If you want to become a good pianist, you need to sit at the piano and practise.
But if you want to become a really great pianist, you need to do more than just practise. You need to start listening. Listening to other pianists who are better than you. Listening to pianists who play repertoire that you are learning. Listening to pianists playing all types of music and genres.
One of the quickest ways to improve a piece you are studying is by listening to some professional recordings of the piece being performed. The more recordings of it you listen to, the better. You will get a feel for not just how the piece goes, but how to interpret it. How different people interpret the musical markings. What sort of dynamics and nuance different pianists use. How the piece flows as a whole. How varied the interpretations of the same piece can be, whilst still staying true to the score.
When you start "hearing" the piece in your head, it will start to translate to your fingers. It's amazing how much a piece can improve after listening to a recording just once - even if the technical aspects are still being sorted out. The mind really is the musical instrument - the fingers and the instrument are just the vehicles to express the music in the mind. So it follows that the more you train your musical mind, the better your music will sound when you play it on a piano.
We're so lucky in 2017 to be able to have access to so many high quality recordings of almost every piece around - many for free. It wasn't that long ago that I remember sorting through the classical collections at HMV trying to find a recording of the pieces I was studying. Now it is so easy! Between Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and probably a whole lot of other platforms I don't even know about, you can almost find any piece of music you would ever be looking for as a piano student.
Below I have shared a Spotify link to the pieces my students are currently studying for their piano exams this year - if you are one of my students (or their parent), please have a look and start listening to your pieces. If you aren't one of my students, but do play piano - search for and start a playlist for your own pieces. Listen when you are on the bus or train, in the shower, whilst cooking or studying or running - wherever. It doesn't matter when you listen. However and whenever you listen, you will find that listening really does improve your playing.
2017 Piano Passion Student Exam Pieces - Spotify Playlist