Piano Practice Myths

Are they sabotaging your piano success?

Are you believing somepiano practice myths?

You might be, if:

  • You really hate practicing.
  • You believe that you need to playperfectly, or you shouldn't play at all.
  • You getfrustratedon days that you can't see any progress in your playing.
  • You think that cramming before your lesson is the same as every-day practice.

Let's root out some very common piano practice myths. The more you understand, the more freedom you will experience as you practice and perform piano.

Five Piano Practice Myths

Myth #1:I'm going to see progress every day, during every practice.

Sorry to disappoint you, but it's not true. You won't always see progress at the keyboard.

Some days you'll feel as though you've actually gonebackwards. (You haven't, by the way.)

The way you view your practice sessions has to do with time of day, emotions, blood sugar, what you were doing before practicing, what color shirt you're wearing... :-) OK. You get my point.

Feelings are not an accurate indicatorof practice success. Your internal gauge of progress is faulty.

Progress happens in fits and starts. You'll be working on a difficult passage, and for days it seems you're banging your head against a brick wall. Then, one day, you put your hands on the keyboard and -magic!

The other tip to remember is that others - your piano teacher or your family - are much better at tracking your progress.

They can remember a month ago when you couldn't play the first measure of that song, much less the first page. You'll forget - but they'll remember.

The truth is that every time you play, you are learning and making progress, even when you can't see it. So play, and enjoy what you can play right at this moment. Trust that you are progressing - you are.

Myth #2:Two and a half hours of practice on Saturday is just as good as 30 minutes per day Monday through Friday.

This is a biggie - probably the most difficult one for my students to accept.

Think for a moment about how you getreallygood at something. Like talking. Or walking. Or tying your shoes.

Do you get better at it throughsheer effort and force of will? Marathon sessions of shoe-tying? Of course not.

The way we learn piano best and most naturally isrepetition over time. The fastest way to get better at something is to do it for short periods of time every day. So that it becomes so familiar that you barely have to think about it. This is the goal of your daily piano practice sessions.

We all want to play well! But the real goal is mastery. Mastery is the point at which an action becomes as close to automatic as it can be.

Repeat this mantra:

The fastest path to mastery of the piano is to play a little every day.

Myth #3:If some is good, more is always better.

It's true that the further you advance in your musical journey, the more practice you'll require. If you decide to become a professional musician and major in performance, you can expect to need 3-5 hours of daily practice, or more.

However, this kind of practice requires endurance and stamina - and is built over time.

Thisnatural building processis quite different from a beginning student who forces herself to add more and more practice time to "get better faster." Soon, frustration and desperation accompany every practice session.

Trying harder and harder, she finds herself less andless satisfied with her playingand herself.

Burned out, piano becomes more like torture than self expression. Feeling like a failure, she quits. And feels guilty every time she walks by the piano.

I've seen it happen. Don't let it happen to you!

If you really want to practice more, split your time into <b>more frequent, shorter pieces. Practice for twenty minutes, once in the morning and once in the evening, instead of 40 minutes all at once.

When you are starting to learn piano, there is so much to learn (notes, rhythm, staves, finger numbers, hand positions, pedaling, dynamics…) that you simply can't absorb it all quickly. It takes repetition over time. You can only focus deeply for so long.

More importantly, trust your teacher's guidelines for practice. Let your playing naturally grow and expand. As your musical knowledge expands, your practicing will expand as well.

Allow yourself to be a beginner. Or an intermediate. Or whatever level you are. Enjoy your playing and let your practice grow naturally.

Myth #4:My piano lesson is where the magic happens.

Piano teachers aren't magicians. Although sometimes we'd like to be! ;-)

Parents and students often have expectations that run something like this: "Well, she's supposed to be a great teacher. So my child (or I) should be leaving every weekchock full of new skills." Sounds logical, right?

Here's the reality. Learning doesn't happen in a weekly piano lesson. I can't magically impart skills into the hands and minds of my students.

Learning happens as a function of time and repetition at the keyboard - remember Myth #2?

  • Sharing of information and teachinghappen during a lesson.
  • Coaching and correctionhappen during a lesson.
  • Encouragement and inspirationhappen during a lesson.
  • Learning- andthe magic- happen in the practice room, at home.

Learning is a discovery process where you - the student - process the knowledge that was passed on (lesson time) and absorb it. Learning is when you take that knowledge and make it your own. Really understand and apply it.

So, your teacher isn't the source of the magic. You are.

Isn't that great news?

Myth #5:The goal is perfection.

Competitions. Recitals. Listening through the door to another student. Comparing your playing to others. Modern society is positively obsessed with comparison… and it's nothing but harmful to you and your playing.

Many of my adult students areso judgmentalof their own playing that they won't even play piano while their spouses are at home. This is so very sad!

Excellence is certainly a worthy goal, and of course you want to get better at playing piano.

But perfectionism - the fear of making mistakes - can rob you of the joy and satisfaction of expressing yourself at the keyboard. Self expression isn't just for the elite few who manage to make a living as performers.

Perfectionism is also a very quick route to performance anxiety - also known as stage fright. (I'm speaking from personal experience, here!) Don't choose this for yourself!

This is one of those piano practice myths that I wish I could instantly erase from every student's mind.

Let go of the habit of self-judgment.

I'm very serious. It takes time to change your thinking patterns, but you need to focus attention on NOT berating yourself and your playing.

Enjoy your playingnow! Enjoy the learning process and appreciate what you can do today that you couldn't three months ago.

There is no such thing as perfection.

Celebrate your success and let go of the mistakes!

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