How to Play a Piano Solo

A piano solo is part of a composition that features the piano either unaccompanied or among other instruments. Piano solos require a lot of practice and finger flexibility. Several 20th century compositions, particularly Rachmaninoff’s "Concerto No.3" and Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit,” include some of the more difficult piano solo performances. Consider choosing piano solos in accordance with your advancement.

Purchase the lead sheet music. Pick a musical piece that highlights your unique talents. On a lead sheet, slash marks and chord symbols to clarify the tone and pace of the music. The lead sheet will also note where the pianist takes his solo. A “fake book” is a term for a book of lead sheets.

Study the chosen composition until you have a good sense of how the solo parts respond to other full-orchestra music sections. Make notes for strategies on how to simplify finger movement, interpret the “voicings” and how to analyze the tone and pace of the music.

Practice the harmony part of the piano solo with your left hand. As a soloist, you have some flexibility in how you perform the part, but you will have to keep the correct inversion. During a piano solo, the pianist’s left hand functions as the harmonic accompaniment to the right hand’s melody.

Rehearse the melody part with your right hand. Closely follow the scale as described on the lead sheet. While practicing the melody, aim to simplify the finger movements. For difficult pieces like Ravel’s “Gaspard” and Rachmaninoff’s “Concerto No. 3,” simplifying the finger movements is important to successfully performing the piece.

Approved by Jesse Anderson