The #1 Piano Practice App to Skyrocket Your Success!

The #1 Piano Practice App to Skyrocket Your Success!

Are you looking for ways to improve your piano practice sessions but aren’t sure how? Do you want to make the most of your time in front of the keyboard? Does the whole concept of practice secretly mystify you a bit, but you don’t want to admit it to anyone?

I completely understand because I’ve been there before too. Despite having studied piano since the age of 7 and obtaining a baccalaureate degree in music, practice baffled me.

And maybe it’s the analytical side of my brain trying to control the creative side. After all, I have a doctorate in nursing (emphasis on science) and a passion for playing piano and writing (focus on creativity). My life, therefore, often feels like a constant battle between the scientific and the innovative.

Still, I consistently had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t practicing the “right” way. This feeling stemmed from the fact that my performances were hit or miss. There were times when I performed brilliantly but others when I questioned whether I was sight-reading in front of an audience rather than performing a piece I had practiced a billion times before.

The seeming unpredictability of my playing inspired a deep dive into the art of practice. And although the concept of effective and intuitive piano practice is a puzzle I’m still piecing together, I’ve discovered a mind-blowing piano practice app that changed everything for me.

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

The #1 Piano Practice App

My desire for a better way led me on an exhaustive search for reputable resources on effective practice techniques. Eventually, I discovered podcasts. More specifically, I stumbled upon an interview with Marc Gelfo.

Although I don’t remember the specific podcast, I do remember Marc, a French horn player, discussing his passion for the art of practicing. He also talked openly about his challenges with practice. These challenges led Marc on a journey of discovery. And eventually, the development of an app to help other musicians improve their practice techniques.

The app is called ‘Modacity,’ and after hearing how it came about, I was intrigued. I was so fascinated by Modacity that I decided to try it for myself.

It’s been over two years, and I continue to use the app on an almost daily basis. And thanks to Modacity, I’ve overcome several key practice challenges which previously held me back. Such challenges include what to do when motivation fails and establishing better practice habits, active listening during practice sessions, and being more intentional when practicing.

Read on for all the juicy details and an exclusive offer from Modacity, hands down the best piano practice app out there!

Motivation

If there’s anything that being a working mom of 3 has taught me, it’s that sometimes putting the “I should” in front of “I want” is all too easy. I’m not saying this is entirely a negative quality. After all, our kids need our love, attention, and their physical needs to grow and thrive.

But there comes a point at which self-sacrifice becomes a narrative that carries you off into a sea of obligation and resentment.

And becoming a mom did not diminish my passion for the piano or the desire to improve my pianistic skills. Yet shuffling aside my desire for quiet practice time was starting to become all too routine.

Although I love practice time, my tendency to prioritize it behind other activities (including Netflix bingeing) proves passion isn’t enough. And neither is motivation because it fails to inspire regular practice sessions.

I needed something else entirely to up my practice game. Something that would help me overcome my tendency to put everything else first.

My desire to establish a more regular practice routine eventually led me to a deep dive into habits. And I ultimately discovered four essential books which answered my questions about why motivation isn’t the key to consistency. And, most importantly, how to achieve consistency in whatever it is you’re trying to do.

From Motivation to Habits

The four highly thought-provoking books that revamped my thoughts on motivation include Indistractable by Nir Eyal, Do Less by Kate Northrup, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

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Although each author addresses habits from a slightly different angle, my main takeaway was how individualized habit formation could be. And for me, tracking is critical.

Tracking wasn’t an entirely new concept to me. An avid runner, I’ve consistently tracked both my time and distance, finding satisfaction in making comparisons between days, weeks, months, and even years.

Being able to input my time and distance to increase my overall mileage encourages me to get out of bed in the morning. It makes those early morning workouts entirely worth it!

And so, when I discovered that Modacity tracks statistics, including the number of consecutive days and hours, as well as the number of improvements made thus far, I was ecstatic! Tracking offers the perfect incentive to sit down at the keyboard even when my kitchen is a disaster or I have five baskets of laundry to fold.

The small endorphin rush I get from ticking those stats upward is enough to overcome the excuses I constantly conjure up about why I shouldn’t practice. Even if I only have 5 minutes to practice, it feels worth adding to my total practice tally.

If you also struggle with motivation, I highly recommend checking out the tracking feature on this app!

Plan Your Practice

How many times have you sat down to practice with zero plan for how you will spend your time? You then find yourself aimlessly playing repertoire you’ve already mastered or sight-reading whatever random music is near your piano.

Or maybe you don’t have the opportunity to practice until late in the day when you’ve already made 15,362 decisions, and your brain is tired of critical thinking. And by this point, you can’t bring yourself to organize a productive piano practice session thoughtfully.

