Structured piano practice in 5 simple steps

My subject today is structured piano practice, and many of you have asked for a blog post on this topic.

It’s so easy to sit down at the piano and play without much thought or adherence to any real practising schedule. There is nothing wrong with this and we all do it at some point. However, it’s a good idea to incorporate some kind of structure into your practice regime. It will allow you to make sure you are working at the necessary aspects of your playing every week as well as giving you some spare time at the end of each session to enjoy yourself and revisit past pieces.

If you are a relative beginner, you may decide that you need to practice for 20 minutes per day so you could break down your practice schedule in the following way:

1. Start by limbering up to a few five finger exercises, something like the following might be good if you are pre grade 1:

Piano Exercises of 1-2-3-4-5 fingers

If you are more advanced you may like to practice some Hanon finger excerises or Czerny Studies; The School of Velocity or 101 Daily Exercises by Czerny are all excellent choices.

2. Then focus on some technical work or scales and arpeggios for 5 minutes.

3. Spend 10 minutes practising your assigned pieces for the week; work at them purposefully and slowly, separate hands at first. Use a metronome or try to develop a feel for keeping the pulse or beat, and count out loud if necessary.

4. Now spend maybe 3 -5 minutes reviewing past pieces. It’s always a good idea to go over old pieces reminding yourself of what you have already learned and to build up a little repertoire of pieces.

5. If you can spare a little more time, try to do a couple of sight reading exercises. You just need to look at two short passages; look through them noting all their features then play them slowly forcing yourself to keep going in time until the end. Your sight reading will improve no end if you do this regularly.

Try implementing this little action plan. Of course, it will differ depending on your level and on what you need to learn, but aim to apply this kind of thinking to your practice schedule.

Do let me know how you get on; I love and appreciate your feedback.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley says:

    Great tips! I find the five finger exercises are key to developing a young beginner’s foundations in piano. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you so much Ashley for those kind comments. I am delighted that you have found my tips helpful 🙂

  2. Harriet says:

    I like to start my practice sessions by playing a piece, maybe something I know well, or something I am preparing for a performance, to see how I do starting out cold. It’s always interesting to find out where there are problems when I don’t warm up first. Then I do scales and exercises, currently about 20 to 30 minutes based on what I’m doing in my lessons these days. For pieces, I try to change the order so I’m not always practicing the same thing first, second, third, etc. I usually practice about 2 hours a day, more when I have more time. I should probably incorporate more review of old pieces and sight-reading, but I can only do so much!

    1. Hi Harriet, It sounds as though you have your practice routine firmly in place already which is excellent. It’s a good idea to incorporate some sight reading and the odd old piece too if you have time.

  3. Nicole says:

    I’d love to hear what you would suggest for advanced players. I took most of my exams in my primary/teenaged years and now teach, but am working towards my Grade 10 and ARCT. It’s been ages since I had to structure my own practising (instead of my student’s!).

    1. Hi Nicole, Thanks so much for your comments. Great that you are playing again. I will write a blog post looking at more advanced practising schedules in the next week or so…but generally similar rules apply to those for beginners. Start with some exercises and work consistently in small sections at your pieces. What works are you practising at the moment? Melanie 🙂

  4. Naomi says:

    I just passed my Grade 4 ABRSM, the first exam I’ve ever taken(I learnt the piano when living abroad). I was hoping to do better than pass though, a merit would have been good, but I don’t think I practiced enough. How much practice would you recommend per day/week/month for Grade 5 to acheive a merit, or better, a distinction?

    1. Hi Naomi,
      It’s a difficult question to answer as pupils all have different abilities and therefore require differing amounts of practice. I would suggest at least an hour (or more) a day for Grade 5 – probably 6 days a week. Hope this helps 🙂

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