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How to Tell When You’re Overwhelmed

How to Tell When You’re Overwhelmed

You’re here because the thought that you’re overwhelmed has crossed your mind. You feel the overwhelm slowly creeping in but somehow can’t acknowledge what’s truly going on. Between all that you’ve got going on at work and home, it’s not surprising that you have questions.

No one ever sets out to intentionally overextend themselves. And overwhelm is sneaky. In most cases, the physical signs alert you to the fact that something isn’t right. Because although your mental state is often the first clue, it’s also the most commonly ignored.

But physical symptoms are not as easily ignored. Maybe you just can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed in the morning. Or your ability to concentrate has taken a nose-dive.

And that nagging cold that just won’t go away? Could it be something more than just your kid who makes it his life’s mission to constantly sneeze in your face?

It’s one of those things where you’re fine one minute. But in the very next, you find yourself googling “how to tell when you’re overwhelmed.” And so, here you are.

You’re not alone. Overwhelm is real and can make life feel like a drag. But there are also real steps you can take to start feeling better.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an affiliates of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All images courtesy of Canva.

Overwhelm or Something Else?

Symptoms of overwhelm can mimic a variety of health conditions. If you’re consistently feeling down, depressed, or have had changes in sleep, appetite, or other areas of your life, it’s essential to see your primary care provider.

Although I am a nurse practitioner, I am not your nurse practitioner, and this post does not constitute medical advice. It is for educational and entertainment purposes only. You and your healthcare provider are the only ones who can collaborate to diagnose and treat underlying medical conditions.

Once you’ve ruled out medical issues, it’s time to take back your life and put a stop to the overwhelm!

Physical Signs That You’re Overwhelmed

Although mental or emotional signs of being overwhelmed often appear first, they can be the easiest to dismiss. The physical symptoms often cause you to stop and question what’s happening underneath all that unchecked anxiety and a general sense of crankiness.

Shortness of Breath

If you’re a runner or are active in other ways, you’re probably familiar with the heart racing, short-of-breath feeling you get when working out. But if you get these feelings outside the gym, it could be a sign that you’re overwhelmed.

If you have shortness of breath accompanied by dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or a sense of impending doom, please head to the emergency room ASAP!

But if you find yourself chronically short of breath and your heart and lungs are fine, it could be a sign that your body is chronically stressed. In other words, your brain is getting the message that danger is everywhere. And it’s trying to compensate by releasing chemicals that make you feel a certain way.

Our bodies have amazing coping mechanisms to balance in the short term. But these coping mechanisms have a shelf life. After they’ve expired, you can be left with long-term damage that’s difficult to reverse.

Fatigue

Are you having trouble shaking that “didn’t get enough sleep” feeling? It may have more to do with having too much on your plate than getting too little sleep at night.

Fatigue can permeate every area of your life, making all the things feel way more complicated than they have to be. It can be sneaky too. If you’re a high-achieving type-A person like me, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re simply not getting enough shut-eye.

But in reality, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. And your brain can’t possibly fathom taking on anything else at this point.

Constantly Sick

Do you find yourself battling one cold after another? If so, it’s possible that you’re overwhelmed.

Our bodies are a fascinating combination of complex systems, all working together. When your brain is stressed, you feel the effects in your body as well.

As a form of overwhelm, stress sends chemical messages that alter how our bodies function. In this case, chronic stress impacts your body’s immune system. This results in frequent colds and other minor illnesses.

Although rarely life-threatening, frequent colds are annoying!

And even minor illnesses can mess with your concentration, mood, and motivation.

Mental and Emotional Signs that You’re Overwhelmed

It takes practice to identify overwhelm before it reaches the point where you have physical signs. This is especially true for high-achieving, type-A personalities because, just like Olivia Pope, we handle things.

We are driven and feel that our drive is the reason for our success. And sure, we feel overwhelmed much of the time, but where would we be without the overwhelm?

It’s almost as if we wear overwhelm like a badge of honor.

But what if I told you that overwhelm is stealing your joy? It’s clouding your vision and making you less effective than you could be.

Would it inspire you to get serious about recognizing overwhelm for its hazard?

Crankiness

Do you find yourself in a general state of crankiness much of the time? Almost as if you’re ready to go 9 rounds with anyone at any time?

If so, it’s entirely possible that you’re overwhelmed.

Irritability and mood swings can be your brain’s way of putting the brakes on your ever-growing list of obligations. Crankiness is also a subconscious way to keep people at arm’s length and guarantees they’re less likely to ask you for favors, thereby increasing your workload.

Generalized Anxiety

Do you feel nervous all the time? Maybe you’re overwhelmed. Is the word “relax” not even in your vocabulary? You’re overwhelmed.

You don’t have peace if you’re running here and there, trying to get things done. You don’t have the time or space to just be. Your brain gets in the habit of being in constant overdrive.

And because there’s so much to do, you get trapped in this negative cycle of overthinking. After a while, it’s tough to feel any joy because all you can think about is checking things off your list.

But the more you check off, the more you realize there is still left to do.

Overwhelm and anxiety feed off each other. This is especially true if you are a Type A personality. The fear of not getting something done, missing a deadline, or doing a task imperfectly drives you and is a big reason you’re overwhelmed.

You Can’t Stay Focused

It’s no wonder that it’s difficult to concentrate when overwhelm takes over. Overwhelm, mixed with a bit of anxiety, zaps your energy and makes focusing on anything other than your long list of obligations impossible.

To get even more done, you may also have started multitasking. According to multiple studies, multitasking is actually your brain quickly switching from one task to the next, a process that zaps your energy at a remarkable rate. Although multitasking seems efficient, your brain can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.

A tendency to multitask also means that you may tend to ignore the little things in life. You become so focused on becoming efficient that you forget to stop and simply enjoy the little things.

But the little things make life worth living, thus the reason anxiety, and even depression, eventually take over.

Now that we’ve explored both the mental and physical signs that you’re overwhelmed let’s talk about how you can start feeling better!

What To Do When You’re Overwhelmed

Although overwhelm is familiar, you don’t have to let it rule your life. You are in charge of your life.

Overwhelm becomes a mindset that clouds your vision and darkens your world. But if you take action, the sun will come out once again, and you can finally find peace.

Watch for Catastrophes

The language you use matters. It can either build you up or tear you down. Words like “always” and “never” make anything seem worse than it actually is.

And in those moments when you’re overwhelmed, look for ways to accurately describe what’s happening. For example, which of these two statements sounds more reasonable?

  1. “I’ve got so much going on today. I’m completely overwhelmed and have no idea how I will make it through the day.”
  2. “I’ve got 2 meetings at work today, and I have to finish that presentation by noon tomorrow.”

The second one sounds manageable, right? Describing precisely what needs to be done and when takes the panic and mystery out of overwhelm. Sometimes, the simple fear of the unknown adds an extra layer of negativity to your thinking. And by taking the time to lay out what’s bothering you, you’ll suddenly realize that it’s actually not as bad as you thought.

Stop Multitasking

Along with accurately describing why you’re overwhelmed comes a commitment to stop multitasking. Research shows that it’s not effective anyway, so what’s the point?

Take time to enjoy the small moments in life. Stop and enjoy a beautiful sunset. Laugh with your kids. Leave your phone inside and stretch out in your backyard, watching the clouds float by on a sunny day.

Multitasking re-enforces the idea that you have to be doing something every minute of every day. It leaves no time for living and loving life. And it’s fooling you into thinking that you’re making progress when all you’re actually doing is sucking out the joy and feeding anxiety.

Set Boundaries

It’s easy to feel like you’re overwhelmed if you’re saying “yes” to everyone but yourself. If you find that your people-pleasing tendencies are taking over your life, it’s time to set some boundaries.

I’m not saying you should never do anything you don’t want to do. But I am saying that there needs to be balance in life. And you need to be realistic about what you can actually get accomplished in a day.

A great place to start is by establishing priorities. What areas of life matter most to you, and how can you optimize those areas?

Whenever new opportunities come up, you can then match them against your priorities. If they don’t align, don’t feel bad about saying “no.” There’s somebody out there who would be thrilled with the opportunity that simply doesn’t feel right to you. And by saying “no,” you open a door for that person.

Pretty great, right?

Exercise

I have yet to find a self-improvement topic that doesn’t involve exercise in some way, shape, or form and this one is no different. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stop and move your body. Take a walk. Go for a run. Grab your bike and take a ride.

Whatever it is, clearing your head with a little fresh air and movement does wonders for shaking out the cobwebs and anxiety related to overwhelm.

Exercise stimulates the release of feel-good hormones that immediately improve your mood and lessen anxiety. It’s an all-natural way to stop the hamster wheel of overthinking.

Meditation

If you’ve never tried meditation, now is your chance! Meditation teaches you the valuable skill of controlling your thoughts, especially important when overcoming overwhelm.

If you struggle with insomnia, meditation just might be the answer you’re looking for! The practice of meditation helps ground you into the here and near instead of the past or future. Sometimes overwhelm is more about the habit of worrying about the future. But by keeping yourself in the present, you can start enjoying life.

There are several apps to teach you the basics of meditation. Headspace is my favorite app. It has different meditation to help you with insomnia, stress, and even self-esteem.

You can also find meditations on YouTube. Give it a try! You might be surprised by how well it works for relieving overwhelm.

Choose Gratitude

Your brain is phenomenal at picking up patterns. And your subconscious is always looking for ways to help you out. What this means for you is that your brain will find what it thinks you want.

If you wake up telling yourself that today will be awful, your brain will find ways to support this thought. When you spill your coffee, your kids miss the bus, and you’re late for the meeting, the message that this day is terrible wins out.

But if you wake up telling yourself that today will be a good day, instead of being angry, you’ll be thankful that you spilled the coffee on your kitchen counter instead of on your brand new skirt. Or that you’re happy for a few extra minutes with your kids because you have to drive them to school when they missed the bus. You’ll even be thankful that you missed the small talk you hate so much at the beginning of the meeting.

You are in control of your thoughts. And since thoughts drive emotions, you also have the power to change how you feel. If you feed your brain negativity, you will feel negative. And if you fail to set boundaries and are constantly multitasking, you’ll feel like there simply isn’t enough time in the day for it all.

But if you decide that you’re in control of your life and your schedule, overwhelm will become a thing of the past. Start seeing the good and stop embracing the overwhelm.

Find Inspiration

There are some great resources out there on tackling various aspects of feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Be Realistic

Although gratitude can take you a long way in life, being realistic can bring you the rest of the way. There honestly aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.

It’s time to accept this truth and set your priorities. If something isn’t a priority, forget about it. Or at least re-schedule it to a more reasonable time.

It’s ok to let things go if they don’t fit into your priorities at this moment in time. There will always be things that were important to you at one time, but simply don’t make the cut anymore.

You’ve grown and evolved as a person, and it’s ok to let it go. You can always pick something up again later if your priorities shift.

The small, daily stress adds up quickly, and it’s simply not worth it if it doesn’t align with your major priorities.

It’s Your Turn

Everyone gets overwhelmed at times. But you can take steps to ditch the overwhelm and take control of your life.

Don’t get fooled into thinking that overwhelm is normal. It’s not. It will steal your peace, joy, and ability to be your best self.