Both scenarios have the potential to send you to frustration and burnout over a lack of progress. This is especially true if you are at a stage in life when you’re working without a teacher.

Although I am a strong advocate for working one-on-one with a teacher, there are simply times when it’s not feasible. Life gets busy! Between work, family life, and all the other demands of daily living, finding time to focus on improving at the keyboard is challenging.

But having a limit on your time is the exact reason that practice needs to have focus. But having a limit on your time is the exact reason that practice needs to have focus—the type of focus that guarantees improvement and piano success.

Fortunately, Modacity has a solution.

If you’re looking for a piano teacher, check out this list of teachers currently accepting students.

Organize Your Repertoire with a Piano Practice App

This piano practice app can save the titles of each piece you’re currently practicing. Each piece also has its own screen, complete with a readily accessible metronome.

I love this feature because I never have to remember the speed I practiced during my previous session.

You can also organize playlists for yourself which contain everything you need to work on at any given time. I will often set up a practice playlist for myself in the morning when my brain is fresh, and I’m at my best. Modacity also allows you to set timers on each piece within your playlist.

Setting timers is a great feature because I sometimes tend to dwell too long on one area and then run out of time for anything else. The act of setting a timer forces a limit and promotes efficiency. And as a recovering perfectionist, it also encourages me to be “good enough” rather than “perfect” before moving on.

I love organizing playlists and setting time limits on each piece before my practice session because it ensures more effective practice at the moment. It’s a feature that has helped me approach practice from a completely new and holistic perspective.

If you are struggling to make intentional progress or feel that practice is more of an afterthought right now, change it up! Try Modacity today!

Listen and Improve

This next feature may seem fairly obvious, but I was thrilled about its inclusion! As a pianist, one of your main goals is to transform black and white notes on a page into an auditory experience that is technically accurate and emotionally moving.

And as a fellow pianist, I’m confident you will agree when I say this goal is often much easier said than done!

But even as difficult as pulling off a Rachmaninoff concerto can be, a compelling performance is our goal. With that said, how often do you take the time to determine whether you’re meeting this goal?

Even if you regularly take lessons from an outstanding teacher, it’s essential to develop the ability to listen to yourself critically. After all, you are the one who listens to you the most. And wouldn’t it be incredible to provide feedback to yourself between lessons?

Looking for another unique way to up your piano game? Check out this post!

Self-Analysis Made Simple with a Piano Practice App

Luckily, Modacity tracks more than simple practice stats. This piano practice app also has a convenient recording feature that allows you to hit record at any time during your practice session.

You may be asking yourself whether the extra effort of hitting the record button and listening to the playback is worth it. Doesn’t listening while playing serve the same purpose?

The answer to that question is a resounding no.

And Gerald Klickstein, author of The Musician’s Way, has the best explanation I’ve heard yet about why simultaneous playing and self-analysis of the playing are impossible. His answer has to do with music existing in time rather than space. In other words, once you play something, it’s gone forever. After you’ve finished playing, only your memory of what you played exists.

Memory is often incredibly fickle, influenced by both emotion and the perception of your performance. Furthermore, the areas of the brain used to make and analyze music are different.

As an example, and according to the University of Central Florida, the cerebellum is the area of the brain used to coordinate movement, while Wernicke’s area assists in musical analysis. And although it’s possible to use multiple regions of your brain simultaneously, it’s challenging to focus on more than one thing at a time.

It’s almost like adding 368 and 863 in your head while spelling Claude Debussy aloud. It simply doesn’t work.

Recording: The Easiest Solution

Despite the tendency to convince ourselves otherwise, the example above proves multitasking is a myth. Therefore, the simplest way to determine whether you’re meeting your practice goals is to record yourself. And then play it back to decide whether you’re hitting the mark.

Luckily, Modacity makes recording a breeze! During every practice session, you have the ever-present option to hit “record.” After doing so, listen back and determine whether you met your mark. If so, saving the recording is as easy as hitting a button and naming the file. If the recording didn’t meet your standard, you could just as effortlessly delete and record again.

And you have the option of recording as few as one note or as many as an entire sonata. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever the length of your recording, taking the time to listen AND make improvements are both crucial elements in your development as a pianist.

Be Intentional

Although recording in and of itself is of incredible value, Modacity even takes it a step further. This piano practice app allows you to select a specific area to make improvements. And by doing so, it forces you to focus on the ONE thing you most want to improve upon at this moment.

The app first gives you the option of selecting a pre-filled area such as rhythm, tone, enjoyment, or filling one in yourself. You then have the opportunity to give it a try while recording. The app automatically plays it back and then asks whether whatever you tried worked. If the targeted practice improved your playing, you can either try it again or move on to a different area.

And if the targeted practice did not improve your playing, you can either try again or move to a different tactic.

