How Much Do I Need to Practice Piano?

As with many things there is no short answer that is straightforward correct. Therefore I will firstly give you a short answer in an as simple way as possible and then explain what is under the top of the iceberg.

I would say that each individual is different and the concentration skill of every person differs a lot. So there is no fixed time that I (or anyone else) can really suggest. My advice would be choosing a minimum practice time on a daily basis and following it as regularly as possible. (If you sometimes skip a few days it is completely OK. Even the top pianists do it). If to say out any amounts at all I think the very minimum would be half an hour. But now to the more interesting part where I will explain how you can choose your best practice time.

First you need to know what is practice as such. Practicing can be defined as a process where we create new habits and change old ones. As the idea of practice is improvement the aim is to create good habits not bad ones. And here starts the important part for you.

Basically it can be said that the whole sum of your piano playing habits is what you are as a pianist. So the habits define how you play (of course the psychology and different aspects of piano playing are much broader). But creating good habits has some preconditions. I will point them out.

1) Find Interesting Short Term Goals With Every Bit of Practice*

When you do not have a clear goal you can you never be sure that what you do is effective and works. So goal, a mental image of what you want to achieve is extremely important. It is a very common trap for beginning pianists to just sit and play instead of practicing. Then “practiced” can be marked for a day but actually nothing really improved. Just playing how it comes is often actually worse than not practicing because while playing unawarely lot of random and instinctive habits are formed. Instinctive habits are ineffective in nine cases out of ten. If you have a short term goal your practice has a meaning, a direction.

* All short term goals will be given in a friendly and simple manner in my piano courses.

2) Being Concentrated Enough Helps to Practice With Good Quality

If you have a clear goal but your thoughts are wandering, it will not make any sense. Then you are playing with little contact with the actual reality of playing and it is not possible to adapt new good information and reinforce good habits. But when you concentrate and focus well, it is very likely that you can progress, master new skills and techniques, form good habits and replace old (bad) ones.

To concentrate for a relatively long period of time is not easy. Sharp concentration of beginner pianists usually lasts for thirty till forty five minutes (in some cases longer). Then brain needs a rest. When you get used to being focused your abilities get better in time. Also, focusing skill will flourish in all fields of your life. But what next? Can you practice more?

3) Practicing in Chunks

Of course. Practicing in chunks is very effective. After the first set of practice you can make a rest what can basically mean doing something completely different. It is not exactly rest what your brain needs, but other brain centers need to take over and work. After a while, sometimes even after fifteen or twenty minutes you can return to the piano refreshed. But the most important is to evaluate the situation adequately. You should stop instantly when you are feeling fatigue or the concentration fades. And your adequate decision and observation will decide your optimal length of one practice set. This set should maybe be the minimum time of practice per day.

4) Try to Repeat Things Over – It Saves You Very Much Time

What is also very important to bring out the importance of repetition. The importance of repetition can be explained with the concept from evolutionary psychology. According to this our mind creates a hierarchy of surrounding events based on their occurring frequency. Things that happen more often will be higher in this list and the less something reoccurs the faster your memory will delete it.

Actually forgetting is not an inability of our brain. Forgetting is a certain feature of our brain to simplify problem solving. It can be said that brain intentionally deletes information to filter and reduce the amount of information that needs processing and is surrounding us. The only thing that protects against this “violent” deleting is repeating over and over again.

Research shows that when we repeat things the time length we remember it without repeating it grows exponentially. For example in the beginning you need to repeat something twice a day, then once a day, then in two days, four days, a week, in two weeks, in a month etc. Soon you will remember what you learned for years.

So this principle of repetition should be also kept in mind when you want to practice efficiently. When something new is learned and you do not repeat it over in twenty four hours about seventy five percent of the learned information will be lost. Therefore having two sessions per day where one is a shorter session of repeating over what you practiced earlier is really efficient.

For the conclusion of this article I will bring out some points that could work as a plan for choosing your best time of practicing on a daily basis.

    1) Decide how much spare time you would like/can contribute to piano playing on a daily basis
    2) Find out how long is your optimal session length according to concentration skills
    3) Try to find time to repeat everything you learned over later on the same day to double or even triple the effectiveness of your learning.
    4) Enjoy a good step-by-step improvement process built up from clear short term goals

Thank you for reading. I hope it gave you some insight. I also invite you to join the free one month piano course for adult beginners. If you have any ideas you want to share or ask more questions please feel free to contact me.

