Lesson 121 – Practice Tips for Intermediate Players

I have decided to create 3 additional lessons next to this Blues Challenge.
This lesson will help you to learn the ‘Blues Challenge Etude’ as it is.
Basically you will see how I have practiced my own etude, before I upload it for you.
The next lesson will cover the creative process of practicing all the blues exercises from Lesson 115 to Lesson 120.


How to Master Every Single Lesson

Sight Reading:

Level 1 (Basic)                   Play it 5 times
Level 2 (Solid)                   Play it 5 times correctly
Level 3 (Pro)                      Play it 3 times correctly in a row
Level 4 (Elite)                    Play it 5 times correctly in a row (with the metronome)
Level 5 (Xtreme)               Play it 7 times correctly in a row
Level 6 (Beat the Boss)  Play it 10 times correctly in a row

If you are really dedicated probably  you try to reach Level 5 or Level 6 with every single lesson. Good. But playing something 10 times can be really boring, unless you try to add feelings, emotions to it. Make it sound beautiful, make it sound like music.

Well, always be aware of your touch, aware of the sound you create.
Play soft or hard, connect the notes smoothly (legato) or play them short and sharp (staccato),
try to use pedal, play it like a ballad,
or play it fast, slow down the ending (ritardando), play around with the dynamics (crescendo, diminuendo), etc.

Try to find your own sound. This is the most important, this is why you are here. Playing the right notes is not enough.

What it comes to improvisation:

Level 1 (Basic)         Improvise 5 minutes every day
Level 2 (Solid)         Improvise 10 minutes every day
Level 3 (Pro)            Improvise 10 minutes every day (don’t stop, don’t loose the groove in your left hand)
Level 4 (Elite)          Improvise 15 minutes every day (play with a metronome. Clicks on every beat: 1, 2, 3, 4)
Level 5 (Xtreme)    Improvise 30 minutes every day (play with a metronome. Clicks on 2 and 4)

When you are working with a lesson that is about improvisation, first of all, follow the given rules. Maybe I am asking you to improvise only with five notes, or just using half notes, etc. Why? I want you to have control over your improvisation. I want you to be able to give out a signal to your fingers, telling them “now play this”
and your fingers will move to the right place at the right time 🙂

When you are able to do that, forget everything for a while and let yourself to discover the piano. Let yourself to make mistakes. Don’t panic just continue playing. Have fun. Don’t be critical, but be conscious about what is happening.  Sometimes it is very important to stop and  make a little observation:
“Ok, this note sounded really strange. Hmm, maybe I should avoid it the next time.”
“Ok, this note sounded a little bit strange for the first time, but actually…I start to like it now”
Don’t worry too much about the theory, at least not when you trying to have fun and express yourself at the piano.

Happy Practicing,

How to practice with the video lessons

“Practice with the video lessons.” – Ok, but how exactly do I do that? How to get the most out of it?

Step 1:  Print out the sheet music. (PDF files)
Step 2:  You should always try your best to play through the song without any video help. Practice each hand alone 5 times and then both hands together 5 times.
Step 3: If the lesson starts with a virtual piano on the screen – don’t play. Just watch the video first.
virtual piano(virtual piano with sheet music)

Step 4: Get prepared when you see an overhead camera on the screen. We start with the right hand. First just watch the example, then pause the video and repeat after me. Always pay attention to every detail:
a.) technique – hand position
b.) fingering
c.) rhythm
d.) touch and sound.
overhead view right hand
(Overhead camera view)

Step 5: Now comes the left hand. (Watch – Pause – Repeat)
Step 6: Play the hands together slowly. (Watch – Pause – Repeat and keep your eyes on the sheet music.)
both hands
After doing this a few times, stop the video and practice with the sheet music over and over until you get comfortable with it.

Step 7: Now try it a bit faster. Play together with the video. Good Luck!
Step 8 (very important):  Record yourself, watch yourself and compare to the lesson – see if anything is different or missing:
a.) Are you playing the right notes?
b.) Are you playing the right rhythm?
c.) is your hand position correct?
d.) do you connect the notes smoothly, with no break in the sound?
e.) can you keep a tempo steady?

Step 9: Correct you mistakes until you get all the little details right.
Step 10: From here you can decide what to do.
a.) Congratulate to yourself, and move to the next lesson.
b.) Stay with this lesson a little bit longer and Master it 100%


How to Practice with MIDI files

So how do we practice with MIDI files?

Step 1: Open the MIDI file with “Synthesia”
sythesia 2

Step 2: Listen to the MIDI track.
Step 3: Play each each hand separately. Watch the notes fall and follow along… and if you are absolute beginner then I would recommend to say the names of the notes too)

synthesia 3

Step 4: Play the hands together.
Step 5: Begin slowly and gradually increase the tempo.
Step 6: Have fun!

Quick tips:
1. Pay attention to the fingering. It will be easier to do this exercise if you use the same fingering each time.
2. Sit and hold your hands correctly (Lesson 2)


Part 1: How to Practice? How to Use these lessons?

You can always practice two, three or even more lessons on the same day.
For example:

Week 1
Day 1: Lesson 3, Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6
Day 2: Lesson 3, Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6
Day 3: Lesson 3, Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6
Day 4: Lesson 3, Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6

Week 2
Day 1: Lesson 7, Lesson 8
Day 2: Lesson 7, Lesson 8
and so on…

About practicing
“The best advice I can offer about getting positive result from practicing is this: Spend a lot of time on a few topic every day, or spend a little time on many different topics every day, or do both, but spend time on the SAME topics every day
(Hal Crook: How to improvise)

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