Methodical Practice by Using a Piano Practice App

This particular feature has been one of the most valuable to me in creating more intention around practice. Before the app, I did SO MUCH mindless repetition. Deep inside, I knew that repetition does not result in improvement. But I had never found a better way. I had never forced myself to be intentional with my practice time.

My practice had always felt somewhat haphazard. As if there wasn’t enough time in the day to practice everything I wanted to practice. I also felt as if I had no idea how to make progress in my playing in the first place.

Therefore, the combination of overwhelm and uncertainty resulted in a tendency toward mindlessly repeating my pieces instead of approaching practice with a sense of mindful intention.

But Modacity taught me the importance of systematic practice. It helped me understand how focusing on ONE thing at a time creates faster progress than trying to make a bunch of changes all at once. And it gave me ideas about where to focus during practice.

Modacity has been the blueprint for the positive changes I’ve longed to build into my piano practice sessions.

It’s Your Turn

Modacity has been a staple in my practice life for over two years now, and I owe my piano progress over that time to this miraculous app.

I believe so strongly in the transformative power of Modacity that I sought out an affiliate partnership and am ecstatic to be able to offer an incredible discount to you! By clicking this link, you will have exclusive access to a lifetime Modacity license for $25 off the regular price.

If you’ve also been struggling with various aspects of piano practice, it’s time to embrace a change. It’s time to consider a piano practice app that intuitively fosters better habits. And better practice habits mean faster progress, more satisfaction from your playing, and an even deeper love for the instrument.

Don’t wait! Take advantage of this incredible offer and start transforming your piano practice today!

And as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post! Make sure you drop a comment below about how this piano practice app revolutionizes your playing!

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice

“Music has healing power. It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a few hours.”

Elton John

Music is a gift, as is the ability to create music yourself. And maybe your goal is to deliver a flawless performance to a packed audience. Or perhaps you’re happiest in your living room, content to play only for yourself.

Whatever your piano goals, practice is the difference between achieving success and remaining stagnant. And unfortunately, practice tends to be one of those activities which gets a bad rap.

This is especially true for anyone who has taken piano lessons from a young age. Many parents and piano teachers mistakenly believe forcing kids to practice is the secret to musical success.

Unfortunately, forcing kids to practice often ends in fighting and resentment. Even worse, kids begin to associate the piano with negativity and eventually give it up entirely.

And even if you didn’t take lessons as a child, you may be somewhat mystified when it comes to practice. What is the best way to practice? Does it only mean countless repetitions? Are there secrets to making piano practice more effective and exciting?

These are the exact questions I found myself asking. My piano journey started at the age of 7 and led me toward a baccalaureate degree in music. To this day, I continue to be fascinated by the topic of piano practice.

And I’m constantly searching for the best piano practice techniques. If you’re also looking for ways to upgrade your piano practice, read on!

This post may contain affiliate links, and as a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Preparation

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin

Mindful, inspiring piano practice starts with preparation away from the piano.

Select the Ideal Time

Start by deciding when you will practice. Try to pick a time when you’re at your best, physically and emotionally. As a busy working mom, I realize this is NOT always possible. Just try your best. Then commit to this time by blocking it off in your planner.

It’s also ideal if you select a time with few distractions. Again, my experience as a mom who works full-time contradicts this ideal. My practice sessions are typically peppered with requests to fix toys, wipe tushies, and the occasional work call.

Between being forced to practice when I’m fatigued and the perpetual interruptions, tailoring my expectations has been a necessary part of the journey.

And honestly, the lack of progress due to factors outside my control is frustrating sometimes.

But I’ve learned to be reasonable and give myself grace. I’ve also started planning by taking a few minutes to clarify my practice session. Planning sessions involve setting goals for what I will accomplish today, tomorrow, and throughout the week.

Check out this post for my #1 piano practice app and an exclusive discount!

Upgrade your Piano Practice by Setting Goals

Start by listing all the different pieces you’re aspiring to learn. Then brainstorm every little thing that needs improvement in each piece. Now is the time to unleash your love for the details! Nothing is too small to write down.

Is the fingering in measure 34 awkward? Or are you having trouble nailing the trill at the end of that Chopin Nocturne? Do you forget to breathe when you play and, therefore, tense up? Maybe you’d love to work on memorization but have never taken the time before.

List each area where you are seeking improvements.

Once you have it all down on paper, it’s time to figure out a schedule. Consider your time constraints. Remember to be realistic about your time and ability to accomplish goals in a single session. Being practical is especially important if your time constraints are similar to mine! It always feels better to cross everything off a small list than to leave things unfinished on a larger one.

Although time is a crucial factor in the preparation phase, there’s another equally important factor at play; a factor that can also make or break your practice sessions’ effectiveness.