E-mail: jaak@playingpianoblog.com
Skype: jaak.sikk.jr

Read Answers to Other Frequently Asked Questions:

Is It Too Late for Me to Start Learning the Piano?
Am I Talented Enough to Learn to Play the Piano?
What Equipment Do I Need for Joining Jaak Sikk’s Adult Beginner Piano Course?
I Cannot Sight-read, Can I Join the Adult Beginner Piano Course?
11 Proven Concepts for Effective Piano Learning Used in the Courses
Are My Hands Too Small for Playing Piano Well?
I Do Not Have a Piano, Which One Would Be the Best for Me?
When Will I See the First Outcome When I Follow The Adult Beginner Piano Course?
How Does Personal Feedback for Classical Piano Course Students Work?
Are My Hands And Fingers Too Stiff for Playing?

11 Proven Concepts for Effective Piano Learning Used in the Courses

The materials here and in the courses are not “invented” by Jaak Sikk. Some of them are also original ideas but the materials include a variety of world famous and influential concepts and teaching methods. Basically when researching the articles, courses and materials here you are in the same boat with the biggest thinkers, philosophers and musicians throughout all times.

I will bring out a list of concepts and figures that have had an impact on my teaching methods and ways of thinking and briefly give an overview of their meaning in this context. All these complicated ideas are put into my teaching with simplicity and through practical exercises. It is not by far obligatory for you to know and research the concepts and figures I bring out in such a detail as I have been researching them. The main idea behind creating the list is to give you a possibility to learn what is behind the whole atmosphere of this site and my approach if you wish. The list is not complete of course, only the essential is mentioned in there.

1) Concept of Synergy

Synergy means that the sum of the whole is bigger than the sum of its individual elements. This refers to the bigger effectiveness when different elements work together towards one goal. This concept is crucial when to talk about piano technique and using your body as a tool to express yourself naturally and freely.

For example fingers, knuckles, hands, wrists, forearms all have their function and they can all influence piano playing more or less. But if all their motions are combined according to the musical expression and idea it can magnify the expressive power of the body parts many times. Good piano playing needs synergy formed by body parts.

2) Concept of Mental Models

The first cornerstone for the concept of mental models was laid by Charles Sanders Peirce. It has been developed to what it is today by Philip Johnson Laird and several other researchers. The main idea is that before we can take actions we first have to plan it in our mind. It means that primarily we model things in our mental sphere and then apply it to the real world. The concept also refers to several habitual models that guide our actions through everyday life. Creating right and effective models for piano playing is very important.

I consider ‘mastering something’ as getting into a situation where you do not need to actively interfere into action to be able to execute it well in a dynamic process. You can say, that every time something complicated in your piano playing comes with ease and without very active direct intervention, a mental model is ‘carrying you through’. As piano playing is a very complex and multi-layered chain of actions, it can be compared with different layers of mental models that are combined and connected in many different ways. Without mental models helping us do things we would never be able to be good at playing piano.

3) Theory of Communication

The theory of communication was first mentioned and formed by Roman Jakobson. It helps to clarify what does playing an instrument as an act of art consist of. It explains why communication is different than just plain information and helps to understand better how to perform pieces in a communicative (persuasive way). Autocommunication, which is also an intrinsic part of all performing arts was developed by Yuri Lotman.

In playing piano a circle of communication is present all the time. You send, receive, process messages and react to them at the same time. It is a flow of communication. You play, you listen to your own playing and you change your way of playing according to what you hear. At the same time the second line of communication, what can be seen as autocommunication, is taking place in your mind – you have a musical vision, an idea what you want to execute and it is changing with the current situation all the time.

4) Concept of Mental Play

The concept of mental play was first described by Walter Gieseking and Karl Leimer in Piano Technique. Later many musicians and teachers/methodologists have had their word about the concept. At the same time most of the great players have had a clear mental image of the music performed (such as Arthur Rubinstein, Heinrich Neuhaus, Dinu Lipatti, Wladyslaw Szpilman and many others).

Playing without instrument, playing in your mind while using imagery is also part of the courses. Mental playing might seem difficult but when you get more used to it I am sure you can manage with it and most students have found it is very helpful.

5) Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is a science that researches the art of interpretation. How to understand different texts and materials. It is very important to understand how one can learn a piece from the angle of interpretation. One of the founders and most influential figures of hermeneutics is Wilhelm Dilthey.

6) Semiotics

Semiotics is the science that studies signs. As all musical scores consist of signs it sheds light to understanding pieces thoroughly. But semiotics is relevant in all fields of life – we are all the time surrounded by different complex signs. All the signs together are called semiosphere. The main figures I refer to here are Charles Sanders Peirce and Yuri Lotman.

7) The Circle of Understanding

The circle of understanding is described by Hans Georg Gadamer, who was a German philosopher. It describes the way how we learn and acquire new information. It raises the effectiveness of all kind of learning processes. His philosophy also makes it easier to bring in the real practical change.

8) Methods of Teaching That Play a Role In the Formation of the Materials of This Site

a) The methodology of Heinrich Neuhaus (teacher of Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels and many other world famous pianists)
b) Suzuki method
c) Method by Seymour Fink
d) Chuan C. Chang – “Fundamentals of Piano Practice”
c) Alexanders Technique

This list here is just a fraction of what I have gone through. Here I have to point out that as I only want to incorporate what I consider as best, I have not taken everything from the methods also I do not agree with everything in these methods.

9) Pianists Whose Life, Playing Technique And Interpretations I Have Analyzed

Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Arcadi Volodos, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Murray Perahia, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter, Ivo Pogorelich, Martha Argerich, Evgeny Kissin, Marc Andre Hamelin, Glen Gould, Ferrucio Busoni, Leopold Godowsky, Mikhail Pletnev and many others too.

10) Mnemonic Approach

Here I rely on the Book “Supermemory” by Harry Lorraine and the lectures by professor Peter M. Vishton PhD. These two incorporate already many concepts. In addition many articles that touch the subject have influenced my teaching. Using the memory and all its possibilities plays an important role in the whole piano learning process.

11) The Law of Causality And Determinism, Indeterminism

The concept of freedom, determinism and indeterminism I rely on the concept by Max Planck (one of the founders of quantum mechanics and Nobel prize winner). It helps to see deeper into our possibilities to change the situation and understand why and how we can choose or just follow the circumstances.

Conclusion

All the concepts I introduced here have influenced me. Their main ideas are integrated into the free one month piano course and the follow-up piano course. I wrote about them to make it easier for you to catch the atmosphere and overall nature of the courses and other materials.

Thank you for reading! If you have any thoughts or you want to discuss something about these fascinating concepts and their relation with piano and music, I will be very happy to do so. Comments and questions in the section below are very welcome too.

E-mail: jaak@playingpianoblog.com
Skype: jaak.sikk.jr

Read Answers to Frequently Asked Questions:

Is It Too Late for Me to Start Learning the Piano?
Am I Talented Enough to Learn to Play the Piano?
What Equipment Do I Need for Joining Jaak Sikk’s Adult Beginner Piano Course?
How Much Do I Need to Practice Piano?
I Cannot Sight-read, Can I Join the Adult Beginner Piano Course?
Are My Hands Too Small for Playing Piano Well?
I Do Not Have a Piano, Which One Would Be the Best for Me?
When Will I See the First Outcome When I Follow The Adult Beginner Piano Course?
How Does Personal Feedback for Classical Piano Course Students Work?
Are My Hands And Fingers Too Stiff for Playing?

Is It Too Late for Me to Start Learning the Piano?

Actually your interest in playing piano is the top decider “whether it is too late or not”. As you have landed on this page it is a proof that you have some interest in playing the piano. So the short answer is that for sure it is not too late. But as the topic is wider and includes many details and sides I try to give some insight and also interesting facts about the subject.

According to the law of relativity every statement is dependent on the relation between the object and its environment and context. In this case the most important aspect is your inner feel and image about your goal about piano playing and how you want to see the process become a reality.

When you are not four or six years old it is very likely that it is too late to become a professional recital pianist. So when you are a late beginner your image of the process and your goals should probably be different than that. But the good news is that you can achieve basically everything besides becoming a professional recital pianist. You can play different pieces you like and perform them to your friends, family, you can acquire knowledge in music theory, you can develop a set of good playing skills and integrate them into an effective whole and you can even give recitals as a piano amateur.