Hopefully, this post has inspired you to find a new way. Fight the urge to give in to overwhelm. Set your priorities and weigh out your obligations. If something doesn’t align with your major priorities, ditch it.

And the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, describe exactly what’s causing the overwhelm. Putting language to your feelings helps you realize that it’s not actually as bad as your brain is trying to make you think it is.

As always, please drop a comment below to tell me your thoughts on this post! How do you recognize when you’re overwhelmed? And what steps do you take to start feeling better?

If the post resonates with you, please share it with a friend or social media.

You may also enjoy the following posts:

Until next time, thanks for stopping by, and best wishes on your personal development journey!

The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Does the thought of attending piano lessons week after week bore you? Perhaps you took piano lessons as a kid and still have nightmares about scale drills and mind-numbing exercises. Or maybe you’d love to learn piano but don’t have time for regular lessons.

If you fall into any of these categories, I’ve got exciting news! Gone are the days when you could only learn piano from the crotchety old teacher down the street. Thanks to technology and a little ingenuity, you can take charge of your own learning!

Enter with me into a new era of apps, online programs, and an array of online resources, all accessible from any location with reliable WiFi.

Stick with me as we explore a couple of unconventional ways to learn piano. And make sure to stay with me until the end for a special discount and bonus practice tools to ensure your piano journey gets off on the right foot!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Piano Marvel, Musicnotes, and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All images courtesy of Canva.

Do unconventional ways to learn piano actually work?

Absolutely. With a few caveats.

If you have aspirations to become a concert pianist, I highly recommend finding a piano teacher. It’s challenging to grasp the nuances of technique you will need to master to achieve this goal all on your own.

And if you are a complete beginner, it can also be very helpful to find a piano teacher to guide you in the beginning stages of your learning.

But I also understand trying to juggle a hobby with life. Ideal and realistic are often very different things.

Learning from an app is often the most realistic option. Especially if it means the difference between getting started today or putting it off indefinitely.

If you’re looking for a piano teacher, check out my Resource page for an array of online teachers accepting new students.

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: Piano Marvel

Looking for a program that teaches you the basics of the piano? Basics that will get you up and running on the keys quickly? Then Piano Marvel just might be for you.

Designed by a piano teacher, Piano Marvel helps you master essential fundamentals like music theory, sight-reading, and ear training. And did I mention that it also teaches you HOW to practice?

Let’s dive into specifics.

As Addicting as Netflix

Do you know that feeling when you’re bingeing your Netflix guilty pleasure, and the episode ends? That moment when you’re forced to choose between resolving the cliffhanger or cleaning the bathroom?

How many times does the desire to scrub your nasty sink win over a plot twist?

Almost never.

What if I said that you could have a similar level of addiction to your piano learning?

Like Netflix, Piano Marvel has mastered the art of keeping you motivated and engaged. Through various levels and trophies, acing the next concept becomes a no-brainer. At stake are bronze, silver, or gold trophies depending upon how skilled you become at the songs in each level.

As Efficient as a Prius

Travel back in time with me to your favorite high school or college class. Was it gym? Or maybe you loved band.

What did strolling into that classroom feel like? Do you remember how time seemed to magically fly by? And yet somehow, you always seemed to walk out of that class having learned something new.

Time sailed by, and you were a bit sad when the bell rang. Learning felt effortless. And your energy level at the end of the class felt higher than at the beginning.

What if learning piano could feel as efficient as time spent in your favorite class?

It can, thanks to Piano Marvel! The app chunks learning into small pieces, making each lesson easy to remember. There’s no wasted fluff material that you’ll never use again.

Piano Marvel packs only the most relevant information into your learning. Efficiency at its best.

As Motivating as Accomplishing Your Goals

Sometimes it’s not a fear of failure that holds you back from goals but rather a fear of starting something and losing motivation halfway through. It’s happened to everyone at some point.

You sign up for that shiny new course promising all the answers. And at first, you’re super excited. You put in the time and the work and feel the warmth of accomplishment.

But at some point, your motivation starts to fade. You wake up one day and realize that it’s been months since you’ve even logged into that course.

The sting of disappointment takes over, and your motivation sinks lower than ever. You’re now more hesitant than ever to set new goals.

Motivation is counterintuitive. Many people believe that you must FEEL motivated to ACT.

But the truth is actually the reverse. In most cases, you will only FEEL motivated AFTER you ACT.

Action comes before feeling.

And the more progress you make toward your goals, the higher your motivation.

Piano Marvel helps you attain a series of small goals that fuel your motivation to keep learning. Through bite-sized lessons and incentives to continue your piano journey, learning to play the piano has never been more motivational.

The Nuts and Bolts

There are many apps designed to help you learn piano. But if you want a solid foundation in music theory, Piano Marvel is the best. It also guides you through chords, arpeggios, and scales. Once you learn the basics of theory, playing becomes more effortless. It also opens up a whole new world of improvisation and playing by ear.

And if you connect your device to a MIDI keyboard, the program will give you feedback on note accuracy.

Other apps and programs give feedback as you play. But Piano Marvel waits until you’re finished with the song to provide feedback. One huge advantage of this type of feedback is that it eliminates distractions while you play. Yet by giving timely feedback, you have an opportunity to correct mistakes in a more effective way.

And did I mention that Piano Marvel comes with an extensive library of songs to learn? It even includes several popular lesson books, including Alfred’s premier and adult all-in-one books. Songs are graded by difficulty from 1 through 18, so you can gradually advance your skill level without the frustration of playing something too challenging.

It’s yet another way that Piano Marvel’s system encourages consistent learning over flashy gimmicks.

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. And at $12.99 a month, you really can’t go wrong! Click here to go to the Piano Marvel website.

If you’re interested in learning more about music theory, check out this post!

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: ProPractice

And if you’re looking for more unconventional ways to learn piano, you need to hear about ProPractice! Also created by a piano teacher, ProPractice is a phenomenal resource for people who aspire to play classical piano.

ProPractice was created by Dr. Josh Wright. It can successfully be used alongside traditional lessons or all on its own.

The program is designed to be helpful for either complete beginners or people who have prior playing experience.

My ProPractice Story

As a music major grad, I have a massive bucket list of classical pieces I want to tackle eventually. But between working full-time and having a husband and 3 kids, I simply don’t have the time to make weekly lessons work.

I discovered Dr. Josh Wright one day while listening to a podcast and started following his YouTube channel. And a few videos later, I was hooked on his teaching style and depth of knowledge.

I began to see positive changes in my playing and how I thought about the instrument. And so I decided that if I had taken so much away from his free content, how much would I take from his paid course?

I invested in ProPractice and have only seen improvements in my playing ever since!

In fact, I was so impressed with the course that shortly after joining, I became an affiliate.

The Nuts and Bolts

ProPractice is currently set up on the Teachable app. You have the option to start at the beginning and work your way all the way through lessons. Or you can pick and choose which pieces you would like to learn.

Dr. Wright started the course because he found students asking the same questions as they learned various pieces from the classical repertoire. He, therefore, decided to record video lessons to address common questions and problem areas for these pieces.

The course is separated into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. He further subdivides material into repertoire and technique.

Dr. Wright is constantly adding new pieces to the course, so it will only continue to expand.

As mentioned previously, the course is almost exclusively classical repertoire, so if that’s not your jam, you may want to explore other options. But it is designed to be used as a complete beginner, so whether you’ve never played a piano in your life or spend your free time expanding upon your repertoire, you will find value in the course.

If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, click the link here.

Bonus Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Aside from the two programs listed above, I have a couple more tools up my sleeve to skyrocket your piano playing!

The Art of Practice

One key component of learning any new skill is practice. Although we love to think that talent determines how proficient someone becomes at a skill, the truth of the matter is that quality practice wins over talent every time.

And if you don’t believe me, check out this book! It’s a fascinating exploration of some of the world’s most “talented” people and how they became the best at what they do.

Quality practice is key to making progress, but what does that actually mean? Is it mindless repetition? Or is it something else entirely?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that helped you understand how to effectively practice? Luckily for you, there is!

It’s called Modacity, and I credit this app with my progress in piano playing over the past few years.

The app helps you identify your trouble spots and generates ideas about fixing these areas. It also has a “day streak” practice counter. And there’s nothing more motivating than building on your practice streaks!

If you’d like an in-depth review of the app, check out this recent post.

And if you’re ready to give the app a try for yourself, click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription. With the discount, you’ll still pay less than the cost of a single higher-end piano lesson. It’s a valuable investment into your growth as a pianist and one of the best unconventional ways to learn piano!

Find Music You Love

Nothing motivates me to practice more than finding a piece I love.

While listening to Pandora several years ago, I heard a song that I fell in love with. It was hauntingly beautiful, and I just HAD to get my hands on the sheet music.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on my usual go-to place, Amazon. So, I started looking around for other sources of sheet music.

I stumbled upon Musicnotes and struck the jackpot! I found the exact arrangement of the piece I was looking for, but I found a treasure trove of just about any song at any level you could ever need.

Due to its larger size, music is best viewed on an iPad. And as someone who regularly plays paid gigs, I’ll tell you that bringing an iPad is a lot more convenient than dragging a bunch of music books! Musicnotes has an app downloaded on my iPhone, so I can access my purchases any time and anywhere.

One of the features I appreciate most about Musicnotes is the ability to mark up the music within the app. This feature allows me to interact with the music exactly the same way I would if it was a piece of paper in front of me.

You also can print out the music if you prefer paper to electronic.

But the best part of this app has to be the ability to instantly access anything you could ever want. It’s an incredible tool to add fun and variety to your playing!

And in case you’re curious, here is the piece that led me to Musicnotes in the first place.

Once Upon a December, arranged by Emile Pandolfi

Click below to browse some of Musicnotes’ most popular downloads!

Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

It’s Your Turn to Try Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

And there you have it! I hope this post has inspired you to try a few unconventional ways to learn piano.

In case you missed them, here are links to the various products mentioned in this post.

Piano Marvel: Use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. Find the website here.

ProPractice: Find the website here.

Musicnotes: Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

Modacity: Click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription

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And for more piano inspiration, check out the following posts:

If you found value in this post, please help me out by dropping a comment below or by sharing the post with your friends. I would sincerely appreciate your assistance in spreading the word about my mission! I’m working hard to bring you only the best products and services.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I wish you all the best in your piano journey!

A Complete Review of ProPractice by Dr. Josh Wright

A Complete Review of ProPractice by Dr. Josh Wright

Looking for an online piano course that covers piano technique and repertoire? Regardless of your reasons for considering an online piano course, please accept this review of ProPractice as an invitation. An invitation to an entirely new level of playing that you may not have thought possible before.

Maybe you started piano lessons as a kid, but life got in the way. Or perhaps you’ve been playing piano all your life but need a little extra something to keep your playing fresh.

Either way, “ProPractice” just might be what you’ve been missing.

I initially discovered the course while looking for a way to continue studying classical repertoire without consistent lessons. And I was so impressed with the quality that I became an affiliate for the course shortly after purchasing it.

Whether you’ve heard of the course before or not, stick with me as I break down all the details. And if, by the end of the post, you’re still not sure whether the course is right for you, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below, and I’ll be happy to answer your questions!

With that, let’s dive into the force behind the course, Dr. Josh Wright.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of Amazon and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All images courtesy of Eduardo Romero from Pexels, TMGZ2021, & Nomadsoul1 from Getty Images Pro via Canva.

