Music is a lifelong connection. There are studies that prove music is usually one of the last things to fade from someone’s memory in old age. Whether that’s listening to music or learning to play an instrument, it sticks with you for life. While many people start learning to play an instrument at a very young age, the great thing about piano is that it’s open to students of all kinds.
Learning to play piano does not require lung capacity or the ability to lift an instrument, so students young and old can start up when they like. It is a life-long instrument and students can advance for however long they’d like. That being said, the more advanced a student gets, the more it can be difficult to find ways to improve.
However, there is always more ways to learn and improve, even for advanced students. So this is a composed list of 10 tips to help advanced students find ways to grow their skills during and outside of advanced piano lessons.
The most important thing for advanced piano players to keep in mind is that, once they get to the higher levels of instruction, piano playing because more of a mental game. It becomes about finding intrinsic motivation and singling out the small things that players wish to improve. Goals become more specific and often times more long-term. The mental game can be harder than learning fundamentals, but for advanced players who wish to grow their skills it can be extremely beneficial.
So let’s begin with my number one tip.
1) Explain What You Know
This is one of the best ways to improve skills for advanced piano players. While it may seem counterintuitive to teach what you already know to students, especially if it is basics, teaching can help improve personal skills.
Understanding how to effectively explain skills to others helps the teacher understand where they may need to refine their own skills. Teaching can also enlighten these advanced students to new approaches towards piano playing or related topics may not have been considered before.
Often times, a true test of knowledge is if the student can accurately and effectively explain the topic to a beginner. If the students cannot accomplish this, it is a great form of self-reflection on what they may not know. Trying to teach piano lessons can help advanced students find where the holes are in their own piano knowledge.
Beginning students especially, simply want to absorb all the information available to them, meaning they ask a lot of questions. Some of these questions might not even seem cohesive, but if the teacher cannot answer it, there is something they should work on to improve.
Teaching piano lessons also grows the overall skillset of advanced players because of the mental switch that needs to happen from student to teacher. There is a potential for the students to realize that this is their next step in their piano playing journey. For those students their piano playing skills will improve because they need to know how to explain and show these skills to their students. Additionally, going from student to teacher unlocks a whole new viewpoint and approach to piano playing that will help enhance advanced students.
2) Customize Your Piano Lesson Plan
Despite their best intentions, sometimes piano teachers settle into a repetitive lesson rhythm that seems to plateau the advancement of piano playing skills. However, students and teachers form a relationship that may not want to be broken, so finding some online lessons geared towards advanced students may be able to help fill in some gaps.
The are many benefits of online piano lessons, one being that they are highly customizable to the pace of the student. Advanced student are able to skip over the beginning lessons and find where they wish to start instead. It is important to keep in mind that online piano lessons go at different paces and teach things in different orders. It might be beneficial to start a few lessons or videos prior to where you believe you are in skill level in order to catch and review any important background information.
The variety of online advanced piano lessons can be an advantageous. If one website or video doesn’t feel like it’s helping the student grow they can simply surf the web for a different one. They can tailor their online lessons to their favored learning method whether it’s interactive or ear-training. The variety of lessons also adds to the variety of skills that advanced students may find on the web. By combining the brains of all these online teachers and platforms, students are sure to find something new to learn.
3) Talk to a Piano Teacher
Keep in mind, even if you’re learning how to play the piano online via a digital course you purchased, there is a teacher involved in that course in some capacity. Take something like PiaNote for example, where if you buy that course, you can have access to teachers and critique of your piano playing skillset.
While this tip may seem simple, it is a teacher’s job to push their students and help them grow their skills. Piano teachers can help advanced students reset some goals for their skills as well as continue to curb waning motivation as students find less and less to learn. Teachers can also help to find new aspects of piano playing that students may not have known about, something new to learn. After all, that’s their job.
Talking to current piano teachers can also be beneficial to ensure that the student and the teacher are on the same page. Without this mutual understanding, the relationship can be damaged as the student feels they aren’t getting enough out of lessons. However, teachers can only work with the knowledge they have and if advanced students don’t express their concerns about plateauing there’s nothing the teacher can do and nothing for the student to learn.
If you ask any piano teacher what their main goal of teaching students is, they will probably reply with an answer about ensuring their students achieve all their goals. A teacher’s main priority is their students’ happiness. This means if they feel they are no longer able to provide challenges, they most likely have a network of other teachers they can recommend so the student gets exactly what they are looking for.
There is more to piano playing than simply pressing the keys and creating music. There is a bounty of theories that many students deem unnecessary because they know how to read sheet music and therefore can play the piano. However, there are many benefits from learning piano theory, they not only help students learn music faster, but add ear training to be able to help develop perfect pitch or play-by-ear.
To broaden even further students could begin learning about composing music themselves. While this may be less of a growth in playing skills, it will help them grow in skill application and explore a new aspect of music. It also might be able to give them an appreciation into the behind the scenes of the music industry and all the work that goes into composing songs.
Composition and theory can help improve mental skills and physical playing skills through ear-training and basic music knowledge. These are two topics that many students avoid because they can become very conceptual and require dedicated work. However, for advanced students they open a whole new world and approach to the piano industry to inspire those beginning curiosities and motivations.
5) Advanced Jazz Piano Lessons
Jazz is an amazing way for advanced students to begin finding new skills to practice and perfect. While it is a subject that may have been touched on in classical piano lessons, jazz piano is a type of playing that has many intricacies and demands. Diving into learning jazz piano chords can help advanced students discover these new techniques like swing and grit to put into their playing.
While it uses the same keyboard and sheet notation, jazz piano is such a specific type of piano playing that to really feel authentic requires a lot of practice and determination. However, the growth of skills it provides students is immeasurable because of its demanding improv expectations and rhythm development. Jazz piano also develops a new sense of thinking about the piano and sheet music because of how different it is from classical training.
