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Tips for Practicing Without a Piano

Last Updated: December 26, 2010 / by Michael Kinney

There are two key ingredients to becoming a good piano player.  The first is finding a good teacher.  Getting piano lessons from a good teacher or good piano learning course will help you to master concepts more quickly and in the correct way.  If the teacher is right, you'll also get inspiration which is key to keeping your interest and motivation.  The second ingredient is practice.  The more you put into learning how to play the more you will get out.  That only makes sense, right?  Many people think that people are naturally gifted and can just sit down and play anything.  While this can be true to some extent, those gifted people have spent a good amount of time at the piano.  They've learned to practice effectively and probably practice because they enjoy it.  If you can pick things to practice that you actually enjoy, you'll find that you'll learn a lot easier.

So what do you do if there isn't a piano around to practice on?  In my private piano lessons offered, I've taught students a few interesting methods.  The first method is through visualization.  Let's say you are working on learning chords and all their inversions.  In your mind, visualize the notes of each chord.  Say the note names out loud.  Do this for all inversions until you can do it without really thinking about it.  You can apply the same method with practicing scales and songs.  Run through the notes of the scale in your mind or the chord progression of the tune.  I promise you that when you finally go and sit down at the piano to practice you'll find that you can pick up the scale, chord or song more quickly.

Another concept to practice without a piano is rhythm.  Oftentimes when I'm walking down the street, I think of my footsteps as the quarter note.  Then, I'll use my hands to tap the sides of my legs at 8th note and 16th note intervals.  While it's true you might look a little strange walking, it is possible to just tap with your fingers or even

use your breath to denote the rhythmic pattern you are practicing.  This will make you a bit less noticeable to people passing you by.  Think about keeping time with your feet and targeting certain rhythmic starts and stops and patterns.  Practicing this way will incorporate your entire body.  The more you can feel the rhythm, the more natural your playing will sound when you sit down at the piano.  The more you do this, the more you will start to hear everyday rhythmic patterns like turn signals, water dripping, nail pounding, etc.  If you keep your ear open to these sounds, you'll find inspiration where you least expect it.

The last idea for practicing without a piano is to identify where you are uncoordinated.  Many piano players complain of their left hand being less coordinated that their right.  While sitting at the piano and practicing scales and songs specifically with your left hand will certainly help you overcome this problem, there are some other ways to consider.  For a month's time, try doing things with your left hand that you would normally do with your right.  Brush your teeth with your left hand, open doors, open drawers, comb your hair, cut your food, etc.  You can even target your left foot-when you go up the stairs, start with your left foot.  By doing this, you'll be isolating certain muscles in your body and training them.  If you force yourself to do this, you'll notice an improvement in your overall coordination.  Best of all, you'll be practicing without even sitting in front of a piano!

About the Author: Michael Kinney

I have played piano since I was 5 years old. I started in classical and then quickly moved to blues and jazz. I studied at the collegiate level and have played professionally since I was 16. My favorite piano players (if I had to pick 3) include Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock). I own several keyboards but always prefer to play on a Steinway if one is available! I live to perform as much as I like to teach.

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