Who is Dr. Josh Wright?

Dr. Wright is an avid teacher and performer. He has earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan and was a prizewinner at the 2015 National Chopin Competition. His accolades include a host of prizes from other acclaimed competitions as well. Check them out here.

He is also a Steinway Artist and was inducted into the Steinway & Sons Teacher Hall of Fame in October 2019.

In other words, his backgrounds both as a performer and a teacher are entirely legit.

But don’t take my word for it. Check him out for yourself:

Dr. Wright has an active YouTube channel with new content added regularly. You can get a feel for his teaching style by checking out the videos below:

Review of ProPractice: The Content

ProPractice includes video lessons ranging from effective practice to technique and artistry. The course is divided into early and mid to late beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each level is further divided into technique and repertoire sections.

The course itself is designed to facilitate learning for students from a wide range of levels. In the early beginner level, video lessons assume the learner knows nothing about reading music. Gradually, learners are guided through various exercises to solidify understanding of the basics.

Meanwhile, learners who have experience can dive into the levels most applicable to their current skill level.

ProPractice additionally covers scales, arpeggios, triads, and 7th chords. This is a handy feature if you’ve never had to play scales before.

One of the best features of the course is his in-depth coverage of how to play specific pieces from the classical repertoire. This was the selling point for me because I love classical piano and have a massive list of pieces I eventually want to master.

Dr. Wright covers repertoire from early beginner through advanced. Here is a tiny sampling of the pieces he gives play-by-play instructions on:

  • Bach: Prelude in C Major
  • Beethoven: Fur Elise
  • Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata (all movements)
  • Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor
  • Chopin: Nocturne in C-sharp minor
  • Debussy: Arabesque No. 1
  • Debussy: Clair de lune
  • Rachmaninoff: 1st movement of the 2nd Concerto
  • Ravel: Jeux d’eau
  • Satie: Gymnopedie No. 1

Who should consider this course?

This course is for anyone who aspires to play classical piano. Dr. Wright’s mission is to peel back the curtain on performing classical piano, so anyone who desires to learn can improve their skills. Through ProPractice, you have instant access to tips and tricks from a professional concert pianist.

At its core, classical piano is about the expression of emotion. Through dynamics, phrasing, and the individual articulation of each note, pianists communicate emotions ranging from ecstasy to melancholy.

And it’s the tiniest details that make all the difference in every spellbinding performance.

Through advice ranging from organizing a practice session to how to phrase one of Rachmaninoff’s most hauntingly beautiful melodies, Dr. Wright covers all the secrets to classical piano success.

Depending upon your level and learning style, the course could stand by itself or complement instruction from a piano teacher.

Again, the insight into the interpretation of an unprecedented array of classical piano repertoire is what makes this course shine—once learned, information that can apply to other pieces and outside the classical genre.

Who shouldn’t invest in this course?

It’s difficult to execute a thorough review of ProPractice without this one crucial detail. If you hate classical piano, this course is decidedly not for you.

And if you’re looking for a course on simply the basics of playing the instrument, you would likely benefit from an alternate course unless your end goal is classical.

Although Dr. Wright has recently added a few videos by a different piano teacher on playing jazz, don’t invest in this course if jazz is your passion.

You also won’t learn much about improv. Nor does it cover in-depth information on music theory, harmonizing pop tunes, or playing by ear.

And although there is an argument to be made about the value of learning classical techniques, it may be tough to get through such in-depth teaching if you can’t stand classical. Or if you’re learning for the sole purpose of playing with your church’s worship band.

The course does not offer any direct feedback on your playing from Dr. Wright, so you may want to look elsewhere if that is an important feature.

ProPractice is dedicated to playing classical piano. And if you’re interested in advancing your classical repertoire, this is the course for you.

If you’re looking for help with music theory or memorization, check out this post for resources!

Review of ProPractice: My Story

A review of ProPractice wouldn’t be complete without a personal story, so here is mine.

As mentioned earlier, I decided to invest in ProPractice after following Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel for several months. Although I started lessons around age 7, I never took piano very seriously until college.

I loved to practice, but my version of practice included playing whatever I wanted. This resulted in relatively ineffective practice and slow improvement. And I never set out to major in music. In fact, I was a pre-veterinary medicine major when I started college in the fall of 2003.

Shortly after classes started that fall, something drove me back to music. I called one of the piano faculty on campus, and she asked me to come in and play something for her. To this day, I have no idea what I played, but whatever it was, it was enough to convince her that I could be a music major.

And just like that, piano became my main focus.

Although I ultimately pursued a career in healthcare, I have never lost my love for playing classical piano. But after college, studying with a teacher became difficult due to demands from a full-time job and kids. I knew that I wanted to keep improving my skills but was at a loss as to how exactly to do that without consistent lessons from a teacher.

It was at this point I discovered Dr. Wright. And I’ve been a firm believer in the value of the course ever since. If you’re interested in reading more of my story, make sure to check out the links at the bottom of the post.

Elegie in Eb Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff – Although not included in the ProPractice course, I did learn principles from other pieces that I could apply to this one and which pushed the performance from drab to dazzling. It’s one of my all-time favorite pieces from the classical repertoire!

How is the course organized?

The content consists of separate videos covering a wide range of topics. Videos are further subdivided into early, mid to late beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Information is further separated into technique and repertoire sections.

Dr. Wright uses multiple angles to film each video so you can both observe his entire body and hands during demonstrations. The video and audio quality are both excellent.

And the course uses the Teachable platform, which means you can also download the app on your phone.

What is the time requirement for the course?

Videos range in length from several minutes to over an hour for a complete interpretation of some pieces. You have the option of picking and choosing which videos you find most relevant.

Or you can start at the very beginning and watch all the videos.

You’ll find value regardless of how you choose to interact with the course.

Are there bonus perks of enrolling?

Absolutely! One of the best perks is access to a members-only Facebook group where you can interact with other people who love playing the piano as much as you do!

Dr. Wright also offers discount codes for music and other products within the course. He additionally offers a trial membership for his other course, VIP MasterClass. The MasterClass offers a weekly video addressing specific subscriber questions and access to all previously recorded videos.

He additionally provides his personal email for questions, and in my experience, he has been very responsive.

Is going through the course as effective as instruction from a piano teacher?

Yes and no. It’s always helpful to get outside feedback on your playing. Unfortunately, getting feedback from Dr. Wright himself is not part of this particular course.

But members do frequently post videos of themselves playing in the Facebook group to get feedback.

Aside from feedback, however, this course does offer something that can be difficult to find from many piano teachers. And that something is step-by-step instruction on playing classical piano from a concert pianist.

There are scores of outstanding piano teachers out there. But most have not had either the educational or performance experience of Dr. Wright. And it’s therefore difficult to find the type of knowledge he has.

Watching videos of pianists on YouTube is one thing. But seeing a thorough demonstration of how you can pull off the angst in the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s moonlight sonata is quite another.

It’s the difference between flat, shaky performances and performances that are vibrant and confident. Even if you’re only playing for an audience of yourself, wouldn’t it be exhilarating to find out for yourself just how far you can take your playing with secrets from the pros?

Review of ProPractice: It’s Your Turn

I genuinely hope you have found this review of ProPractice helpful in determining whether the course is right for you. If you’re still on the fence, I highly recommend following Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel because it gives an accurate picture of his teaching within the course as well.

And if you find value from the YouTube channel, consider investing in his course. It’s difficult to find a pianist with his level of educational and performance experience who is also down-to-earth and an effective teacher.

In a world filled with false promises and fancy ads, Dr. Wright is a refreshing beacon of hope. He doesn’t promise perfection by taking his course. Nor does he guarantee that you will be good enough to become a concert pianist. In fact, his videos often feature the mistakes he makes and how he overcomes them.

He simply gives all his best information in hopes that you can use it to be slightly better than you were yesterday.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take “slightly better” over “perfection” any day!

Click here to check out the course for yourself.

As mentioned previously in this review of ProPractice, the course emphasizes classical playing. If classical isn’t your jam, ProPractice may not be your course. There are scores of websites, courses, and apps dedicated to all kinds of piano playing. I encourage you to keep looking until you find that one thing that resonates with you and your goals.

And if you’re looking for more great piano inspiration, make sure you check out the following posts:

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano

You’ve signed your kids up for piano lessons. Everything was going smoothly in the beginning. Your kids were excited about starting, and getting your kids to practice piano was effortless.

But something shifted.

Suddenly you find yourself begging, bargaining, and pleading to get them to practice. Or yelling. And maybe the yelling is as mutual as the frustration surrounding the topic of practice.

What gives? Your kids were thrilled at the prospect of learning to play the piano. And you, being the well-informed and conscientious mom you are, were eagerly awaiting their transformation into brilliant, well-rounded tiny humans.

Was enrolling your kids in piano lessons a mistake? Maybe you’re questioning your parenting abilities and secretly fear their practice aversion is somehow your fault.

As a pianist and a mom, believe me when I say that getting kids to practice can be as much art as creating music. But you can do it! You can guide your kids into the opportunity of a lifetime WITHOUT tears and screaming.

And it all starts with understanding why your kids avoid piano practice.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of twinsterphoto and FamVeld from Getty Images via Canva.

Why is getting your kids to practice piano so difficult?

I will go out on a limb and say that most kids hate piano practice for two reasons. The first is that it can be tedious. For the most part, kids are constantly overstimulated. Flashing screens, bouncing cursors, and billions of on-demand videos seem way more exciting than a piano, a book, and a pencil.

I’m not here to deny the many benefits that come with being constantly keyed into the online world.

But I will point out that our attention span is now around 6 seconds. According to several sources, this is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Maybe this article should instead be about teaching your pet fish to play the piano?

But in all seriousness, piano practice requires focus, which no longer comes naturally to most people. It’s instead something that must be trained.

The second reason kids hate practice is that they have no idea how to spend their practice time. Your kids know they need to practice because you and their teacher tell them to, but they don’t actually know how.

And because your kids don’t know how to practice, their piano practice time often becomes monotonous.

Practice: Stuck on Repeat

Between the boredom and uncertainty of what practice should entail, it’s no wonder piano practice gets such a bad rap. And it’s no wonder kids instead gravitate toward other activities and learn to dread practice time.

But at its core, music is about creativity. It’s about the expression of human emotion. And it’s about individuality.

Music is the exact opposite of boredom.

So how can you convince your kids that piano practice is a really fun and exciting way to spend their time?

We’ll get there, but first, let’s explore what practice is and what it is not.

Somewhere along the line, piano practice became synonymous with repetition. In other words, practice means you play something repeatedly until you can suddenly play it correctly. And then you come back the next day and simply repeat what you did yesterday all over again. You do this day after day until you go back to your lesson, at which point your teacher assigns new songs, and the cycle continues.

And so on and so forth until the end of time.

Seriously. How boring does that sound?

Repetition vs. Practice

On the surface, repeating something until it’s perfect seems to make sense. Isn’t that why they say, “practice makes perfect?”

But let me ask you something. Does simply repeating something mean you will automatically get better?

Let’s say I want to dunk like Michael Jordan. I decide to “practice” by making 500 shots. But by the end of my session, I’m still nowhere near his skill level. What gives?

Repetition does not guarantee improvement. Actual progress comes first from identifying exactly what you want to improve. You then must find a specific tactic to get better at that thing.

