You Need To Push Yourself If You Want To Get Better At Playing The Piano

You Need To Push Yourself If You Want To Get Better At Playing The Piano

Piano Keys

Many piano students believe they should get better at playing the piano if they attend weekly piano lessons and practice the pieces of music they are assigned each week. However, it is unfortunately true that many students do not make the amount of progress they expect on the piano when taking lessons. Why is this? Why do some students get better when taking piano lessons and others do not? This is actually quite a complex question and there are many reasons why students may not make the amount of progress they may expect.

In this article I would like to outline one important element of practice that many students, and parents, seem to overlook. As the title of this article suggests if a piano student wishes to make progress and get better at playing music it is not enough just to “practice” and it is not always just about “how much” time you spend practicing. It is what you do when you practice the piano that is important.

Fact – "In order to be able to play more advanced pieces of piano music students need to push themselves or strive to get better".

It is simply not enough just to spend time playing pieces of piano music without putting much effort into it. Playing piano is an endeavor like nothing else and in order to get better you will need to push a whole range of your skills and abilities to higher levels. Students that have the determination to push themselves beyond their current limits will usually outperform those that simply "go through the motions" when practicing.

The below example may help to illustrate the point.

Imagine you are a runner and imagine you can currently run a mile in 9 minutes. You know that to run a mile in 6 minutes is something you can’t do at the moment but this is something you would really like to achieve. It seems obvious to you that to be able to run a mile in 6 minutes you will need to become a better runner. You will need to become stronger and fitter. You will need to train hard and push yourself beyond you current limits. Walking quickly down the street (although this looks similar to what you do when you run) will not help to get you any closer to your goal of running a mile in 6 minutes. When you walk quickly you are not pushing yourself beyond your current abilities and you will not improve your speed. You could spend 5 years walking quickly and do it every day but you won’t improve the time it takes to run a mile if this is all you ever do. A piano student that wishes to be able to play higher levels of piano music is in a very similar situation. The trouble is that it is often not obvious to the piano student that he needs to actually “push” himself to achieve this goal. He thinks he can achieve this goal simply by playing through his assigned pieces of music each day, but this is not true. Do you think I will be able to improve the time I can run a mile from 9 minutes to 6 minutes if all I ever do is walk up and down the streets at a leisurely pace? I hope you said no! There is no way I am ever going to improve the time it takes for me to run a mile simply by walking around. To do this I have to push myself. This involves putting in more effort than walking requires.

In a similar way piano students will not improve their ability to play more complex and challenging music simply by playing through their pieces of music (this is the musical equivalent of walking up and down the street). You have to push yourself when you practice. Knowing "how" to push yourself when you practice the piano and "how much" to push yourself over an extended period of time is something that can be very challenging for piano students and this is where the careful guidance of an experienced and talented teacher is necessary.

Every piece of music a piano student studies will contain opportunities for the student to push themselves to a higher level of attainment in a particular area of playing and students will need the help and guidance of their teacher in order to spot these opportunities. A good teacher will know which areas of a piece of music would be best suited for focusing on a particular aspect of musical development for each individual student and they will know just how much to encourage students to push themselves, while still keeping lessons fun and not overwhelming the student.

The same piece of music may be studied in different ways by different students and the main focus of study may be different depending on a students particular strengths and weaknesses. A good teacher will consistently set challenges for students to achieve that are appropriate for their individual needs and that are designed to encourage the student to push themselves just the right amount needed to make optimal progress.

If handled incorrectly this important element of lessons can cause students to progress very slowly and in the worst case scenario students may quit because either they are not making the progress they expect or because they become overwhelmed and start to believe that playing the piano is “too difficult”.

No two students are the same and every student must find their own balance regarding the amount they need to push themselves to make the most of their own potential. This is another reason why it is so important to work with a teacher who is able to accurately assess the skills, abilities and aptitudes of every individual student and adjust their expectations of each student accordingly. If this important aspect of lessons is overlooked or handled incorrectly much damage can be done and enormous amounts of time can be wasted.

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