It’s All About Balance

You will find that some piano practice goals are more straightforward to accomplish than others. For example, memorization may require more brainpower than correcting the fingering in a trill.

Therefore, it’s essential to organize your goals by time and consider difficulty. How challenging is each one? And how can you arrange them to maximize your practice time?

Consider tackling one larger goal per day and throwing in one or two smaller ones to balance your session out. Or you could save the more complex tasks for days when you have fewer distractions.

To truly upgrade your piano practice, stack the more challenging task(s) at the beginning of your session, after your warm-up. Organizing your routine this way ensures you’re at your best and can effectively process the practice.

It can also be helpful to do several short practice sessions during the day instead of one long one. Personal experience has taught me that my brain grasps information better in shorter sessions than in longer marathons.

Block off time each week to prepare for the upcoming week’s practice sessions. By taking time to prepare and set goals, you will soon see your piano playing improve dramatically!

Warm-Up

Another often overlooked way to upgrade your piano practice is to warm up at your session’s start.

I know what you’re thinking. Your practice time is limited as it is. Why spend extra time on anything that isn’t a specific goal?

And the answer is that the warm-up is the ideal way to get your mind in the right space. It’s the perfect opportunity to set your intention for practicing.

Warming up also gives your muscles time to adjust to the upcoming session. Whether it’s a Chopin etude, Rachmaninoff prelude, or your favorite pop song, playing the piano requires a certain degree of physical dexterity. It’s the combination between brain and body that ultimately produces a particular sound.

Therefore both the brain and body must be prepared for the session to succeed.

And there are so many distinct ways to effectively warm-up. One of my favorites is to simultaneously play and sing whatever strikes me as fun or appealing at the time. I have found that accompanying myself kicks things off in an entertaining way and makes my entire practice session more enjoyable.

Keep It Fun!

As someone who adores classical piano, I recognize that sometimes, I take myself and my playing way too seriously. On those days when I’m either dreading practice or simply not feeling it, I like to make sure the warm-up is fun! Oddly enough, one of the ways I do this is by singing.

Although you won’t see me headlining Broadway any time soon, I dearly love a catchy show tune. And I’m a sucker for anything by Matchbox Twenty. I especially love accompanying myself because it stretches my brain and keeps practice entertaining.

It brings back the simple joy of creating music my way.

On other days, I warm up by playing scales or various exercises to work on technique. You may also consider pulling concepts out of the pieces you’re working on to use as a warm-up.

The possibilities are endless, so see where your creativity leads!

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out some of my favorites.

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Upgrade Your Piano Practice Through Memorization

Before studying piano in college, I admittedly had done very little memorization. It was somewhat of a foreign concept. And it was incredibly intimidating at first.

It wasn’t until after college that I became genuinely interested in memorization. Don’t get me wrong. I did plenty of memorizing in college but never truly embraced it.

After college, I took a job in a completely different field that I didn’t particularly care for, and playing the piano became my escape. Ironically, although I no longer had access to the college practice room grand pianos, I was more motivated to practice than I had ever been.

At that point in my life, memorization became more of a game and less of a graduation requirement. It’s interesting how much more appealing something becomes when no one is forcing you to do it.

And I suddenly realized how memorizing a piece of music could make the piece a part of you in a way that reading from a score can’t. Musical expression, phrasing, and dynamics suddenly come alive as all your focus goes toward playing instead of the sheet music.

Although memorization takes practice in and of itself, it’s absolutely worth it! And in my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to instantly upgrade your piano practice!

Memorization Tips and Tricks

Whether you aspire to perform a Rachmaninoff concerto someday or whether you want to impress your friends, memorization is a tool that can close the gap between dream and reality.

And although it may seem difficult at first, there are a few tips to make the process a bit smoother. The first is to start with songs well below your playing capability. Memorization is a tricky skill to learn when you’re also struggling with technique and artistry. And if it’s a piece you can sight-read correctly (or nearly so) at first glance, even better!

The second trick I use is to memorize one measure at a time. And there are many times when I don’t even start at the beginning of the piece. Sometimes it’s beneficial to start either at the very end of the piece itself or the beginning of a particular section of the piece.

If you always memorize only from the beginning of the piece and you have a memory lapse (which is, by the way, completely normal!), it can be difficult to start again mid-piece. But if you are constantly working to build your memory starting at various places throughout the piece, picking up anywhere will be easier.

The third tip for those new to memorizing music is to keep your memorization sessions very short. I’m talking about a maximum of 5 minutes. Learning new skills, especially memorization, requires a great deal of focus. If your sessions are too long, your brain can quickly become overwhelmed, and memory lapses can take over, stalling progress and leading to frustration.

If you would like to start incorporating memorization into your practice sessions, make sure you check out this post.