I realize that this may seem far into the weeds on a post about getting your kids to practice piano. But I think it’s important to understand both the barriers to and significance of practice.

At that point, you can help your kids find excitement and meaning in their practice sessions. And you can kiss the tantrums goodbye!

If you’ve fallen into the repetition as practice trap, please don’t feel bad about it! There are far fewer resources out there on effective practice than there are about playing an instrument.

Teachers everywhere expect students to practice and somehow assume students know what that means. I’ve been playing piano for nearly 30 years and will be the first to say that I associated repetition with practice for far too long.

I still fall into the repetition trap from time to time. But thanks to this post, you have the resources to help turn all that around for your kids!

A Controversial Practice Philosophy

This next section may seem contrary to everything I’ve said thus far, but it still deserves telling. Piano lessons are about introducing your kids to new skills and an outlet for their creativity.

The right kind of practice is essential for growth, but every kid is an individual. And chances are, your kids will not grow up to be concert pianists.

But could every kid who takes piano lessons foster a hobby they will enjoy for the rest of their lives? Absolutely.

The art of practice is valuable in and of itself. It’s an opportunity to teach your kids how to improve at something. It teaches them about persistence and creative problem-solving.

And these are lessons that are applicable beyond the keyboard.

Many piano teachers out there have mandatory practice requirements. And I agree that practice is vital for improving. But not every kid needs the same amount of practice to make improvements.

And depending upon the goals your kids have for themselves; their practice sessions may look different.

Let your kids explore piano in a way that excites them. Make practice something they look forward to instead of something they dread. Now let’s dive into getting your kids to practice piano!

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Setting Reasonable Goals

My very first recommendation for getting your kids to practice piano is to sit down with them and talk about practice goals. Their teacher may have a weekly practice expectation, but how do your kids feel about this requirement?

And how does this requirement fit into their current obligations?

Many piano teachers would love to think that kids devote themselves to the piano at the exclusion of all else. But this kind of thinking isn’t realistic in today’s world.

Kids are involved in many activities, and why shouldn’t they be? Life is about exploration and learning new things. The truth is that you can fit regular practice into any schedule, regardless of how busy that schedule is.

But everyone has to be on the same page about the goals your piano kid has for themself.

Start with the following questions to get the conversation started with your kids:

  • What other activities are you involved with, and how much time do you realistically have available for practice?
  • Does your teacher have a minimum practice requirement?
  • When is the best time to get your practice done?
  • What are the barriers you see to getting practice done daily?
  • And are there strategies you can use to overcome those barriers?

The keyword here is REASONABLE. There’s no room for guilt, and if you have 5 minutes a day for practice, it’s better than nothing!

Stick to a Consistent Daily Practice Time

Once you’ve had the practice discussion with your kids, it’s time to set a consistent daily practice time. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve decided on 5 or 50 minutes of daily practice time; the key is consistency.

Consider whether your kids may benefit from multiple short practice sessions rather than one long one. Research shows that keeping sessions short promotes more effective learning. As an example, if your goal is 30 minutes a day, try to break it up into three 10-minute sessions.

Try to attach practice time to another established habit. An example of this might be sitting down at the piano immediately following their afterschool snack every day.

Some families find that practicing before school works better than after. Our family is not quite that evolved yet, but it’s something I’m considering for the future.

Again, the key is consistency. Your kids will take more away from multiple, short daily sessions than one long session once a week.

Help Your Kids Structure Their Practice Time

Now it’s time to get creative! If you take one thing from this post, I hope it’s that practice should be anything but dull repetition.

Have a conversation with your kids’ piano teacher about what should happen during practice. Get ideas for how you can help your kids spice up their practice time.

Send a notebook to lessons so their teacher can write down weekly practice goals.

Find out what drives your kids to learn the instrument. Are they really into pop music? Do they love classical? Or do they adore video game music?

Whatever your kids are into, I guarantee there’s piano music for it out there. Ask the teacher for recommendations on music that’s level appropriate and accessible.

Incorporate the music they love into their practice routine. Use it as a reward for getting through the stuff that’s important but not as fun.

Find out whether they can use apps or websites during practice time to beef up their musical knowledge.

I know this sounds like a fair amount of work but staying active in the process will help your kids have a better experience. It shows that you’re invested in their learning.

Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Learning with Your Kids

And speaking of learning, have you considered taking piano lessons along with your kids? Sharing the experience of learning is a great way to bond with your kids.

It gives you more patience and empathy for your kids when you come home tired from a long day at work and aren’t necessarily enthused about practice either.

And it allows you to show your kids that you’re never too old to learn something new.

Whether you’re a total beginner or dabbled as a child, now is the best time to get back into it!

If you’re intrigued by taking lessons, make sure you check out my post about how to learn piano as an adult.

Reward Their Efforts

Help your kids feel good about their efforts by rewarding them for a job well done. Maybe it’s a small weekly reward for hitting their goal time. Or perhaps it’s a larger reward for mastering a particular piece.

Many parents find success with practice charts. I use an app to document practice and find it both motivating and rewarding.

Whatever the reward, it’s important to teach them the art of celebrating their wins.

Perhaps fidgets or stickers from Amazon will be enough to entice them?

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For information on the practice app that I love, check out this post.

Connect with Other Learners

Some of my most memorable musical experiences have come from performances with others. Music is not meant to be a solitary pursuit, so look for ways to help your kids get involved with other musical kids.

One of the major benefits of learning piano is countless opportunities to collaborate. From chamber music to choir to solo accompaniment, the possibilities are endless!

I even recently discovered how fun worship band playing could be.

Introducing your kids to the world of musical collaboration may be just the secret sauce you need to spark their learning!

Many teachers have performance requirements built into their studio policies and encourage collaboration with other kids.

And if your kids are shy about performing, a friend may be vital to helping them have positive performance experiences. It’s truly a win-win situation that will hopefully foster a lifetime of teamwork and collaboration skills applicable outside the realm of music.

Student/Teacher Fit

I’ve mentioned piano teachers here and there throughout this post, but if your kids are quite opposed to practice, it’s worth a conversation with their teacher.

There may be a mismatch between the teacher’s expectations for your kids and the expectations your kids have for themselves. Piano teachers have a reputation for being rigidly type A, and although not all teachers are that way, many are.

Personality clashes can result in and make lessons a drag for your kids. And I’m not saying lessons should be all rainbows and sunshine, but the mark of a good teacher is how your kid feels when they leave lessons for the day.

Do your kids feel inspired to reach new musical levels? Or are they guilt-ridden about not achieving some hypothetical practice requirement?

To minimize practice resistance and maximize learning goals, you must have a good fit between the teacher and the student. If your goal is to expose your kids to music and foster a love of music, it’s crucial that the teacher understands and supports these goals.

But if your kids have a more serious goal of achieving mastery of the instrument, you must find a teacher capable of guiding their journey.

Neither goal is right or wrong. And there are all kinds of teachers out there. Make sure you find one who fosters the type of learning most beneficial to your kids.

Don’t Sweat It

Although this has been a post all about the ins and outs of getting your kids to practice piano, don’t sweat it if none of the above advice works. All kids are individuals and take different things away from their learning experiences.

Will the teacher become frustrated if they have to guide your kids through something they should have practiced at home? Possibly.

But there’s no way of knowing the future impact continuing lessons will have on your kids. This is true whether or not they practice.

I’m a firm believer that even if your kids are not fond of practice, there’s value in the experience of taking lessons and learning something new. I don’t believe that kids should quit lessons because they don’t practice.

I believe that there is an opportunity to explore goals and have a conversation about the value of the experience.

And maybe your kids decide that they really hate the piano.

That’s ok too. Maybe you can use this opportunity to get them involved with a different instrument.

And maybe they will discover an instrument they are deeply passionate about, and you will never need to have the practice discussion ever again.

All this to say, never guilt yourself about your kids not putting in the practice time. There is a massive range of reasons why daily practice may be unrealistic. And it’s pointless to take a turn to negative town for things beyond your control.

Know that by enrolling your kids in lessons, you are opening them up to a world of new experiences and possibilities. And isn’t that, in and of itself, enough?

It’s Your Turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. What are the barriers you face to consistent practice? Are there ways you have found to spice up your kids’ practice time? And have you pursued piano lessons for yourself?

Whatever your feedback, I’d love to hear all about it!

More great piano inspiration is to come but, in the meantime, make sure you check out one of the following posts:

Why You’ll Never Regret Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

Why You’ll Never Regret Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

If you’ve been a mom for more than 5 minutes, you know parenting comes with its share of choices. Some are easy. But others are hard and come with the looming threat of regret.

Like when you let a particular word slip one too many times and learn that your little exhibits his expanded vocabulary at daycare.

Or when you needed 10 minutes of peace and quiet only to discover your munchkin used the time to try her hand at dog grooming. And now your poodle is sporting what can only be referred to as the “dog vs. lawnmower” cut.

Let’s not forget when you let the kids talk you into getting a snake. It was all fun and games until someone left the cage open. And now you have a snake loose in your house. Just waiting to make his appearance when you least expect it.

Parenting is full of fun little life lessons.

But there is one decision that, when made, you’ll never regret. And that decision is enrolling your kids in piano lessons.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of Ivan-balvan, rfranca, and yanukit from Getty Images via Canva.

At a Glance: Top Reasons for Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

At this point, you may be asking yourself why I dare to make such a bold statement. You’re likely asking yourself what I’m trying to sell. Or whether I have ulterior motives behind convincing you to enroll your kids in piano lessons.

And the simple answer is that I am the product of being enrolled in piano lessons as a child. I started piano lessons at the age of 7 and continued through college.

Of all the decisions my parents made on my behalf, I am most thankful they decided to sit me down in front of the piano. It’s been the blessing of a lifetime and one I encourage you to consider for your children.

And since I know you’re busy, here’s a bulleted list of the top reasons you should consider enrolling your kids in piano lessons:

  • Spark their creativity
  • Teach them how to solve problems
  • Boost their confidence
  • Inspire them to view failure as an opportunity to learn
  • Ignite a passion they can pursue for the rest of their lives
  • Ensure they will reach their full potential

And if you have a few quiet minutes to yourself, please know how much I appreciate you spending them with me! Silence is a precious commodity in parenthood, and your support means the world. 🙂

I promise to make the time worth your while, so let’s dive right in!

Spark Their Creativity

When you hear the word “creativity,” what comes to mind? In the context of your kids, maybe macaroni art and Crayola scribbles come to mind. My brain automatically travels to cut and pasted creations hastily stuffed into backpacks at the end of the day.

But did you know that creativity has broader applications beyond hand-eye coordination and the ability to follow directions? According to an article written by Paul Patrone on LinkedIn, creativity is the most important skill in the world.1

Patrone explains that creativity is widely valued because employers want innovation. They want people who can approach old problems in new and exciting ways. Jobs that can be automated are typically on the lower end of the pay scale or have been eliminated thanks to AI.

Success in work and life, therefore, demands creativity.

And although glue, crayons, and construction paper have taken creative credit for years, learning a musical instrument is another fantastic way to introduce creativity.

Learning to play the piano simultaneously stimulates multiple areas of their brain and encourages alternative forms of creativity. And expanding creativity is only one of many life skills gained by enrolling your kids in piano lessons. Let’s move on to the second.

