Firstly cut your nails so that they don't protrude beyond the pad of the finger - that's essential to enable you to play with curved fingers and achieve a good piano technique, hand position and sound.
Practise slowly on piano or keyboard, with much thoughtful repetition of short sections, each no longer than 2 to 4 bars, making sure that you overlap the sections by at least one note. Repetition, if coupled with listening and self-criticism, can seriously assist the hard-wiring in the brain, which is essential for development of the coordination required in piano playing.
Pay careful attention to fingering - play the notes with the same fingering every time.
Do a great deal of "hands separate" practice before putting hands together - then continue practising hands separately, mixing this with "hands together" practice for thorough progress.
Don't rush the tempo as soon as you can play a piece of piano or keyboard music, but keep it steady - once again practise slowly. Even if the direction is "Allegro", save that for later when you have more control of the notes.
Stop immediately and rest if you have pain in the arms, hands, wrists or fingers.
Pain can be caused by tension, and injury can result, so relax and don't get tight when you're playing the piano: this way you can avoid both injury and harsh sound. It helps if you practise slowly. Tension causes pain and injury as well as harsh tone. Tell me at the lesson immediately so we can correct your technique and avoid future problems.
Try not to look at your hands whilst reading the music, except when finding the initial hand position. Avoid looking down and up from the music to the keyboard and back again. If you do have to look down for the occasional change of hand position or jump on the keyboard, try not to lose your place in the music.
Spend at least 5 minutes per day learning to recognise firstly right-hand, then left-hand notes. Practise writing them down on manuscript paper, test yourself by naming them, and finally play them on the piano. This will help you to progress more fluently by improving your reading of music.
Practise in short, regular sessions of about half an hour at least once a day. Regular sessions of piano practice produce the best progress, so the secret is little and often. Long sessions are not the answer, since concentration tends to deteriorate after 30-40 minutes. We all concentrate better in the morning, but I appreciate that's not always possible.
Resist the temptation to rush ahead to the next task before you have achieved a good, polished result. Proceed and practise slowly and thoroughly in order to progress further with learning the piano.
Constantly revise old material, perhaps devoting one practice session a week to this, eventually building up your own collection of favourite pieces to play for relaxation or to entertain your friends.
If you feel that incorrect habits are developing, then go back and repeat earlier material whilst being as self-critical as possible. Regular piano lessons reduce bad habits and help develop a good piano technique and sound.
Why do you have to practise to play piano or keyboard?
Playing the piano is a demanding skill both physically and mentally, and acquiring it even to a basic level is dependant on practice and a fair amount of thoughtful repetition in order to hard-wire the brain and achieve coordinated muscular memory.
There is a great deal of coordination required and we try and break up the tasks into small hurdles so that your increments of progress are tiny but constant.
Our job is to prioritise the tasks and show you how to practise them in an enjoyable and effective way so that you make progress on the other 6 days of the week when we don't see you. The better you progress, the more you will feel like practising and the more you will enjoy the music.
It's worth mentioning that the world's top pianists practise many hours each day in order to keep at the standard which they have acquired. Luckily, it's possible play for pleasure up to quite a reasonable standard without the same amount of hours required by the professional.
How much practice should you do?
Although we have many years of experience of making the learning of the piano as easy as possible and a pure pleasure for you, there can be no hiding the fact that learning the piano is a serious and complex skill. The good news is that it is not just the amount of practice that you do which influences your progress, but the regularity and quality of that practice. Half an hour every day can usually provide a very good rate of progress and is as much as most people can manage alongside a demanding job and busy family life.
It's very important to get that session every day so that your skill and confidence develops. It has to become a habit and real part of your life if you are to succeed at the piano.