Why Do I Have to Practice Piano Technique?

We’re willing to bet that there has been at least one time in your child’s history of piano lessons that they have questioned the necessity of technique work (scales, arpeggios, hand-over-hand, Hanon exercises, etc.). It’s understandable; it can seem a lot more fun to practice an exciting new solo piece than to work on perfecting scales. However, technique is actually the foundation of piano skill. Trying to play piano pieces (especially more advanced repertoire) without knowing anything about technique is like trying to read without knowing the alphabet—it is much harder and takes a lot more time to make sense of the sentence. When you have a strong technique background, you can find patterns in the music, much like recognizing familiar words, and the music will flow much more easily. Practicing technical exercises also strengthens your fingers and helps them be quicker, so you can play faster and longer. Many professional pianists, both past and present, spend hours of their practice time working on their technique exercises.

So how do we make technique more fun? Here are some suggestions from experienced teachers on motivating students to practice and appreciate this part of playing the piano.

  1. Help them find principles of technique in their repertoire—if one of their pieces has a scale in it, point that out and how practicing scales makes that part easier.
  2. For a tricky brain exercise, have them try playing each hand in a different key! It really forces them to think about the notes and be aware of their hand position.
  3. Use the reward system! Let them get a treat or a small prize if they can play their exercises up to speed and 100% perfect.
  4. Similarly, make it a competition with themselves. If their top metronome speed (or “high score”) for Hanon is 100, challenge them to beat their score.