Preparing for your piano course: 5 top tips

This month’s five tips for Pianist magazine’s newsletter examines the benefits of piano courses. My first article on this topic was published in the previous newsletter, and you can read it here. This article focuses on how to prepare for your course, with the aim of developing confidence so that you are able to both enjoy it and learn effectively too. I hope you find it helpful.

  1. Select at least one piece from your repertoire that you have played for a while and that you are confident performing. It’s usually a good idea to play works which are slightly less advanced, so you can play them competently and with a feel for the style. Any genre is perfectly acceptable on a course, but pick one with which you feel you resonate, so you are able to show your technical grasp and musicianship with aplomb.
  2. Your second piece (and third, if you need three pieces), should ideally be a totally different style to the first, and one which you might not have learnt securely as yet. Bear in mind that your chosen repertoire doesn’t always need to be ‘ready to perform’. When learning with a different or new teacher, it can be helpful to be able to ‘change’ the way you are preparing, especially with regard to piano technique. You could decide to keep your pieces at a slower tempo, so it’s possible to think about various fingering, pedalling, dynamics, and so on.
  3. Decide what aspects of your playing you would prefer to work on. Perhaps you need to hone your flexibility and movement around the keyboard due to issues with tension, or you may need to think about phrasing and producing a fuller, richer tone. Don’t be afraid to ask your course director or teacher to help you with your particular needs, as that is what they are there to do.
  4. If you are able to book a practice room during the course, then this is the perfect time to work on the elements addressed in your class or private course lessons. If you can make substantial progress between lessons, then your tutor can guide you more productively, usually yielding some impressive results.
  5. Remember to get some rest. Courses are surprisingly demanding both mentally and physically; sleep is sacrosanct – for the students and teachers! Enjoy your course and good luck.

    With course participants on my Jackdaws Music Education Trust course in January 2019


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.

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