Anybody have a suggestion for a "practice routine" : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

Iam a professional musician whose main instrument is the drums. My hobby is playing the piano. I can read music and have taught myself to play some pieces (Beethoven pathetique 2nd movement, Bach C#Major Prelude 3 WTC Book 1, f minor prelude 12 WTC Book 2) but I want to be able to improvise on the piano better and i want to get my technic to the next level. I have almost every "standard" piano exercise book ever written by hanon, czerny, etc on a cd rom from a library. The thing is now I dont know where to start. There is so much stuff to look through..what do I work on? all scales major and minor ? all arpeggios? all of the hannon stuff? How much do I spend on each thing? do I go through all of this stuff in one day? Are you supposed to do hanon in evey key? I need to find some kind of technic building program or routine seperate from learning a piece of music. Anyone out there have any suggestions? If you make it to down here thanks for reading through this long post!!

-- jerome morris (, November 06, 2004


Jerome, a friend of mine who is a chess player once told me, "Any plan is better than no plan." So in that spirit, I'm going to offer some suggestions!

I would suggest working through scales and chords via the Circle of Fifths...first do C scale, arpeggio, chords and inversions. Then A minor, then move on to G major, E minor, etc. After you've done a few sharp keys, start going through the flat keys -- F major, D minor, B-flat major, G minor, etc. Plan on spending at least a few days on each key. When you know them all -- or at least a whole bunch -- you can mix them up.

If you want to improvise better, you need to be comfortable with the chords in every key. You can play the scale with the primary chords (i.e. RH plays the scale, LH harmonizes with I, IV, V chords), and also learn some common chord progressions. Practise in the various keys.

As for the Hanon, etc., it partly depends on how much time you have, as well as your perseverance level. You could spend all your time on Hanon #1...with different rhythms and articulations, then in various keys...then in different keys with different rhythms and articulations...but you'd probably get sick of it before you'd done everything you could! I'd learn several of the Hanon exercises and use them as warm-ups, and also to analyse where you need help...any exercise you find particularly challenging is probably one you need to spend more time/energy on.

Regarding studies in general, again I think you need to analyse your current abilities and where you need improvement. You may find it worthwhile to get an outside opinion on this. Then, since there's so much available, choose stuff that's going to be worthwhile not only in terms of improving your abilities, but also that will sound good...if you have to choose between five scales studies, choose the one that will sound the best once learned.

Anyhow, that's my two cents (and then some!) worth. Hope you find it helpful.

-- Alice Dearden (, November 07, 2004.

Thank you very much for the good advice. Sometimes it gets overwhelming seeing all that there is written on the subject of exercises. I will give it a try incorperating these things into my practice time and see how it goes. I luckily have a job at a college as an accompanist for modern dance classes where I play drums and piano. The teacher encourages me to experiment on the piano and Ive grown to love it, hence my desire to become a decent improviser. I play some pieces I have learned on my own for the sake of variety, but because I am not a trained pianist I dont have a huge repetiore. P.S. The cycle of 5ths was something I forgot about so thanks for reminding me!

-- jerome morris (, November 09, 2004.

One big step in being able to improvise is THEORY!

You must study the theory behind the music, that was how i starting improvising.

Another thing that helped me with that is church music. Get a hymnal, usually the music is just the melody and the chord. Start off by adding in the right hand chords with leading tones. Then, start adding in the left hand with a bass line ... advancing the bass line to chords and broken chords.

I also have the Ultimate Christmas Fake Book which is the same thing as above. Might be easier because the songs would be more familiar.

I highly recommend doing that though. If you know your theor really well and can play any chord on the ball, you would really love doing what I just said up above.

-- Nicholas Hruskocy (, December 07, 2004.

Another good thing to do is take some classical lessons with a non- English speaking maestro - preferably a beatiful Asian woman...memorize all the exercises and pieces they give to you for two attention to facial expressions and body language of the teacher. Live to please your teacher...she's expensive, but she's worth every penny. Then leave classical music completely alone and study Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn compositions for two years. Pretend that Ella Fitzgerald is going to whip you every time you screw up the difficult inversions in the left hand. Spank your left hand or have someone else do so when it misbehaves. Study some Charle Parker solo's and Art Tatum in your spare time. Then when that's finished, I want you to paint your face white every morning, blindfold yourself, or wear dark sunglasses and play nothing but Rachmaninov and slow blues while buzzed on French red wine for six months..make that nine months...alright a year's okay too...then play as much Latin jazz as you can for a year...take another year for lots of Chuco Valdez and Ruben Gonzalez... maybe some Eddie Palmieri for technique....the eat lots of B-Vitamins and play nothing but scales on an upright bass for a year and a half ( if you've gotten this far upright bass will be no problem ),listening to nothing but Charles Mingus records, bluegrass and ragtime. During these last difficult years, get lots of vigorous hand massages, jump rope, have lots and lots of sex ( but always after practicing - except during the wine is okay before practice then and acutually encouraged ). Get adequate sleep, drink green tea, water, Belgian farmales, do some yoga - but not too much yoga - this isn't Mister Rogers' Neighborhood piano - save that for the dance classes... and then go and travel for a year with an acoustic guitar, hand drum and harmonica...come back and you'll have the entire piano world upset and confused...and just remember the piano is just a strange and elusive drumkit.

-- shaggynolan (, February 17, 2005.

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