Teach Them How to Solve Problems

“Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem-solving.”

Michael Gelb

One of the most exciting parts of having kids is watching them figure stuff out. And when kids are young, they LIVE to do things independently! It doesn’t matter how simple the task; kids love self-reliance.

How many times did you stand outside in the rain so little Addison could buckle her own seatbelt? Or watch Logan spill milk all over the counter because he insisted he could pour it all by himself?

If you think about it, life is about solving a never-ending series of problems. And as we get older, the problems tend to become more complicated.

So, wouldn’t it make sense to equip your kids with as many tools as possible to help them overcome life’s obstacles?

Piano lessons give kids a completely different set of skills. And with a different set of skills, there’s no limit to the type of problems they will eventually be able to solve with confidence.

Boost Their Confidence by Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

And speaking of confidence … is there anything better than watching your kids proudly display a newly mastered skill? Whether it’s spelling “mom” for the first time or scribbling their first Mother’s Day card, you LOVE seeing their confidence soar!

Imagine seeing the joy in the eyes of your kids when they can play a familiar song for you. Or their excitement when they ask their music teacher to play something they’ve learned for their classmates.

By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you’re giving them unique skills. And the opportunity to showcase those skills.

With each new piano challenge they encounter, your kids have the chance to triumph. And once they learn that they can triumph in the music room, your kids will know they can triumph in life as well.

Does it honestly get any better than that?

Inspire Them to View Failure as an Opportunity to Learn

Do you have perfectionist tendencies? If so, have you noticed these same tendencies in your little ones?

Thanks to a combination of nature and nurture, perfectionism tends to be a trait easily passed from one generation to the next.

Perfectionism has its perks, but for the most part, it’s a debilitating mindset. It’s often accompanied by procrastination and low self-esteem. And it can be incredibly difficult to correct, especially if not recognized and addressed at an early age.

I was an adult before I realized how much perfectionism held me back. If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell my younger self to chill out. That everything would be ok. And that mistakes are part of life.

But since I can’t go back in time, I’ve made a vow to help my kids with perfectionism. And I’ve found that introducing them to piano lessons has been the perfect medium to make mistakes.

I encourage my kids to have fun with music. We sing, clap, and talk about how music relates to life during lessons.

And when they become frustrated, we sit with those emotions. We explore frustration and talk about creative ways to channel it. But most of all, we talk about how learning can’t happen without failure.

Through piano lessons, my kids learn that failure means you’re trying. And that the only way you lose is by not even trying in the first place.

Ignite a Passion They Can Pursue for the Rest of Their Lives

Passion is a funny thing. Some kids are born knowing what lights them up inside and then spend their lives pursuing that thing. Other kids bounce around from one interest to the next. They never spend too much time in any one area but seem to excel in a variety of areas.

Regardless of which type of kid calls you “mom,” one thing is certain—your never-ending love and desire for them to lead fulfilling lives.

Today’s world offers a limitless array of activities in which to enroll your kids. You can get them involved in soccer, 4-H, theater, or karate at any given time.

And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with involving kids in a wide range of hobbies.

But I will ask you to consider how many of those hobbies can be pursued well into adulthood. The list narrows a bit, doesn’t it?

By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you give them the gift of a lifetime hobby. They will have skills applicable for years and years to come. Even if they end up playing pop songs for themselves at home, I guarantee they will consider the time well spent.

Click here to read more about why people with multiple interests have limitless potential.

Ensure They Will Reach Their Full Potential by Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons

Your goal as a mom is to raise creative, well-adjusted, and well-rounded kids. It’s not an easy job, but it is fulfilling. Especially when you can move forward knowing you’ve given your kids the tools they need to succeed in this crazy, messed-up world.

There’s a ton of scientific, research-based evidence out there about the benefits of piano lessons in childhood. By enrolling your kids in piano lessons, you’re helping them improve their visual and spatial skills. You’re also helping them with memory and math skills. There’s even evidence out there that playing the piano wards off dementia in later years.

But for those of us who love the instrument, learning piano in and of itself is enough.

I would have never considered myself a serious player when I was younger, but I’ve always loved sitting down and playing. And I still do. The piano has opened up a world of opportunity for me, and I’m thankful every day for what I’ve learned from the instrument.

The piano has taught me about persistence. It has taught me that learning never ends. And practice, the right kind of practice, always means progress.

It’s for these reasons, and so many more, that I make the bold statement that you will never regret enrolling your kids in piano lessons.

And if you’re ready to move forward with lessons, make sure to check out my Resource page for a listing of piano teachers currently accepting students. Many teachers now offer online lessons, a convenient option for busy moms and kids!

Don’t forget to leave a comment below with your thoughts on this post. What challenges do you face as a mom with kids in piano lessons? Did you take lessons as a child? And if so, do you still play?

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts geared towards parenting piano kids!

Make sure to check out the following posts for more piano inspiration:

1. Petrone, Paul. (2018, Dec. 31). Why creativity is the most important skill in the world. LinkedIn. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from https://www.linkedin.com/business/learning/blog/top-skills-and-courses/why-creativity-is-the-most-important-skill-in-the-world

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist

“At what point do you get to be called a pianist?”

I recently stumbled across this hotly debated topic in a Facebook group for adults learning to play the piano. And the feedback by fellow adult learners were more than a little shocking.

Responses ranged from anyone who can find middle C to only those who accept money for their skills. Many replies fell somewhere in the “you can only consider yourself a pianist when you can play the 3rd Rachmaninoff concerto blindfolded and handcuffed in front of a live studio audience” camp.

People argued. Tempers flared.

Responses appeared in ALL CAPS. Exclamation marks peppered the entire exchange.

Who knew that such a seemingly humdrum question would result in an outright clash of egos?

And more importantly, what does any of this have to do with you?

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the photos appearing on this page. All photos courtesy of pixelshot, Sbringser, and Negative Space via Canva.

Why You Should Care About This Definition

A definition sets you apart. It tells those around you that you’re serious about what you do. And it dramatically increases your success rate.

How you think about yourself changes the actions you take. If you see yourself a certain way, taking the steps necessary to develop into that person becomes more effortless according to James Clear, author of the phenomenal book Atomic Habits.

As an example, let’s explore getting into shape. There are two ways you can think about getting more exercise.

The first involves focusing only on all the work to become more physically fit. You could spend your time thinking about all those early morning workouts. And all the time it will take you to get back into shape. After a while, it becomes easier and easier to sleep in rather than hit the gym.

The alternative is to think of yourself as an athlete. Does an athlete skip their workouts because they had one too many the night before? Hardly. Does an athlete avoid the gym because it’s too cold outside? Nope.

Do you see how establishing an identity rather than focusing on the action steps themselves sets you up for success? Decisions become a no-brainer.

And you quickly start seeing the results of all those decisions you’ve made add up. Pretty soon, you’re much closer to your goals than ever before.

If you’re looking for more identity-based habit change inspiration, make sure you check out Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Pianist vs. Piano Player

You’re reading this because you’re serious about the piano. But a tiny part of you worries that you’ll never be good enough to call yourself a pianist. You fear that because you’re not into classical and don’t play for money that you don’t have the right to label yourself a “pianist.”

I call bullsh*t.

You’re a pianist. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been playing. Or whether you only sit down to plunk away at show tunes.

Pianists come from all genres and levels. The one constant is how you see yourself.

And if piano brings you joy, you should be calling yourself a pianist. Not a piano player. Or someone who plays the piano.

You’re a pianist.

But if you’re still stuck on the words of those piano trolls who insist that you can only call yourself a pianist if you memorize ALL your music, it’s ok. I’ve got you.

Trolls are loud, but the loudest are usually the ones doing the least amount of work. And trolls thrive on criticizing others.

But you don’t have to be on the receiving end of that criticism. You know the truth and, thanks to this article, have five reasons to be calling yourself a pianist.

1) You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You’re Passionate

“The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it.”

Ray Charles

Do you find yourself thinking about the piano, even when you’re away from it? Does something about playing the piano feel right even when it’s hard? As if you were always meant to do it?

Does playing the piano give you a deep sense of fulfillment?

If you can answer “yes” to the above questions, you should call yourself a pianist.

Passion means losing track of time when you’re doing what you love. It means daydreaming. And it means ignoring the naysayers because there’s nothing that can replace the feeling you get from playing the piano.

2) You Love Practicing

Do you look forward to that magical time of the day when you are free to play whatever you want? Sure, you have a few goals but for the most part, do you long just to play?

If so, you should be calling yourself a pianist.

It doesn’t matter what you’re practicing. It could be scales, pop, or movie scores. Maybe you love to play songs by ear. If you can’t wait to sit down and get a piece of music under your fingers, you’re a pianist.

3) You Watch YouTube Videos About Playing Piano

A true sign of passion is your YouTube history. Does yours reflect a watch list of piano videos? Maybe it’s tutorials on classical technique. Or outstanding performances by world-class pianists.

Maybe you’re trying to understand music theory, and your watch list consists of minor chords or the circle of fifths.

If so, then you should be calling yourself a pianist.

4) You’re Getting Better Every Day

Regardless of how yesterday’s practice session went, do you constantly aspire for more? Do you start every day by thinking about how you can improve, even by 1%?

You’re a pianist!

And between the practice and all those YouTube videos, you are well on your way to massive improvements!

5) You Should Be Calling Yourself a Pianist Because You Love the Piano!

“When you play, never mind who listens to you.”

Robert Schumann

Can’t stop talking about playing the piano? Maybe you’ve just written an entire blog post about one comment in a piano-related Facebook group. Or you can’t wait to apply the latest self-improvement book you’ve read to the topic of playing the piano.

If any of this applies to you, you should be calling yourself a pianist!

I hope you’ve caught on to one simple theme by this point. A theme that excludes the opinions of others.

The theme is that calling yourself a pianist is NOT about any objective measure of your skill. It’s not about your skill level compared to anyone else around you.

Calling yourself a pianist is about your love for the instrument. It’s about appreciating the music of others. Getting goosebumps when you hear that piece you love.

It’s about feeling a deeply rooted passion for the instrument. And a constant desire to take your artistry to a deeper level. It’s about never giving up, even when it seems like you’ll never master that new technique.

Forget about all those nasty internet piano trolls. Isn’t it about time for you to write your own story?

It’s Your Turn to Start Calling Yourself a Pianist

Pianists exist in all genres.

If piano brings you joy, start calling yourself a pianist.

Can’t wait to get home so you can try out that new practice technique you saw on YouTube? Start calling yourself a pianist.

And if you can’t imagine your life without the instrument, start calling yourself a pianist!

Do you love playing pop tunes? You’re a pianist. Maybe jazz is your jam. You’re a pianist. Or perhaps you love playing worship music at church. It’s time to start calling yourself a pianist. Or organist (as applicable).

Stop letting others dictate how you see yourself. Let’s you and I make a pact. We are no longer falling into the comparison trap from here on out. We’re not giving in to the myth that we need permission from anyone else. And we’re not letting those piano trolls win!

Being a pianist is something that comes from within. It’s not a label anyone else can give you. And if you’re looking for more piano inspiration, make sure you check out the following posts:

As always, don’t forget to leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post. 🙂

5 Simple Tips to Help You Be More Productive

5 Simple Tips to Help You Be More Productive

How’s life going for you? Is it everything you ever thought? Or are you feeling trapped on a hamster wheel of never-ending obligations that suck up all your emotional energy?