It’s Your Turn to Upgrade Your Piano Practice

Whether you’ve now resolved to prepare for practice sessions in advance or to starting memorizing your music, I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to upgrade your piano practice! As someone who has played the instrument for upwards of 20 years, I can assure you that your desire to practice will ebb and flow at times.

It’s normal to go through periods in your life when you’re so motivated to practice that it’s difficult to peel yourself away from the keyboard. And it’s just as normal to have others when you couldn’t feel less compelled to sit down at the bench.

It’s easy to show up when your motivation is high, and you feel like practicing. But continuing to show up, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing, is the mark of a true musician.

Motivation comes and goes, but you can also instantly upgrade your piano practice by creating foolproof systems to get you closer to your goals. For more on setting goals and creating habits, check out this post dedicated to the topic. I guarantee you won’t look at either goals or habits the same way again!

Although there are seasons in life when you may learn piano independently, there are others when getting instruction from a teacher is key to continued improvement. If you’re currently searching for a teacher, make sure you visit my resource page for online teachers with current openings in their studios. This list includes a diverse range of teachers with diverse backgrounds and specialties, but all have a passion for teaching and helping students accomplish their goals.

And if you’re searching for a complimentary program for your classical piano training, don’t miss out on the ProPractice course created by Dr. Josh Wright. It’s absolutely the best and most thorough instruction on a wide variety of pieces from the classical piano repertoire. If you’ve never heard of the course, click here to read about my experience and the reasons why you’re missing out by not investing in this incredible resource.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Drop a comment below with your thoughts on this post. Where are you on your piano journey? What are the best ways you’ve found to upgrade your piano practice? And what are your struggles with learning piano, either independently or with a teacher?

Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and never stop learning!

7 Simple Tips for Adults Who Want to Learn Piano

7 Simple Tips for Adults Who Want to Learn Piano

Deep down, you have a secret desire to learn piano. Maybe you even took lessons as a kid but had an awful learning experience. You had one of those “old school” teachers who rapped you across the fingers with a ruler after every wrong note. Although you have always loved the instrument, a prodigy you were not, and the consistently negative feedback chipped away at your self-esteem. Perhaps your teacher even chain-smoked during your lesson.

And not only did you struggle with your teacher, but your parents were constantly harping on you to practice. Unfortunately, practicing turned into a chore instead of a delightful pastime, and eventually, you gave up the instrument entirely.

Or maybe you played saxophone in the school band, but it’s been years since you’ve picked it up. You’re now looking for an entirely new challenge and love the versatility playing piano provides.

Whatever your reasons for considering the instrument, congratulations! Learning to play the piano is one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences out there.

And there are incredible benefits to learning as an adult versus a child. One of the most compelling is that you have a choice in the entire process. You get to decide the musical genre, what you do with your newfound skills, and even how you want to learn piano.

As an adult, you’re entirely in control of the entire learning process.

Whether you’re just starting or are picking the instrument back up after a hiatus, these seven tips will inspire and motivate you to chase your piano goals! Let’s get started.

This post may contain affiliate links and as an Amazon Affiliate, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1. Learn Piano by Finding a Teacher

As with many life skills, learning piano requires expert guidance. Depending upon your learning style, goals, and previous experience, this guidance will likely come from a teacher.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to come from one-on-one lessons. It could come from an online program, virtual lessons, an app, or even a combination of sources. The learning possibilities are endless!

For example, you could take lessons (either in person or virtually) and sign up for either a membership site or even access specific course material depending upon your playing goals. Alternately, you could sign up for a membership and supplement your learning with an app.

There are so many great learning combinations!

And the field of piano pedagogy (the art and science of teaching piano) has changed infinitely over the years. The chain-smoking, knuckle-rapping days of demanding perfection from students are gone. In its place is a genuine desire to instill a love of music in students. If you still don’t believe me, check out this list of incredible piano teachers currently accepting new students!

And speaking of finding a piano teacher, gone are the days of limiting yourself to teachers within driving distance. Technology allows you to study with virtually anyone in the world without even leaving the comfort of your home. It’s an incredible perk that makes it easier than ever to learn piano!

2. Embrace the Beginner’s Mindset

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s, there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess there’s at least one topic in which you’re an expert. Maybe you even consider yourself an expert in multiple topic areas.

And once you’ve become an expert, starting something new can feel intimidating. Being a beginner can be especially difficult if you’re someone who is even the tiniest bit of a perfectionist. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with being an expert. You’ve mastered a particular area and maybe even enjoy guiding others on their journey toward mastery.

But there’s also something magical that happens when you’re a beginner. As a beginner, you’re free to ask questions and make mistakes. Your mind is open to all possibilities, and you feel limitless.

It’s fascinating that you often put more limits on yourself as you become more experienced in something. Limitations that hold you back from your full potential.