Taking lessons specifically from a jazz pianist also helps unlock a whole new world of piano. The teacher is an expert in these alternative ways of playing piano and can help teach and improve the skills of the players. Also, a jazz pianist’s approach towards the piano is completely different than someone who is classically trained. Jazz consists of smooth sounds and the instrument is used in combination with other instruments and players. For classical pianists most of what they play are solos or duets with other piano players, adding in accompaniment of other instruments changes the view of piano playing.
6) Don’t Disregard Classical Piano Lessons
What some piano teachers refer to as “dead guy stuff”, or more commonly known as classical piano pieces can be a great resource to improve paying skills. Specifically taking lessons that concentrate in these difficult and historical pieces can help to improve playing skills because of the demanding finger dexterity required to play these as well as the mental shift that these pieces require.
Classical pieces enhance learning of theories as well as mood-adaptation. Due to the fact that these pieces were composed in entirely different eras than today, they require different skills that can be new to even the most advanced players. The difference between contemporary and classical pieces are many and significant.
To convey in their playing the intentions of the composers, players need to learn about the era, the composer, and the piece itself. Without this knowledge, even the advanced player won’t be able to play these pieces as well as they could, leading them to sound just like any other piece out there.
7) Become an Expert in One Thing
There is always more to learn or improve while playing the piano. No piece or playing exercise will ever be perfect. If a player believes that they are done in their musical studies, they are incorrect. Their pedaling could be fixed, their finger speed increased, or their tempo stability improved.
Advanced players should pick one thing they want to work on and really scrutinize themselves. Are they so in line with the metronome that it disappears while playing? Can they effectively do half-pedaling to create the optimal sound? How fast can they push their fingers on a scale without getting twisted up? Most importantly, what can they do to improve these skills to strive for perfection?
After scrutinizing the small parts of playing piano, advanced players need to commit to improving these skills towards perfection, maybe that means practicing for hours at a time until it’s perfect. Or it could be dedicating half of their normal practicing time each day to improving this skill with a baby step towards perfection.
Advanced students could also find advanced piano lessons online or research exercises and techniques to use to enhance their skills. The important part is to be picky. Don’t take ‘good-enough’ or ‘almost-perfect’ as perfection, even if it is pushing that fingery scale 1 bpm faster, it’s still improvement.
8) Talk to a Professional
Professionals are named so because they never stop improving in their industry or skill. They don’t take ‘good enough’ as perfection and are constantly finding things to fix within themselves. If advanced players are at the point where they feel there is nothing else to learn, talk to a professional. They can name plenty of things they are still working on and most likely find some for the student as well.
Talking to a professional can also serve the purpose of re-inspiring motivation. For students who feel like they are plateauing, professionals can talk about their experiences in the same spot and how they overcame it and learned tips for growing their skills.
9) Get Back to the Basics
Basics are the fundamentals of playing piano. Many advanced players can get so caught up in the complexities of piano playing that they forget the basics. Going back to the basics not only helps advanced players improve their foundations, but also reminds them how to create the best piano playing experience. Only with good foundations can music played on the piano strive towards perfection.
A few more things can happen when advanced players review the second-nature basic playing techniques. Advanced players can find things that apply to their more complex playing needs that they never noticed before. This will help them advance their advanced skills.
Players can also find a newfound inspiration for playing by remembering their beginning days. Seeing how far players have come can engage their learning brains and find more ways to improve their skills, especially when comparing them to the beginning stage.
10) Try Playing New Music
New music doesn’t necessarily have to be music composed within the past few years, but expanding musical horizons can help advanced players expand the skills needed to play tunes. By the time students are considered “advanced” they usually have found a style or era of music that they really enjoy playing. The downside is this passion can often lead to exclusively playing those similar songs.
Rather than continuously play songs that are similar and inspire no new skill development, find music that looks difficult with many different sections that require different approaches to playing. Or find a song that is the complete opposite of what students normally play, maybe something with a pedal for those that like the fast dexterity, for example. These new songs will force students to improve their skills that they don’t normally use for their regular choice playing.
Playing new music also encompasses new styles of piano playing. There are so many styles of piano playing such as improv, jazz, blues, classical, contemporary. You get the point. Each style comes with their own unique set of demands on the player including finger dexterity, rhythm exposure, listening to others, and touch style.
However, many of these skills are specific to different types of piano playing. By diving into one of these alternative sounds advanced students will not only learn new skills, but be able to adapt, apply, and improve their current playing abilities as well.
Final Things to Remember
While all of these tips can potentially help advanced students grow their skills when they feel as if they are plateauing, there are a few things that are important to remember. The more advanced a student becomes the more piano playing and learning becomes a mind game.
It’s about continuing to have motivation and learning to be extremely picky in finding things to fix. There is always more to learn, but the ability to find these things can be difficult and the motivation and persistence to find them can wane.
Another important thing to remember is that there is always more to learn. Even piano teachers are constantly learning new things from their students and from their teaching methods. This is true for any topic, but especially for piano playing there is so much material out there to help enhance skills and learn new ways of approaching music. Whether it’s playing new songs or learning new theories, material is bountiful.
Finally, remember to have fun. It can be easy to get caught up in the competitions and perfection, but music is meant to be fun. Watching fingers fly across the keyboard and simply jamming to the music that is produced is what got many people into playing piano, and it’s a foundation that should never be forgotten. Getting others involved and play multi-person pieces, or starting to teach beginners are great ways of reintroducing new aspects of fun to advanced students.
If you’re still interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard, get your copy of Piano for All today, which features 10 eBooks, 200 video piano lessons and 500 audio piano lessons!
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