasant for yourself and for other people, and it's just not helpful. So give yourself a break except the things they're going to take time, even if they seem theoretically, very easy. Give your brain and body the time to catch up, because there's this connection between the brain and your and your hence that that needs to be strengthened. So do that with a good attitude and you'll see yourself improving far faster than you ever could have thought simply because you you just let go and say it's going to take the time it takes and let's be happy doing it's I mean, let's be happy every time we sit behind the piano. Okay, so I hope these five tips have helped you and we'll help you improve your piano playing. And until next time