Starting something new, such as learning piano, can inspire you to open your mind. And an open mind is always a beautiful quality!

3. Learn Piano by Practicing Daily

I’m sure you’ve heard that tired old saying about practice making perfect. To some extent, I do agree that it’s true. You’ll never get better at anything unless you put in the time.

I used to define practice as mindless repetition. And I used to think that if I could somehow repeat something over and over, it would magically perfect itself. I felt that if I repeated something enough times, the kinks would work themselves out. But nothing can be further from the truth.

Actual improvement at the keyboard requires your brain to engage in what you’re doing. Practice is an art form unto itself.

But it’s not something to be dreaded and despised. Practice is an opportunity to fall in love with the instrument. It’s a time to let your creativity shine! Find ways to make practice entertaining, whether by playing music you love or experimenting with something new.

I also used to think that the amount of time I spent on practice made a difference. Over time, this has again proven to be a myth. I practice less now than I did in my college days and feel like my playing has made more remarkable strides than it ever did back then.

My thoughts on practice have shifted over the years, and now I have two daily goals. The first is to play something every day. Even if I only have two minutes, I play something. The other is to relish the time I spend playing. Especially if you are a busy adult with work, kids, and a million daily obligations, make your goals simple and your practice enjoyable.

Make sure to check out this post for my secret practice weapon and an exclusive offer!

4. Listen to Great Pianists

When you learn piano, take advantage of the resources all around. YouTube, for example, has a plethora of free resources. Finding performances from all the great pianists is only a click away.

Research great performers in your chosen genre and listen to their recordings. What sets their performances apart from others? And can you identify anything specific that draws you to their performance versus other pianists? Most importantly, how can you mirror those qualities you love in your performances?

Although I love the piano in all its forms, classical is hands down my favorite genre. And over the years, I have started compiling my list of pianists I aspire to emulate.

These pianists inspire me to reach new heights in my playing and keep going, even when things get tough. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out any of the following pianists:

5. Take Advantage of Performance Opportunities

Music is all about musical expression, and learning how to convey emotions to others effectively is all part of the charm!

Whether you aspire to play on a massive stage in front of thousands of raving fans or simply want to serenade your dog on a Sunday afternoon, performance is an essential part of learning piano.

And depending upon how you decide to learn the instrument, performance opportunities are everywhere. If you are taking one-on-one lessons with a teacher, you automatically have the chance to perform regularly for your teacher. Many teachers do host regular recitals, which allow you an opportunity to perform live for an audience. Recitals are a fun opportunity to connect with other students and celebrate your learning milestones!

Many teachers also encourage students to take piano exams as it provides a guided way to learn piano. Exams typically consist of learning a piece to perform for judges and a written music theory component.

There are also supportive Facebook groups for piano enthusiasts, including Pianists and Piano Lovers, The Art of Playing the Piano, and Piano Performance Anxiety Practice Room. Each group has various opportunities for you to post piano videos to gain performance experience and obtain feedback from the group.

Churches also offer the opportunity to gain performance experience in a low-pressure setting. Whether that experience is as the keyboardist in the praise band or as the pre-service music, performance opportunities abound.

6. Join a Community

In your quest to learn piano, don’t go it alone. Pursuing a hobby is always more fun with other people! And thanks to Facebook, you can find groups for basically any imaginable hobby.

If your interest is specifically classical piano, make sure you check out the ProPractice course. The course itself was created by Dr. Josh Wright and includes video tutorials of a diverse range of the classical repertoire. From Bach to Beethoven to Chopin to Rachmaninoff, Dr. Wright covers the most popular pieces that most pianists want to learn at some point.

The ProPractice course also includes various technique videos and general tips on playing. It’s a fantastic resource for pianists of all levels and abilities! And not only does the course have resources that pair well with one-on-one lessons, but it also comes with access to an exclusive Facebook community. This community consists of pianists passionate about the piano and helping others on their piano journeys.

If classical piano is your goal, make sure you check out the ProPractice course here and take advantage of all the incredible benefits from the course. You can also read about my personal experience with the course here.

7. Learn Piano by Starting Today

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Zig Ziglar

Perhaps one of the most crucial tips for adults who want to learn piano is to start today. Life is crazy busy! But it can be all too easy to get so wrapped up in your daily to-do list that you forget to truly live.

You forget to include those small things in your life which light you up inside and inspire you to new heights. And the piano is one of the best ways to challenge yourself while finding inner peace simultaneously. It’s a fantastic way to connect with your emotions while learning a completely different skillset. And it’s a skill set applicable in various other areas of life, including at work and home.

Whether you’re brand new to the instrument or whether you did learn piano at some previous point in your life, now is the time to start. And if you’re looking for an online teacher, don’t forget to check out this list of piano teachers accepting new students.

