We are fortunate to benefit from an almost limitless supply of teaching material and repertoire for the piano. From starter pieces for the young beginner right through to the great classical masters, no aspiring student should ever be at a loss for new and interesting things to play – whatever their current level and aspirations. Most of us tend to do more of what we like – and less of what we don’t – be it a sport, a hobby or playing an instrument. Appropriate new repertoire, introduced at the right time, has a way of both refreshing and challenging our interest in the pursuit of greater excellence. And this can help piano practice to become very enjoyable and highly satisfying – making us want to do more of it. It has also been noted that practice style is crucial to success. New repertoire (combined with a good teacher) can be one of the main catalysts for outstanding improvements, both in our practice regimes and in our playing ability.
Scales, Arpeggios and Broken Chords
Scales, arpeggios and broken chords are the necessary ‘scaffolding’ in the building of a secure technique. But they will only have limited value if not understood alongside a legato, non-legato and staccato playing style. To hone in on one’s arm, wrist and finger control, I recommend the playing of these without using pedal. Learning scales and arpeggios can also deliver a permanent sense of key center together with an intimate knowledge of accidentals. Over time, the serious student will aspire to become proficient in every major and minor key, and practicing scales, arpeggios and broken chords in just two different keys per day will enable all to be covered each week.
Technical Exercises and Studies
The road to excellence in the playing of any instrument involves one further component. The practicing of technical exercises and studies. As with general repertoire, there are many exercises and studies to choose from for every student at any level – ranging from the simplest of five-finger drills right through to the concert études of Chopin and Liszt. The trick is not only to master an exercise at the level appropriate to your current stage of development, but just as important, to understand the specific technical facility that the study is looking to elucidate.