Piano Cycling Technique (Looping)
Have you ever had the chorus to a popular song stuck in your head? How do you think
it got stuck there so that long after you turned off the radio, your mind still automatically repeated the
chorus lyrics over and over?
The answer is not shocking – the chorus is repeated several times throughout a song, and the more something is
repeated, the more likely you are to remember it. Practicing piano to perfect
difficult-to-learn passages works the same way: the more you repeat a section of a song, the more likely you are to
Deliberately rehearsing specific passages of music over and over again is called the piano cycling technique, or
looping. What this means is that, to practice a certain section, you isolate that particular measure or group of
measures and play it from the beginning to the end without stopping in between runs.
The terms “cycle” and “looping” are appropriate for this practicing technique because, like a circle, there is
no beginning, end, or pause to your playing. As soon as you get to the end of the desired passage, your fingers
merely return exactly back to the beginning and play through again.
The piano cycling technique works very well for learning both sections of music and specific performance
techniques. All that you need to figure out is what notes you’ll play at the end of the segment that will help link
you back to the beginning so that you can fluidly, continuously return to the top of the passage.
Sometimes, this fluid conjunction occurs naturally in the music, such as in the case of the CGEG
quadruplet where “C” would be both the next logical note to play as well as the beginning note of the series.
Other, more complex sequences will require you decide how to link from the end to the beginning without
Although this form of practicing is likely to yield quick results with helping
fingers gain comfort and familiarity with difficult passages, it is very important to remember that there are
right and wrong ways of using this technique. The technique is designed to harness the power of repetition to
engrain in your fingers and mind the appropriate motions to make.
To practice appropriately, make sure that you pay strict attention to the accuracy and fluidity of your notes.
Begin practicing slow, and after several days of gradually increasing speed, your fingers ought to demonstrate
However, even though repetition can help us learn, it also can help us zone out. Just because your fingers are
moving doesn’t mean you’re actually practicing. Pay strict attention as you practice, and vary your approach so
that you are always responding to your mistakes or improvements. Also, repetition, especially when playing too
fast, can potentially cause strains.
Sure, you’re not lifting heavy equipment, but your fingers are doing lots and lots of work with these difficult
repetitive strings. It is wise to practice with your hands separately so that while one hand is working, the other
is taking a break. If practicing with hands together, pace yourself so that your muscles are developing without
threatening unnecessary damage.
By appropriately employing the piano cycling technique into your daily practice regimen, you will undoubtedly
see progress as you teach yourself to play piano. Even though at the
beginning your fingers quiver and stumble over these difficult passages, enough repetition and eventually your
fingers will automatically move themselves gracefully across the keys just like your mind might automatically hum
those annoying, catchy radio lyrics.