If you’re looking for an online arsenal of classical playing resources, make sure you consider Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course. Finding similar resources from a pianist of his caliber is utterly impossible, and thanks to his course, my playing has improved significantly. Investing in the course is the next best thing to taking private lessons from Dr. Wright himself. 

It’s Your Turn

I genuinely hope this post has inspired you to learn piano! Although my piano journey has had its ups and downs, I am incredibly thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained. The piano is that one thing that gets me through the tough times and makes the good times that much sweeter.

There are so many valuable lessons to be learned from the instrument that I highly encourage everyone to give it a try. And if it’s not for you, that’s ok, but at least you gave it a try. It’s always better to have tried and figured out it’s not a fit rather than live your entire life wondering what could have been.

Leave a comment below with your thoughts after reading this post. Were you inspired to learn piano? Or are you currently learning piano and looking for a specific resource? And what are your favorite piano resources? Who are your favorite pianists?

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

Until next time, stay healthy, stay safe, and keep chasing your dreams!

How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

How to Achieve Flow State and Live a Happier Life

“Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

When was the last time you completely lost yourself in a project? I’m not talking about the stressful loss of self which happens when you’re up against an impossible deadline. (College flashbacks, anyone???)

I’m talking about losing yourself while doing something for the sake of the activity itself. Something that you enjoy doing so much that you completely lose track of time.

It’s almost as if you get sucked into an alternate world where all your stress and anxiety is suddenly swept away. And regardless of the activity, you quickly find that not only are your skills challenged to their utmost but that you actually enjoy the challenge because it’s so deeply meaningful to you.

Although there are several names for it such as being “in the zone,” what I’m describing is called “flow state” and the term itself was coined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

And Csikszentmihalyi first became intrigued with the concept after noticing how deeply absorbed artists became in their work. Decades later, the benefits of achieving a flow state are still at the forefront of positive psychology. The concepts central to flow are also key to a diverse range of fields.

Curious to learn more? Let’s dive into exactly what flow state is!

This post may contain affiliate links and as a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What does being in flow state feel like?

In most cases, flow state occurs with some type of creative endeavor. It could be writing, painting, music, or even sports. Anything which completely absorbs your focus and challenges your abilities can trigger flow state.

I have personally been in a flow state while doing a number of different activities including piano practice, dressage, and writing. Proof that flow state truly can occur during a WIDE range of activities!

If you can relate to being multi-passionate, make sure you check out Why Having Multiple Interests is Your Greatest Strength.

In his TED talk (which you absolutely need to check out!), Csikszentmihalyi lists 7 different elements which describe how it feels to be in flow state.

  1. You become completely focused on the activity.
  2. A sense of ecstasy takes over and the reality of everyday life fades away.
  3. Inner clarity presents itself and you know exactly what needs to be done, when, and in what order.
  4. Your self-confidence dramatically increases because you know your skills are up to the task.
  5. Inner serenity replaces worry as your ego becomes less and less important.
  6. Time flies as flow state takes over.
  7. Pursuing the activity becomes the reward and you require no external motivation.

I don’t know about you but inner clarity, serenity, and self-confidence are all areas I’m constantly working to foster. And combining those areas with something I’m already passionate about?

What could possibly be better???

4 Stages of Flow

Although Csikszentmihalyi is considered the pioneer of flow state research, there have been others who have advanced his work. One such researcher is Steven Kotler, a journalist, author, and executive director of an entire research initiative dedicated to the topic.

Kotler is credited with coming up with the 4 stages of flow.

  1. The struggle phase involves overloading your brain with research, new skills, and any information related to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Hint: this phase often feels like the exact opposite of flow state.
  2. The relaxation phase is an incredibly important one in which the subconscious takes over problem solving. Doing something physical such as taking a walk is most effective way to shift from conscious to subconscious thinking. Skipping this step can result in burnout.
  3. Flow state and inspiration finally take over and you experience the 7 elements listed above.
  4. The final stage is consolidation and it involves transforming the experience to your subconscious. This stage, however, comes with a downside. Remember those feel good neurochemicals released during flow? During this stage, they leave. In an attempt to regain the flow state, a tendency for self-sabotage can often result.

A solid understanding of the 4 stages can not only help you understand flow state on a deeper level but also guide your experience by allowing you to gauge where you are at any given time.

It’s also crucial to remember how important relaxation is to achieving flow state. As is the reality that it does have to end at some point. Constantly pushing yourself to achieve flow can have a dark side and will lead to eventual burnout (or worse). But if you have a solid understanding of the process, you can take faith in knowing that all 4 stages are important to the overall experience and its benefits.