Over the past few years, I’ve felt stuck. A constant sense that I’m not getting enough done follows me everywhere.

I remember a time when I didn’t feel this way. Work stayed at work, and my home life was blissful.

But then I decided to go back to school.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

A Downward Spiral into Negativity

From that moment on, I constantly felt the need to be more productive. If I wasn’t checking off a box every second of the day, I was indeed behind at work, home, school, or maybe all 3.

Deep down inside, I didn’t believe that I could successfully navigate all these worlds. That it was ridiculous even to try.

The self-doubt eventually spiraled into an all-consuming cloud of negativity. I became obsessed with wondering whether there was enough time in the day to do all the things.

Instead of spending my time actually being productive, I began obsessing about time. I felt guilty about anything and everything because somehow, nothing felt enough.

And I was always making wrong choices with how I spent my time. Or so it seemed at the time. At work, I was thinking about how little time I was spending with my kids. And at home, I fixated on the low probability of finishing the mountain of homework always waiting for me.

After graduation, I thought things would get better. I thought that I would suddenly feel normal again.

Nope. Those stubbornly obsessive negative thoughts continued to plague my every waking moment.

After a great deal of reflection, I finally made a decision. My happiness and inner peace depended upon shattering the negativity I had built around time and productivity. It was time to embrace a new perspective on how to be more productive!

If any of this resonates with you, keep reading because I promise to bring you a few unique solutions to the age-old problem of getting more done in less time!

1. Cut the Crap to Be More Productive

What do you actually want to accomplish in life? It’s easy to get caught in a web of “busy.” But “busy” is a very non-specific way to quantify your time. And without a sense of direction, you end up wandering the vast wasteland of coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Unfortunately, there are very dark forces at work in your life. And you may or may not even be fully aware of these forces. In her book called How to Get Sh*t Done, Erin Falconer describes some of the invisible constraints holding you back:

  • Women feel a constant need to prove themselves.
  • Unspoken work expectations mean women are saddled with more responsibility (the type that no one else in the office wants!) that will mean neither increased status nor pay.
  • After putting in a full day at work, women come home just to put in more work.
  • People-pleasing tendencies increase involvement in activities you may not otherwise choose for yourself.
  • The joy-sucking power of “should” is constantly playing over and over in your head.

The first step is always awareness. Falconer does an outstanding job of shedding light on everything that’s cluttering up your life.

And by doing so, you can start to abandon everyone else’s expectations in favor of your version of productivity.

Image courtesy of Namara Creative Studio via Canva

2. Craft Your Unique Version of Productivity

After you strip away the busyness, what’s left? Who are you underneath all those obligations? Are you someone who thrives among people? Or do you prefer a quiet spot to complete your work?

What makes you feel alive inside? And what makes you want to poke your eye out with a pencil?

It’s shocking how little we often know about ourselves simply because we haven’t taken the time. Also shocking is the impact society and those around us have on our aspirations. But when you strip everything away, what you have left is the freedom to make decisions based on you. Not society. And not everyone else in your life.

But you.

Falconer guides you through the process of getting down to you in a seamless and thought-provoking way. If that all sounds intriguing, make sure to check out her book.

3. Comparison Isn’t Always a Dirty Word

Our culture is all about comparison. It starts in grade school when you learn the concept of grades. And it follows you through middle and high school with sports tryouts. Thanks to social media, comparison continues to follow you well into adulthood.

But comparison in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, and you can use it as a force for good!

Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist with fascinating advice on flipping the negative to the positive. I recently discovered his work on the School of Greatness podcast and was immediately inspired.

Dr. Hardy suggests that it’s our comparison to others that results in negative thought patterns. As an example, you see a fellow mom posting flawless pics of her family on social media. Their beaming smiles are brilliantly complemented by perfectly coordinated outfits and a gorgeous fall scene.

Upon seeing the pics, you take a turn to negative town. After all, your last family picture was taken 7 years ago. Before your kids were born.

And you immediately feel like a #momfail.

The truth is, you feel like a failure because you’re making an impossible comparison. You have no idea what else is going on in that woman’s life. We are all fighting battles that we share with only a select few.

And you have overcome some pretty tough stuff in your life as well. Therefore, the only way you can feel accomplished is to compare the woman you were with the woman you are right now.

I guarantee that you will immediately feel accomplished!

So the next time you feel compelled to make a comparison, make sure it’s between the current and past versions of yourself. Because at the end of the day, the only person over whom you have control is yourself.

If you’re curious about Dr. Hardy’s work, check out one of his books:

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4. Make a Done for Today List

Have you ever actually finished everything on your “to-do” list? I’d be lying if I said “yes” to that one. Although I always think seeing things crossed off my list will feel satisfying, it somehow never does. Instead, I constantly focus on everything that remains unchecked.

But here’s a new take on an old and tired concept. I recently heard this advice from an interview with Greg McKeown on the Science of Success podcast.

At the beginning of the day, figure out 3 things that, once complete, will also complete your day. Once those 3 things are done, give yourself the freedom to relish in accomplishment.

Reward yourself! Don’t try to use the extra time to sneak in more stuff. Take some time for yourself. Do something that fills your cup. Or do something that lights you up inside.

But most of all, enjoy the feeling of DONE.

As a type-A achiever, I never feel “done” with tasks in my day. And I think this leads to burnout because nothing ever feels good enough. I’m always trying to check a box.

So after hearing this particular tip, I’ve committed to being DONE every day. Regardless of whatever else is on my list, I’ve started celebrating my accomplishments and not only feel more peaceful but also 10x more productive.

5. A Tale of Two Teams

In the podcast, Greg McKeown goes on to tell the gripping tale of two teams racing against the elements to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Each team had opposing views on how to emerge victoriously. And their vastly different approaches made all the difference between victory and death.

The first team was British. Their leader pushed the team to their very limits whenever the weather was tolerable. On days when the weather was inclement, they camped out and weathered the storm.

The second team was Norwegian. Their leader determined that the best approach would be to advance 15 miles each day. Come fair weather or storm; they would only travel 15 miles.

Guess which team made it to the South Pole first? I’ll give you a hint … slow and steady wins the race.

The Norwegians made it to their goal an entire month before the British. And not only did they win, but they lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the British team.

Defining Your Daily Minimum to Be More Productive

Image courtesy of Netfalls via Canva

Everyone has a daily threshold for productivity, and there’s only so much you can accomplish in 24 hours. The Norwegian team dramatically highlighted this reality by claiming the victory. And the British team just as dramatically highlighted it through their ultimate demise.

You must set clear boundaries for yourself. Or you, too, will become overwhelmed and burned out.

McKeown suggests setting daily minimum goals for yourself. Figure out how to make this goal effortless. Making it effortless helps you achieve the goal and will leave you wanting more.

As an example, I’ve been trying to publish blog posts on a more consistent basis. But I have a mental block about time. My perception is that it takes time I currently don’t have.

After hearing McKeown’s advice, I decided to set a daily 30-minute writing goal. I have found that I no longer try to procrastinate my writing because 30 minutes feels very attainable.

And once those 30 minutes are up, I stop. I don’t force myself to keep going even if I’m in the middle of writing flow. Stopping when I’m in flow is crucial because I know when I begin again tomorrow, I will be excited to get started.

One of the worst things as a writer is a block, and stopping when I’m mid-paragraph, or even mid-sentence ensures I have something to pick up the following day.

Taking small, daily steps towards your goals increases your odds of success. Find ways to make the process enjoyable, and you’ve suddenly become dramatically more productive.

It’s Your Turn to Be More Productive

You define productivity. And with your unique definition comes freedom. The freedom to say “yes” to anything that feels aligned and “no” to everything else.

Narrow down your big goals to 3 or less at any given time. Go all-in on those goals. And when starting a goal, stop asking “how.” Dr. Hardy explains that “how” is a word that causes procrastination and overwhelm. It immediately adds an element of impossibility to the equation.

You instead need to ask “who.” Who can help you achieve your goal more quickly? Do you need a coach? Or maybe you need a course designed by an expert in the field. Making investments in someone who is already skilled helps you achieve your goals infinitely faster.

As important as “who” is the concept of effortlessness. Once your goal has been defined, how can you make it as easy as possible? Greg McKeown offers brilliant advice on finding joy while making goals feel effortless. Sadly, the perception of effort has held me back personally in all areas of my life. I, therefore, adore his philosophy on productivity!

And remember that slow and steady wins every time. There’s simply no need to make things overly complicated or overwhelming. I would even suggest that if you feel overwhelmed, you need to take a step back. Figure out your priorities. And cut everything that doesn’t make the grade.

Find the person who can help you. And make it effortless.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking for even more resources, make sure you check out any of the following books:

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And make sure to check out the following posts for even more great personal development!

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Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

Do you ever feel stuck in your piano playing? You feel as if you put in the practice time but just aren’t making the progress you’d like.

Or maybe you do feel like you’re making huge strides in your playing but want to take things to the next level.

As a lifelong pianist, I’m always looking for that slight edge to take my skills to the next level. And I’m ecstatic to present you with a few easy brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. All images on this page courtesy of Canva.

Background on Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing

I’ve written a bit about my academic background in other posts but will mention it again for readers new to the blog. My first degree was in music, but I have since obtained a doctorate in nursing practice.

This means that I LOVE to research and pass along credible information to my readers, especially as it pertains to the science of playing the piano. In other words, I am constantly looking for the crossroads between art and science.

And because there’s an absurd amount of inaccurate information out there, my goal is always to cut through the crap to present you with only the truly useful stuff.

The Book

With all that being said, I recently stumbled across a fantastic book written by a development molecular biologist named John Medina. His mission in writing the book is to bring forth simplified research findings of how the brain works to the general public.

The book is called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. And although the book is not written specifically for pianists, I feel it is both relevant and crucial information to anyone interested in upgrading their piano skills.

The Research

For me, one of the very first things that struck a chord about the book is Medina’s equal attention to quality. All research he presents must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal. This means that it must pass an extremely rigorous process to make sure the information is scientifically accurate.

Medina then requires the research to be repeated, meaning it wasn’t simply some type of fluke. He then takes it further by boiling the research down to information that anyone can understand.

As someone who has read countless peer-reviewed articles, believe me when I say that researchers don’t write for clarity! Deciphering this type of writing is an art in itself. And so, I appreciate Medina’s mission to present high-level research to anyone in plain English with a side of humor.

The Brain

This sounds crazy, but despite massive research advances over the past century or so, we still understand little about the brain’s inner workings.

To put it into perspective, Medina makes this comment, “In truth, if we ever fully understood how the human brain knew how to pick up a glass of water, it would represent a major achievement.”

Take a minute to process that statement. We still don’t even understand the fundamental task of how the brain takes us from thirst to drinking. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

And if we don’t understand something as simple as picking up a glass, we are lightyears from a solid understanding of something as complex as playing the piano.

Although I don’t promise a complete understanding of the complex interplay between cognition, memory, muscle, and emotion that occurs when playing piano, my goal is to present a few of my aha moments from the book.

And as the title suggests, my goal is to present brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing. But keep in mind that Medina’s brain rules apply to life in general.

