Whether practicing or teaching, I’ve come to love the following tools at the piano:
Palomino Blackwing Pencils – Having a great pencil to mark up scores is a must and the Palomino Blackwing is the gold-standard by my book. These pencils have been used by artists and musicians for decades (composer Stephen Sondheim uses them exclusively, and Bugs Bunny and many other Looney Tunes characters were created using these magical sticks!) I also recommend the Kum Pencil Sharpener as it sharpens to a long point using a two step process.
PILOT FriXion Color Sticks Erasable Gel Pens – sometimes you need to mark your music in color and these pens are the best erasable pens I’ve ever tried – smooth writing and the best erasing I’ve seen. I used to use red erasable pencils when marking scores, but these Pilot pens actually erase better leaving no trace of color behind! Love ’em!!
Post-It Notes 2 in. by 2 in. – As a teacher I encourage my students to “spot practice” all the time. Working on 4 measures, 2 measures or even just a couple beats of music at a time is crucial for gaining traction in learning difficult passages. The post-its act like “blinders” and can be easily moved. I personally use them in every serious practice session because they keep me focused and moving faster. Here’s a great article on the power of the post it!
Metronome or metronome app – 90% of my practicing is done with a metronome. Being able to play music in time, to a groove, and with rhythmic integrity is a must. Ultimately it gives me the freedom to be even more expressive because I work out any hesitations and difficulties from slow to performance tempo.
Countdown timer – This relates back to a previous post about deliberate and focussed practice. I typically set my timer to 45 minutes and be sure to turn off all distractions (phone on airplane mode, no interruptions or bathroom breaks, or instagram checks!). Seeing the timer countdown gives me motivation to see how much I can get done in the time I have left. After 45 minutes, I take a brief stretch break and grab another cup of coffee!
Yeti 10oz rambler – I love coffee and having a hot cup is crucial to longevity at the piano! This thing keeps my drink nice and hot for a full practice session!