November 5, 2022

About the Author: Sonja Joubert

Sonja Joubert is a master pianist classically trained by the late master Mr Josias Van Der Merwe and the late Adolph Hallis. She is also an excellent piano teacher with over 35 years of teaching experience, specialising in jazz and classical piano.

Is it possible to learn, practice and develop piano technique via online lessons?

Do I need to see my teacher physically, or is watching it online enough?  

The answer is relatively easy, seeing that so many today learn how to do specific technical skills by watching videos on youtube.

The issue is more about having an excellent, dependable online teacher.

Let us consider face-to-face lessons. Here the student is taught in person as also in your online lesson. Both students are watching and listening to what the teacher explains, except it is possible to physically touch the teacher and observe from a few dimensions.

With online lessons, the only aspect left outside of learning is the touch aspect, and it’s very little, if ever, that a student is requested to touch the teacher’s hand or arm in order to learn how to move a hand or a rolling wrist action. Therefore, we can conclude that learning the piano technique via online piano lessons is similar to learning in a normal classroom.

Learning piano technique online is more a question of preference and convenience. Being physically present is not a necessity at all.

How do I practise technique at online zoom lessons?  

  • Your teacher will give you very clear direction and the necessary material needed to help you develop your technique. A well-trained teacher will know how to teach you, whether a total beginner or an advanced student.
  • A technical passage is always practised very slowly with accuracy and precision.
  • Your teacher will give specific attention that you have the correct hand position and body posture when playing your instrument.
  • It’s essential for you as a student to give active attention when your teacher explains and demonstrates the reasons for specific movements or posture. This way, you will develop the excellent technique needed for playing well.

There is an excellent use of the metronome. 

The use of the metronome in practising plays a major role in technique development.

  • The metronome helps and acts as a master trainer by your side, especially when the teacher can not direct or is not present. It gives structure and discipline to your practice of a passage. I would not advise you to use it as a timekeeper but rather as a trainer. That does not mean you could not use it to play through your piece at a certain speed, but it does take the ebb and flow out of performance if it becomes too metronome-like.
  • The use of the metronome as a practice tool for passages is extremely valuable.

A good metronome is always an excellent buy for a serious student.

It is best to buy yourself a good metronome for your piano studying. You could use metronome apps, but for some reason, the digital hand-moved metronome still seems to be one of the best options as one can set it, play your passage, and move it again.

  • It is best to have a dedicated metronome rather than to use your phone with a metronome app where you still need to search for it and be disturbed with media etc.
  • The short break of moving the metronome gives you that second or two of rest and reset needed instead of the continued ticking!
  • Stop your metronome after playing a passage each time before setting a new tempo.
  • Move on to a higher speed to practise the same passage until you have reached the speed you have in mind or can manage.

How do I do a metronome drill? 

  1. Set your metronome at a slow starting tempo.

  • It’s essential to start your metronome practice speed for a specific passage at a  dead slow pace, so the brain is “forced” to think before executing the specific finger actions needed.
  • Play the passage strongly, firmly and securely at this slow speed.
  • Think about each movement. I often comment about training your ten soldiers to march! That is your ten fingers. Should that image help you, please use it? If not, disregard it!
  • Metronome drill is a bit like BootCamp for your fingers and the best way to develop a solid and sure finger technique.

2. Move the metronome to a higher tempo but only a fraction faster than the former.

  • Repeat the passage each time at a higher speed – faster and faster. I usually move my practice speed of a passage up with two notches on the hand-moved metronome.
  • In the beginning, it will feel as though there is no change in the tempo, but sooner or later, you will start to feel the increased speed until you reach the limit of your ability at that moment.
  • Then it’s the exact time to try to push your finger speed or ability one or two notches past that limit. This attainment becomes highly enjoyable and rewarding!

3. End each metronome passage drill again at a dead slow speed!

  • It’s important to ALWAYS  end your practice of a passage again at the dead slow speed you used at the start.
  • While executing this last round of metronome drill, be specific in concentrating on thinking very specifically of your movements and notes, as this will settle the passage in your brain and muscle memory.

Having done this type of military metronome drill once on an extremely difficult passage will turn it into a manageable one that could become one of your most favourite ‘fast’ passages.

I have a few of these passages in different pieces of music, which have become like little technical exercises, and I love it!

These metronome drill passages bring great pleasure and enjoyment when you achieve the technical ability needed to execute a difficult passage. It means you conquered!

Of course, this opens the way for your technique to become more and more secure until nothing is too difficult to play.

Note:  While doing your metronome drill, ensure that each passage is perfectly played each time and no mistakes slip in. This will ensure an excellent flowing perfect passage when played at its recommended speed.

Metronome drill can be done online.

This type of metronome drill can be done online. For example, I weekly do a metronome drill with my students online. This way, training them how to practice difficult technical passages using their metronome.

In the online lesson, the student has to set and move the metronome instead of the teacher. This is a great plus as it teaches the student practically how to practise with the metronome.

Lady at the piano

Have you always wanted to learn the piano but never took the first step?

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