So take this gift of knowledge and apply it liberally, both at and away from the keyboard. And if you’re thirsting for more, make sure you pick up the book for yourself. I promise that it’s both exciting and informative, and you will come away with tips to improve your life and relationships.

And so, without further ado, let’s dig into brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing!

Images via Canva

Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Exercise is Key

I promise to come back around to the piano in a minute but first, let me take you on a detour with my alter ego in the healthcare field. My career in healthcare started in the nursing home. And to this day, my practice continues to be based in this setting.

What this means for you is that I have extensive experience working with a population heavily impacted by cognitive decline. So much so that up until a few years ago, I never realized the significant bias I had developed by my work in the nursing home.

You may be asking yourself what cognitive decline has to do with playing the piano. My response to you would be that it has everything to do with it. Playing the piano begins and ends with cognition.

And by understanding the factors that impact healthy cognition, you can understand how to become a better pianist.

My Anecdotal Evidence

Until a few years ago, my only frame of reference for people older than 80 had been exceptionally frail people who seemed to show a steady pattern of physical and mental decline.

And so, imagine my surprise when I began my outpatient clinical rotation and was suddenly introduced to a whole new world of older patients. These were patients well into their 80s and 90s who continued to lead full and vibrant lives. They were driving, working, and even functioning as (gasp!) organists for large congregations.

I distinctly remember almost falling off my chair when one particularly delightful 90 something-year-old told me that he continued to mow his own 1+ acre lawn. With a push mower.

Mind. Blown.

This was the moment when my curiosity around the distinctly different outcomes in aging was first sparked. It left me questioning whether there are distinct actions people can either take or avoid to preserve cognition over time.

And although countless factors ultimately contribute to cognitive function over time, something deep inside whispered that this 90-something push mowing his lawn was on to something.

The Research

It turns out that my hunch was correct. According to Medina, “A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.”

And he goes on to describe research-proven time and again that points to an improvement in areas including long-term memory, attention, problem-solving, and even fluid intelligence in people who consistently exercise.

If you’re thinking those skills are suspiciously similar to those needed for playing piano, then you too are on to something!

You may be asking yourself what this means if you haven’t exercised regularly up to this point in your life. Hang on because I’ve got some great news for you!

As a whole, research supports the idea that even if you haven’t been a regular exerciser in your life, it’s never too late to start. And bumps in cognition come with even relatively mild exercise regimens.

Exercise has proven to preserve cognition over time, and there is also research to support its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression.

I’m not sure about you, but this might be one of my favorite brain hacks to improve your piano playing!

Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing: Make it Exciting!

Would it surprise you to learn that our brain ignores boring things? And yet, how much attention do we give to making our learning experiences, including piano practice, interesting?

Zero.

Up until recently, I’ve had a very dull approach to practice. My practice sessions start with a scale warm-up or two, move on to some technical practice, and finish with one or two repertoire pieces.

Repetition has historically been at the core of what I do in the practice room. And I suspect many (if not most!) pianists have been conditioned to take the same humdrum approach to their practice.

It does leave you wondering whether all this boring practice does anything to advance your skills.

The Research

The short answer is no. According to Medina, “The more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained.” In other words, “Better attention always equals better learning.”

Not only does improved attention translate to better retention, but our attention spans have a very short expiration date. As a general rule of thumb, sustained attention is only maintained for about 10 minutes before our mind starts wandering.

Given that my practice sessions typically last around 30 minutes, how much am I actually retaining? Most importantly, how can I improve retention to make the most of my practice time?

Improve Retention With Short Practice Segments

My first thought comes straight from Medina’s lecture model as described in the book. Given our short attention span, chunk material into 10-minute sections.

Spend the first minute on a broad concept and the next nine looping in details related to the larger one. Once the 10 minutes are up, start with another broad concept.

For example, spend 10 minutes on a very specific task, such as improving rhythm in section A rather than attempting to improve all aspects of an entire piece over that same time frame. And once the 10 minutes are up, move on to the next clear-cut practice task.

Incorporate Emotion Into Practice

Any time you can incorporate emotion into learning, retention will be enhanced. To demonstrate this phenomenon, think back to a song that holds special meaning for you.

I’m willing to bet that every time you hear that song, you’re flooded with a very specific emotion. Whether it’s your wedding song or a break-up anthem, you probably go right back to a distinct time in your life whenever you hear it.

My suggestion for you is to attach emotion to your playing. Hone in on a unique feeling with every section. And get creative with this. Don’t limit yourself to happy, sad, or mad.

Try incorporating euphoria, despair, and angst into your playing. Maybe spend time differentiating between just how different you can make “boredom” and “apathy” sound.

Find the Meaning

Our brains love patterns. And any time you can make a connection between new and previously learned information, retention becomes both more accessible and potent.

My previous post lists a couple of resources for creating meaning in playing the piano. One involves creating a visual map of a piece, and the other consists of brushing up on music theory. Both are fantastic ways to transform tiny figures on a page into a compelling musical performance.

Check out the post here.

Other Thoughts on Brain Hacks to Improve Your Piano Playing

It’s difficult to articulate all the valuable information contained within this one book. But if there’s one thing to take away, it would be that our brains are designed to solve problems by exploring.

In the (admittedly somewhat morbid) words of my favorite Downton character, Violet Crawley, “All life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and then the next until at last, we die.”

Our brains have been helping us navigate complex problems for centuries. We learn by doing. And by exploring.

So I would encourage you to keep trying. Keep searching for ways to improve. Look for unconventional ways to improve your piano practice. Experiment. Play what you love. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to be creative.

If you’re a classical pianist, try jazz. Or improvisation. You could even try your hand at composition.

And get some sleep! Medina has an entire chapter devoted to the massive impact sleep has on learning.

Most importantly, you can conveniently get your copy of Brain Rules by clicking the picture below.

It’s Your Turn

I hope you have found a few brain hacks to upgrade your piano playing after reading this post! If you’re looking for more inspiration and piano playing resources, make sure to check out my previous posts:

And that’s it for this week. As always, I wish you all the best in the practice room and beyond!

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SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills

Do you long to advance your knowledge of music theory without breaking the bank? Maybe you’d love to get better at jazz, improv, or compose your own piece someday.

Or perhaps you’ve struggled with memorization. You’ve tried over and over again, but somehow you can never quite seem to master a piece entirely from memory.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ve periodically struggled with both throughout your musical journey.

Today I’m ecstatic to introduce you to an online learning platform that has classes guaranteed to advance your piano skills!

The platform is called SkillShare, and it offers diverse classes ranging from cooking to photography to productivity. I recently learned of the platform in a podcast, and the concept immediately struck a chord.

Although I had heard that there are a huge variety of niches on the platform, I was especially eager to explore SkillShare for pianists!

And after checking it out, I was so impressed with the quality of the instruction and the range of videos that I immediately applied to become an affiliate.

I knew that I had to share this gift with others interested in self-improvement, whether specifically at the keyboard or in life. Enjoy the post but don’t stop there. I invite you to take the next step toward reaching your goals by clicking the link below.

Now let’s get to SkillShare for pianists!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as affiliates of SkillShare and Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

SkillShare for Pianists: The Secrets of How to Memorize Music

Does watching videos of people playing piano completely from memory make you feel jealous? Have you always wanted to play the piano from memory but can never quite pull it off?

If you’ve always fantasized about learning how to memorize but continue to struggle, then this class is for you!

Taught by Jeeyoon Kim, The Secrets of How to Memorize Music goes behind the scenes of memorization. Kim, a classical pianist and teacher, covers various topics designed to help you master memorization. She gives insight into the tips and tricks that will take you from beginner to confident memorizer throughout the class.

This course is of particular interest to me because I have a love/hate relationship with memorizing music. Throughout my college years, I struggled with memorization. And as a piano major, I was expected to perform without music in front of me. Shaky memorization led to even more unstable performances and, ultimately, significant anxiety at the mere thought of performing.

Flash forward to my post-college years when I desperately wanted to retain my identity as a pianist. I re-dedicated myself to the art of piano playing. But along with a commitment to the craft came memorization.

I believe that there are aspects of musicianship that no one can ever fully master in a lifetime. And some skills are always more accessible than others. But for me, memorizing has become more attainable thanks to this class. Read on for the specific transformations I believe are possible for you, too, thanks to this class.

Develop Memorization as a Skill

Watching a truly great pianist perform from memory feels magical. Their command, stage presence, and skill feel amplified by their ability to play challenging repertoire entirely from memory. It can leave you wondering whether you have the talent to memorize music.

You can stop all that wondering and second-guessing because I’m here to tell you that you absolutely CAN memorize music!

The truth is that memorization is a skill. Similar to learning scales, dynamics, or key signatures, it’s a skill that requires practice. And as such, there are ways to make memorization easier.

Throughout the class, Kim gives you the memory hacks no one else talks about. Her inspirational message is that regardless of your skill level, you can successfully memorize music. It all starts with a solid understanding of how memory works and a great example of SkillShare for pianists!

Gain a Deeper Understanding of Memory

Your journey into memorization starts with the different types of memory, and Kim specifically mentions sensory, short, and long-term memory.ng-term memory. The memorization process always begins with short-term memory, and short-term is the most fleeting type of memory and therefore not particularly reliable for any length of time.

Your goal is to transition memories from short to long-term storage where they are more secure. This is the type of memory from which musicians playing from memory are drawing from.

And once a piece is thoroughly explored and secure in your long-term “bank,” you can play from a place of freedom.

While we’re on the topic of memory, I will mention a fantastic book written by Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist. The book is called Brain Rules, and it outlines 12 foundational principles for how our brains work.

In his chapter on memory, Medina echoes tenets outlined by Kim in her class. More specifically, each touts the importance of short practice sessions and constantly working on memory retrieval.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply remember. You must also practice bringing forth that memory. I won’t give away Kim’s secrets but believe me when I say that Kim does an incredible job of illuminating how to work with, instead of against, your brain. SkillShare for pianists doesn’t get much better than this!

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Gain a Deeper Understanding of the Music

I’m not sure about you, but my previous efforts at memorization focused solely on playing something over and over and over again. Although I’m not going to argue that repetition is important, there are ways to make it enjoyable and effective.

And one of the best ways to do this is through pattern recognition. Your brain loves patterns!

Make it Meaningful

And according to Medina, the more meaningful you can make the information, the easier it is to remember. This recommendation is also echoed by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool in their book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Ericsson spent his entire career studying people at the top of their fields, and his most exciting work involved studying people who could hear a long string of unrelated numbers and repeat them back.

Ericsson found that people who are the best at reciting back unbelievably long number chains do so by attaching some type of extra meaning to those numbers. In other words, they did not simply memorize by rote. They came up with an alternate way to remember sections and then wove them back together again.

Make it Creative

And in her class on memorization, Kim recommends attaching meaning by creating a visual map. She guides you through looking at a piece and creating a short-hand visual representation of the piece. By engaging your creativity around the piece in this way, your memory becomes robust and resilient. It allows you to recall specifics that may otherwise fall by the wayside when trying to memorize solely from rote.

Even beyond learning the mechanics of memorization, Kim proves to be an encouraging and engaging teacher. She continually emphasizes the point that memorization is difficult for everyone. But at the end of the day, memorization is crucial to a higher level of creativity and freedom than could ever be achieved otherwise.