As it is already explained a bit in the previous paragraph, the “is it too late or not?” has more to do with your mental state about playing piano than any real world obstacles. I can sincerely say that all the pianists, and I mean from the beginners till the best players in the world are united into a big process of piano playing and experience similar things. The more you learn piano and practice it the more you will understand that what really matters is the musical process itself and enjoying it as much as possible.

No pianist has ever gained absolute mastery of playing piano. I know that every now and then even the most talented pianists in the world have been very upset about the recital they just gave despite all the crowd screaming in the praise of their magnificent, extraordinary etc. playing. The best ones are students too, servants of music, they have their goals and problems too. They want to change and get better every day. When you start learning piano you step into the worldwide family of piano learners and you will get so much to share and age will never be what is stopping you.

I will form the main question of this article as a set of questions. If you answer “yes” to every question in your mind then you are definitely not too old for starting the journey of piano playing.

    1) Do you love piano and classical music?
    2) Are you interested in learning how to play piano?
    3) Are you ready to contribute some of your free time to piano practice?
    (read more here: how much to practice piano)
    4) Are you up to step-by-step change towards improvement?

If you gave four “yes” answers you have proven yourself that you are in the perfect age for embarking on the piano learning process. And actually the best part is yet to come.

According to my experience piano learning process of child beginners and adult beginners differs in many aspects. And I can say that when the ultimate goal is having a serious and enriching hobby, the adult beginners are in a better position in many ways. I will explain why.
Children cannot analyze what is going on and what they are really doing while they learn. It is a lucky chance who is going to be their teacher. Everything is depending 35% on their natural talent and 65% on their teacher. Often very talented children (and I would even say in most cases) never reach the top of their potential or near that because of insufficient teaching methods they encounter. The way how children learn is imitation.

You are out of this group. You are a conscious person with good skills of analysis and making aware decisions. You can compare different methods and see what works with you and what does not. This situation makes you free. So when you get good learning materials your mature thinking will give you a chance to build up an efficient foundation for playing piano – you can choose the best you can find. It makes you free and opens up the world of piano related materials.

In addition to this the philosophical and psychophysical aspects of piano playing with all their benefits are totally open for you. You can start drawing parallels between piano playing and its integrity with everyday life and universal principles that are present everywhere in the world. You can work with very different aspects of yourself and get to be a better and more successful person day by day by solving the enigma of piano playing. I will bring out a few points that correspond to this paragraph.

    1) Your expressive skills get a lot better
    2) Your contact and awareness of your emotions and fantasy grows
    3) Your mnemonic abilities get a real boost
    4) Skills of coordination improve
    5) You can relieve many physical tensions that have been present or which you did not know were there before
    6) You can get your body motions much more free and integrated
    7) You can learn a lot about history and different epochs of art

The list could be longer….

Researches confirm that brain is changing all the time and new neurons are formed from the stem cells regardless of the age. How you think and what are the neural processes changes the structure of the brain. This completely supports the idea of lifelong learning.

As the conclusion I will leave the first question “Is it too late for me to start learning piano?” open and I will leave it for you to answer. What is the most important is what you feel and think about it. I hope I could give you some insight and support to find the best answer about the topic. If you feel now that it is not too late to start learning piano, you can try out my free one month course for adult beginners.

As your piano learning process is the highest priority for me as a piano teacher I would be most happy to discuss or answer any this topic or piano related questions via email or Skype call.

Tel: +372 55 690 850
Skype: jaak.sikk.jr
Email: jaak@playingpianoblog.com

Read Answers to Other Frequently Asked Questions:

Am I Talented Enough to Learn to Play the Piano?
What Equipment Do I Need for Joining Jaak Sikk’s Adult Beginner Piano Course?
How Much Do I Need to Practice Piano?
I Cannot Sight-read, Can I Join the Adult Beginner Piano Course?
11 Proven Concepts for Effective Piano Learning Used in the Courses
Are My Hands Too Small for Playing Piano Well?
I Do Not Have a Piano, Which One Would Be the Best for Me?
When Will I See the First Outcome When I Follow The Adult Beginner Piano Course?
How Does Personal Feedback for Classical Piano Course Students Work?
Are My Hands And Fingers Too Stiff for Playing?

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