Playing the piano is one of the best things that I've learnt to do so far. As someone that loves music, the major reason I learnt to play the piano was to be able to play while singing. I also loved it when others played and wanted to be able to do it too.
Playing the piano is fun, but no good thing comes easy and learning the instrument itself isn't exactly child's play. It requires a lot of time, dedication and focus.
That being said, I've decided to share with you guys my piano practice routine. This routine is what I used to develop my piano skills (as a partly self-taught pianist) and is very effective for beginners as well.
PS: There will be some musical terms in this article. Incase you're unfamiliar with any of them, I'll do my best to explain and also add pictures when necessary.
BASIC FINGERING AND COORDINATION
Playing the piano requires the utility of the ten fingers. It also requires a lot of muscle memory especially when playing double parts of a song (melody and chords), so it's important to master basic fingering and coordination.
There are various beginners piano exercises for building dexterity and hand independence on YouTube. My favourite so far is the one by pianote and Mangold project which I'll have linked below.
These five simple exercises is usually how I start my piano rehearsals - it is like a warm-up for my fingers.
A scale is a series of notes used to make melodies. The piano scale is made of twelve notes: seven which are white keys (C D E F G A B) and five which are black keys (C# D# F# G# A# – the '#' symbol is pronounced "sharp"). The black keys can also be written as flats. The white keys are also known as natural keys while the black keys represents sharps and flats.
Each one of the twelve keys have their own unique scales which are made up of seven other keys forming an octave (an interval of 12 semitones or 8 whole tones). Scales are classified into major and minor scales but as a beginner, it is adviced that you stick to playing on major scales for the time being.
After my finger warmups, I dive straight into practicing the scales for every single one of the twelve piano keys. If you're a beginner, I suggest learning the easiest scale which is the C major scale first. This is because it comprises of solely white notes so you just press each key upwards till you reach the C above an octave. When you're comfortable with the C major scale, you may move to the other letters which are more complicated. At first it'll seem a little bit daunting, but the more you practice this, the more you memorise which keys belong in a particular scale.
A Chord is a combination of three or more keys played together. It can be classified under various types such as: major, minor, augmented, and diminished but for the simplicity of this article I will only discuss the two main ones which are major chords and minor chords.
To build a major chord, simply place the first/index finger of your left hand on the root note (the name of the chord your trying to make i.e in a C major chord, the root note is a C). Next, place your middle finger in the note three semitones away from your root note (a third) and then place your last finger (thumb) on the note that is seven semitones from your root note (a fifth). Minor chords are very similar to major chords, with the only difference in the position of the middle finger which will be on two semitones away from the root note instead of three.
Chords are my favourite things to practice. They are the backbone of any song which makes them so important to learn when you're just starting out with the piano. As usual, start with the easiest chord which is the C major chord, then slowly make your way up. Once you've learnt chords, you have already covered more than half of what you need to play any song.
The next thing I practice is arpeggios. Arpeggios are simply broken chords; that is, instead of playing three keys or more at the same time as you would in a classic chord, you play the three notes one at a time in a given sequence. For example an arpeggio of a C major chord (C E G) will be played in the sequence C E G E C . There are also other forms of arpeggios/sequences in which these notes can be played.
Arpeggios are a good way to spice up chords and make them more interesting.
This is on a more advanced level because it does take time to learn but it's well worth it. An inversion is simply playing a chord in a different order. For instance, a C major chord is played by placing the index finger of the left hand on the C key, followed by the E and then the G key. In an inversion, the index finger will be placed on either E or G depending on if it's a first or second Inversion and the remaining keys will line up accordingly. This is what an inversion looks like.
BUILDING UP CHORDS PROGRESSIONS.
After mastering scales, you should move on to building chords for each key on a given scale. Here is an example;
In a C major scale, we have the C major chord, D minor chord, E minor chord, F major chord, G major chord, A minor chord, and a B diminished chord.
Similarly the D major scale contains a D major chord, E minor chord, F minor chord, G major chord, A major chord, B minor chord, and a C diminished chord.
Don't worry if this seems overwhelming. It'll be hard at first but as you progress you'll find it easier. There's also a pattern I like to apply to this which is "M m m M M m D" (where 'M' stands for major, 'm' stands for minor and 'D' stands for diminished.
As an intermediate player, I have learnt all the chords in the C, D and E major scales. As time goes on, I'll learn even more which is why I like to include it in my rehearsals.
PLAY A SONG
What is a piano practice without a song? Infact, all the previous steps taken during my practice routine just brings me closer to my favourite part which is actually playing songs on the piano. I play at least five songs every time I sit down to rehearse.
LEARN A SONG
I guess you're probably wondering why I left this for the last; wouldn't I be too exhausted to learn a new song after rehearsing everything in the previous list? The truth is, sometimes I end up skipping this part, but what good of a piano player would I be if I don't learn new songs continuously and increase my music library? It just makes no sense. Also, sometimes I jump straight into learning new pieces depending on how excited I am so that eliminates any excuses.
Recently, I've been getting into classical music more and as of the time of writing this article, I've learnt a total of seven classical pieces. Every week, I try to wrap up my old pieces and learn new ones by watching YouTube tutorials.
BONUS: READING MUSIC SHEETS
This is a bonus simply because I don't do it very often (infact I just started learning how to read sheet music and I seldomly do it during rehearsals), but I felt it's something I must include especially if you're really interested in learning music in general.
To start learning, read the music without the piano. Master the positions on the lines and spaces and then when you're comfortable, you can try practicing on a piano.
That's all for my piano practice routine (pretty basic huh?...). It's been a year and almost half since I started playing the piano and I absolutely love it! It's honestly one of the best things I can do at this point and I really hope sharing my routine with you guys inspired someone to get into this hobby as well. Consider subscribing to Pianote if you're just starting out with the instrument. It is the No.1 piano channel on YouTube and most of my piano knowledge came from there.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.