And speaking of higher levels of creativity and freedom, let’s move on to music theory!

SkillShare for Pianists: Music Theory Comprehensive

Ok, ok. Music theory may not immediately come to mind when I say “creativity” and “freedom,” but stick with me for a minute.

Music, like most things in life, comes with its own set of rules. Rules to organize melody, harmony, and rhythm. These rules provide guidelines for how music works, and they give you a deeper understanding of how music is constructed.

And with understanding comes meaning. The type of meaning that makes memorization easier because there are fewer options from which to choose once you understand the rules. Fewer options mean stronger memory retention and recall. And stronger memory recall means creativity and freedom.

See how it all works together?

Whether your music theory knowledge comes from your hometown piano teacher, college courses years ago, or somewhere in between, be assured that you can conjure it forth once again.

Even if you’ve never gone in-depth with theory before, it’s never too late to start. And Jason Allen’s course is hands down the one with which to begin! It’s yet another outstanding SkillShare for pianists option.

The Class

Although there are many ways to learn music theory, learning from a reputable instructor is arguably the best. And Allen has the reputation to back up his instruction.

With a Ph.D. in music composition, Allen has not only composed for the Minnesota Orchestra but was a semi-finalist for the 2014 Grammy Foundation’s Music Editor of the Year. He’s been teaching music theory at the college level for years and truly knows his stuff.

The course itself is, therefore, his entire music theory curriculum presented in 17 separate parts. The first part covers the absolute basics of reading music, such as note names, clefs, and dynamics. Later classes cover harmonization, composition, and every music student’s favorite topic … modulation. It’s difficult to come up with a topic a pianist would need to know that’s not covered somewhere in this course.

When Allen says comprehensive, he truly means it!

Benefits of Learning Music Theory

I’m going to throw a bit of honesty your way right now. Despite studying music theory in college for 2 years, I’m embarrassed to admit that relatively little has stuck with me.

And although it’s true that as a nurse practitioner, I don’t often have to harmonize melodies or compose SATB pieces, I love music and want to expand my horizons. For quite some time now, I’ve had this nagging feeling that memorization would be simpler if I had a more solid grasp on the subject.

After reading Brain Rules and completing Kim’s class, my suspicions are confirmed. A better understanding of music theory will help me form more secure patterns and enhance my recall, thus streamlining memorization.

And according to Ian over at Thrive Piano, learning theory strengthens sight reading skills, accuracy, and improvisation. I don’t think anyone can argue with those benefits!

Why You Need This Class

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I strongly believe in mastering music theory as a way to boost your piano skills. And this class is the perfect answer to your question of how to learn music theory because it’s divided into sections. You have the freedom to pick and choose which sections would most benefit you and skip the rest.

Allen has even created a variety of projects throughout the course to strengthen your theory skills.

And his interactive style makes the class engaging, so you’ll never worry about your mind wandering off halfway through a video. Videos are typically concise, so you don’t even need a huge daily commitment to start making progress.

And lastly, I’m a huge believer in self-directed courses. Especially when they’re taught by experts in the field and accessible at a reasonable price. It’s truly a win-win!

Why You Need SkillShare for Pianists

Now it’s your turn to dish. What skill have you been longing to improve? Maybe you’d love to learn jazz piano. Or perhaps you’ve been looking for advice on upping your freelance game. Maybe you’re struggling with productivity and time management.

Regardless of what’s lacking in your life at this moment, SkillShare has a potential solution for you!

SkillShare has an incredible range of courses taught by highly qualified instructors, and more are added every day. The site offers the opportunity to advance your knowledge in everything from cooking to photography to drawing. Even if you’ve completely mastered music memorization and theory (no small feat!), there’s something for you.

Whether you’re looking for SkillShare for pianists or something a little different, give it a try! Click the link below to get started.

And if you were intrigued by the books above, check them out on Amazon:

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If you’re looking for more piano inspiration and resources, check out any of the following posts:

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or your piano journey in general. Have you been struggling with something that you just can’t seem to overcome? And what have been your recent triumphs? Drop a comment below with your thoughts!

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5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence

5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”

Carol Dweck

Learning to play the piano can be intimidating. After all, there are thousands of talented pianists showcasing their skills on YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook. Many of them have studied with the best teachers. And they’ve performed on the best pianos on the biggest stages around the world.

Watching these performances can lull you into thinking these pianists were simply born talented. It can seem as if you were not born with the same abilities that they were.

In thinking back to my days studying piano in college, I firmly believed that talent won out. I was convinced that some people are born more talented than others. At that time, I also thought that there was a limit to my improvements. In other words, I completely discounted my abilities to improve through hard work.

All of these beliefs chipped away at my self-confidence and significantly worsened my existing performance anxiety. Instead of watching other pianists with the intent of learning how to improve my skills, I chose to feel intimidated. Ultimately, this led to less practice time and more shaky performances than I’d like to admit.

But deep down, I love the instrument! I knew I’d never be able to walk away from it and began searching for ways to improve my piano playing confidence.

And I’m happy to report that I’ve found an inspirational resource that has revolutionized my thoughts on talent. It’s a book called Mindset written by Carol Dweck, and it’s a must-read for anyone who has ever desired improvement in their life.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as an affiliate of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information.

Mindset

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Carol Dweck

It’s funny that the most significant in my search for piano playing confidence have, for the most part, occurred away from the keyboard. But perhaps this only drives home the point that mindset matters more than I ever imagined it would.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, has spent her career researching mindset. Dweck asserts that ultimately, “the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you live your life.”

She spends the remainder of the book detailing real-life examples of two opposing mindsets. One is the fixed mindset, and the other is the growth mindset.

If these are entirely new terms to you, don’t worry! Before reading the book, they were also foreign to me but are relatively intuitive when you understand the basics. Dweck describes the fixed mindset as “an urgency to prove yourself over and over.” It’s the belief that your intelligence, abilities, and personality are fixed and unable to be altered. I would refer you to the introduction for more on the fixed mindset.

On the other hand, the growth mindset is a belief that you are capable of change. Although the shift often occurs due to effort, hard work ignites a passion for learning. In the growth mindset, “failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means you’re not fulfilling your potential.”

Now that you have a basic understanding of the two mindsets, let’s explore how to improve your piano playing confidence dramatically!

1. Play to Learn

“Becoming is better than being.”

Carol Dweck

Imagine for a moment that you are preparing to give a recital. You’ve been working on the repertoire for months and feel prepared but struggle with performance anxiety. You’re not sure how you’ll get through it without either throwing up or running off stage mid-recital.

Luckily, your teacher is a wise woman who always knows exactly what to say. She tells you to consider each of the following statements carefully and adopt one.

“Everything comes down to this one performance. I can’t miss a single note, or I’ll be found out as the imposter I am. I’ve got to prove my talent for playing because if I screw this up, I lose my right even to call myself a pianist.”

“I’m nervous about performing but am confident in all the work I’ve put in. This is an incredible opportunity to practice the art of performance, and I’m going to learn everything I can. Even if I miss notes or completely screw something up, I will come away with valuable information I wouldn’t otherwise learn.”

Now I ask you, which mindset would you rather adopt going into that recital?

Even if you’re not preparing for a recital, start making your piano practice about learning. Make it about becoming 1% better than you were yesterday, and you’ll quickly see your piano playing confidence go through the roof!

2. Focus on Yourself

We live in the best and the worst of times for improving your piano skills. Best in that we have unprecedented access to music and recordings unlike any in history. Worst in that, all these performances can create a tendency to compare ourselves to others.

And comparison can easily transition to feelings of demotivation and inferiority.

All those videos may cause you to question whether you’re wasting your time. You may feel like you’ll never be as good as insert name here, so what’s the point?

The point is that insert name here has spent thousands of hours practicing to get where they are today. They’ve put in the time and energy required to pull off that Rachmaninoff concerto successfully.

And you can either use your energy to feel down on yourself or to figure out to improve your skills. Stop making comparisons because it’s never fair to yourself.

Instead of comparing, shift your mindset to one of growth. And keep records of your progress so you can look back and realize just how massive your growth has been. There’s nothing that boosts my piano playing confidence quite like a look back at where I’ve been and where I am currently.

Don’t have a microphone yet? Check out this microphone for easy, no fuss recording!

3. Challenge as Opportunity to Skyrocket Your Piano Playing Confidence

“No matter what your current ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”

Carol Dweck

My third mindset secret for improving piano playing confidence goes hand-in-hand with the second. It involves seeing challenge as an opportunity rather than as a roadblock.

Learning to play the piano is fascinating in that there’s always something to improve upon. I would argue that it’s impossible to learn all the repertoire out there. And there will always be nuances that are more difficult than others.

As an example, memorization has always been tricky for me. And I could choose to forget about memorizing as no one is forcing me to do it. But I love the challenge of continuing to learn a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me.

And as a result, I have found that memorizing is now easier than it ever used to be. It’s also become way more fun than I remember it being in my college days! I love taking a piece from sight-reading to memorization because I know how hard I have to work to make it happen.

And it makes the feeling of accomplishment that much sweeter!

I encourage you to start seeing the opportunity in the challenge instead of writing anything off as impossible. If nothing else, I hope you’ll understand the personal enjoyment that comes from doing something you once thought impossible!

4. Identify Your Alter Ego

Even the most positive thinkers among us have an alter ego. This alter ego loves to remind us of our limitations and past failures. It delights in cautioning us from taking chances to avoid embarrassment.

And if you think about it, the negative alter ego often aligns closely with characteristics of a fixed mindset. Although it hides under the guise of protecting you from the unknown, it only serves to hold you back from fantastic new opportunities. Or in the case of the piano, it feeds into the energy of low self-confidence, performance anxiety, and imposter syndrome.

And identifying this negative voice can be tricky!

But in her book, Dweck gives incredibly useful advice for managing these mindsets. She recommends clearly identifying your alter ego, going so far as to name it. By doing so, you can clearly distinguish between the two mindsets and begin to identify triggers for a fixed mindset clearly.

In time, you can start shutting down those negative thoughts before they’ve had a chance to take root. And with a firm grasp on growth mindset, I’m positive you’ll see your piano playing confidence go through the roof!

5. Look for Opportunity to Improve Character and Your Piano Playing Confidence

“Effort is one of those things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you, and you are willing to work for it.”

Carol Dweck

If there’s anything I’ve learned from life thus far, it’s that anything worth having takes effort. And nothing I’ve gotten easily has been of much value.

So it is with piano.

I would be lying if I said that I always feel like practicing. Or that I never get frustrated with various technical aspects of the instrument. But at the end of the day, I know all these challenges are transforming me into a stronger pianist. And a better person.

I hope it’s the same with you. Regardless of whether you’re working through a beginner book or are learning a Chopin etude, don’t give up! Keep at it and look for little ways to stay motivated. Embrace the growth mindset in piano and in life.

And if you’re looking for other ways to improve your piano playing confidence, make sure to check out these posts:

I also highly recommend you check out Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s an easy read and applicable to both piano and life!

As always, I would love to hear from you! Where are you struggling in your piano journey? Or do you have any secrets to overcoming piano-related barriers? Do you relate to the concepts of fixed and growth mindset?

Please drop a comment below so I can address your questions and challenges here on Only Getting Better! And until next time, stay safe, healthy, and never stop seeking the best version of yourself!