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"How to Master Piano Practice and Performance: Five Essential Tips for Success"

Updated: May 13

Needless to say, piano practice and performance is an incredible personal journey. However, there are some things that I think are absolutely indispensable.

You've got your piano.

You've got your music.

You've got your drive to learn.

Is that all?


Here is a short blog post in which I explore five things that I not only love having, but NEED to help me get through a session of practice (and sometimes performing!)

Disclaimer - as a starting point, I have linked to various websites. I have nothing but praise for the ones I have linked to, and am not in any way sponsored by them. They are merely starting points for you to explore the products yourself!


I can almost hear the collective groan of pianists - novice and expert - around the world as they read that title! However, metronome we must!

Though it does encourage a rather static performance from us, it teaches us a lot about discipline. Rhythmic discipline i.e. keeping notes nice and even where needed, and tempo discipline i.e. resisting the urge to speed up or slow down.

Yes, you can download metronomes to your phone or tablet. Yes, you can purchase digital metronomes. However, being of the old fashioned persuasion, my essential for piano practice is a real, mechanical metronome.

The minute you set that pendulum swinging you hear it brightly - almost harshly. Horrible, right? Well...maybe. But unlike digital metronomes and especially unlike little smartphone speakers, the clockwork metronomes of old (and new) are designed to be audible above what is already a very loud instrument (and the piano is an extremely loud instrument!).

Therefore, I recommend the old fashioned clockwork metronomes above all else - especially if you are using an acoustic piano.

NB I have never tried the fairly new concept of the wrist metronome - they vibrate rather than making a sound - but this is supposed to be a revolutionary approach to practising with a metronome too. Why not look into these as an alternative if you're not a fan of the ticking sort?


Perhaps this is another one that is written from the point of view of somebody who uses an acoustic piano to practice and play at home, but as musicians our ears are extremely precious and we must protect them!

Of course, earplugs are known for their usefulness in helping to preserve our hearing in the long run (something worth considering if you're practising a lot - especially if like me your acoustic piano is in a small room with lots of reflection), but you'll be surprised at how much better you feel after a session of practice with vs. without earplugs.

The reason for this is all to do with a scientific phenomenon called 'Listener Fatigue' or 'Ear Fatigue', and when it comes to the piano in particular it can be triggered not just by volume, but by excessive exposure to certain frequencies (remember that the piano - at 88 keys - has the largest range of most any acoustic instrument).

Earplugs not only prevent too much excess noise from getting in, but they are able to cap the frequency of what is coming in without compromising much at all on the quality of the sound so that you still get enjoyment from practice and playing. Technological minds, think of it like compressing WAV to MP3 - we take out all those frequencies we don't want but it still sounds as good to us!

I use Loop Earplugs, and those of you who follow me on TikTok and YouTube may have noticed I have started to wear them more in my videos. But if not, this is testament to the fact that they are fairly discreet. And just in case you were wondering - they are comfortable. Barely noticeable, in fact!


This is my personal choice, but it's worth thinking about ways in which you can exercise any problem areas (or keep general movability and health around the hands) by investing in a gadget that is designed for this purpose.

A power-ball is a ball that you hold in the hand and spin with your wrist and - using the magic of kinetic energy - you can create additional weight by moving faster or slower. Thus, you are building up and / or exercising the strength in your wrist.

I chose this because it helps me keep a fluid, agile wrist motion, but if you're struggling with other things - such as moving the fingers - consider finger exercisers or stress balls. Anything really that you can turn to during practice if you start to feel a little fatigue or weakness in the area to just help give it a boost.

Pencil (and Rubber!)

This one is a fantastic one because you probably already have this classic duo in your house. Maybe you've even got a pencil with a rubber on the top - two for one!

But why? We don't play piano with pencils, do we?

We don't. But we often learn using sheet music and sheet music is almost crying out to be written all over! The second that something is a little unclear on a score, write on the answer. Or a helpful hint for when you're playing. Or circle or underline any dynamic or tempo markings you keep skimming over!

But most crucially, do it in pencil. For if you end up writing a lot, it becomes a mess. If you no longer need the marking, rub it out! This means that when you start to play through the piece again using the music, you will begin to more instinctively reference what's written as opposed to referencing your pencil markings as they no longer exist - something that will help your sight reading.

Plus - playing a piece really well that has no pencil markings on it at all just looks more impressive!


How times have changed since I was learning to those who learn now!

Laptop computers were barely accessible when I was learning piano, let alone something that could actually literally fit more naturally onto a music stand than most sheet music publications ever! Plus they're always well lit because they're on a digitally lit screen!

But my iPad argument on this particular occasion isn't for the use of reading music off them. Granted, this is of enormous benefit and - if you have the luxury of a page turner - even better for helping you perform fluidly.

However, from a practising point of view, let's not forget that iPads - or any other tablet - as well as smartphones if you don't have a tablet - or computers if you don't have either of those - are usually connected to the Internet these days. And if you know anything about the Internet then you'll know - it has everything you could possibly need on it.

Don't understand an exercise? YouTube it!

Forgotten how to find a note? Google it!

Want to hear how a piece should be played? Spotify it!

It's almost unthinkable that ten years ago this was still quite new technology that was hardly being used to its full potential by musicians.

But we now proudly have it, so we may as well use it!

Bonus Entry - Money

This one's a bit sad, as we'd all much rather put our money towards a trip to the Caribbean rather than a formal piano necessity. But if you do budget it in at a time that you don't miss it, you won't feel you do miss it when the time actually comes to part with it.

If you have an acoustic piano, it will need maintenance. The one essential maintenance that will have to be done at least once a year (more if you use it a lot) is tuning. How much to put aside is really the length of a piece of string. Is your piano quite badly out of tune or is it just on the point of detuning (where one or more strings that make up a single note aren't on the exact same frequency. creating a 'chorus' type effect).

Some piano tuners will charge the same regardless, whereas some will charge more for a piano that needs a lot of tuning. In addition to this, do you play a lot? If so, maybe you need to put aside twice as much per year so you can keep it better tuned as the more you play, the faster it will go out of tune (remember the advice of annually is just an average!).

Sadly, it is an expensive game and - whilst it is worth shopping around - it certainly isn't worth skimping on. Remember that a good tuner will probably perform a standard annual piano tuning in an hour or so, but add on that they need to get to you. Plus any commission if you are booking their service through a company (and if they are self employed - don't even get me started on how they can be mistreated financially by those not in the know!).

I've seen some people offer services for £50. I've seen some for £200. Ultimately, you need to know that you will get a tuned piano by the end of it, but maybe the £50 would be there all day using tuning forks and more, whereas the £200 could do it in an hour just by using ear. When you think you have settled on a budget, try to either make the effort to save or - if you already have the money available and are in a position to not miss it right now - put it aside ready.

Other maintenance that you may need to consider may include restringing, lubricating sticky / stuck keys or replacing keys that have completely lost leverage, replacing damaged pedalboards and voicing (softening the hammers). Piano tuners can often advise on anything they feel needs to be addressed, so it is worth asking. Some of them may even be qualified and able to do it at the same time. Regardless, keep putting money aside for your piano just to be on the safe side and when it comes time to invest or pay anybody it won't feel so tragic.


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