The Benefits of Flow State

“Contrary to what we usually believe … the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times – although such experiences can also be enjoyable. If we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

There are simply so many incredible benefits to incorporating flow state into your life. Your self-confidence climbs to new heights and your ability to enjoy your life on a much deeper level increases by incorporating activities which spark your passion.

Tapping into flow also improves your concentration and not only makes you more efficient but ultimately allows you to produce at a higher level than you would otherwise.

I personally LOVE activities which require all my brain power because it leaves me feeling as if I have reached my fullest potential. I’ve also found that my sleep quality improves dramatically because of the energy it took to attain flow and the peace it brings.

You may also find that your inner critic suddenly disappears because you focus so deeply on the activity that you have no brain power left for criticism. Instead of criticizing, you’re caught up in the moment of whatever it is you’re doing.

And ultimately, your happiness improves because of all the positive energy in your life.

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

How do I achieve flow state?

Whether you already have familiarity with exactly what being in flow state feels like or have only just been introduced to the concept, let’s move on to the big question you’re probably asking yourself. “How do I put myself into this state so I can not only improve my productivity but also my overall happiness?”

Although there are several different ways to promote flow state, it requires a foundation of 3 elements. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are a huge range of activities which can inspire flow state. But not every activity lends itself well to those 3 elements.

The following 3 questions address each of the required elements. If the answer is “yes” to all of the below, you can move forward with confidence that the activity will indeed inspire flow!

  1. Does the activity have clear goals and a definitive way to gauge progress?
  2. Am I able to get some type of clear and immediate feedback about my performance?
  3. Is there a balance between my perception of how challenging this activity is and my perception of my own skills?

How do I know whether an activity is capable of triggering flow state?

As an example for how to evaluate an activity, let’s consider piano practice.

Piano practice checks the box for #1 above because there are so many different ways to gauge progress. Whether it’s learning the first few measures of a piece or finally memorizing an entire Beethoven sonata, clear and concrete goals are everywhere.

You can also check off #2 because there are several different ways to get immediate feedback on your performance. The first, and most accurate, is to record your practice session. This method allows you to completely focus on your practice in the moment and reserves critique for afterwards.

Pssst! Check out my recommendation for the easiest to use and hands-down best microphone out there!

The second method to get feedback is by taking lessons from someone. This is an incredibly valuable form of feedback because it’s objective and critiquing yourself will always have a bit of the subjective to it.

Looking for a piano teacher? Check out this post for How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You. And if you’re ready to jump in, find a list of online piano teacher accepting new students here.

The third is by listening to your playing in the moment. This method is somewhat more difficult because multitasking on playing and critiquing makes both slightly less effective. But it is, nonetheless, a way to receive immediate feedback.

Box #3 is also easily checked off because there is an incredibly diverse range of repertoire out there. Whether you are just beginning to play or have played for years, you can find something right at your level. And you can also continually challenge yourself by choosing tougher and tougher repertoire.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the benefits, stages, and the basics on achieving the flow state, let’s move on to how you can better incorporate it into your life!

Find the Balance

In his TED talk, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is very clear about the balance between challenge and skill level. To achieve flow state, challenge and skill levels must be high.

In other words, if there is a mismatch between challenge and skill, flow state is unattainable.

As an example, when a task is highly challenging and your skill level is low, you will feel anxious and worried. But when the challenge and your skill level are both low, you are likely to feel apathetic.

Neither are particularly desirable states.

You therefore must focus on finding the balance between challenge and your individual skill level.

Pay Attention to Your Internal Clock

The reality is that we all have times of the day when we are at our creative best. Everyone has a slightly different clock but typically, everyone functions better when all physical needs have been met. This means adequate sleep, hydration, and regular exercise.

Taking care of your physical needs translates into more favorable mental and emotional states. Pay attention to when you feel most positive and are able to focus on a deeper level.

You probably don’t have to think too hard to figure out what this time of day is for you. For me personally, my most productive time is always in the morning. I have found that as the day drags on, my creative and emotional energy drains essentially to zero by evening.

Achieving flow state when your energy is drained is significantly more difficult than when you are in the zone. It’s usually much easier to give in to distraction and your brain has a more difficult time thinking creatively.

Eliminate Distractions

It is ironic that I write this post amidst my 3 kids and husband, all vying for my attention. This is not particularly conducive to achieving flow due to the continual interruptions. Although I can’t always change the situation, I have learned to adapt.

I do this by listening to the same Pandora channel every time I sit down to write. Doing this signals my brain that it’s time to focus on the task at hand.

I have also found that in order to achieve flow state, it’s essential that the music is strictly instrumental rather than anything with sung lyrics. And as I am a classical pianist, the music has to be orchestral and no solo piano otherwise my mind wanders to analysis of the piece and pianist performance.

The music must set the stage for creativity rather than become the star performer of the play. You may find that listening to solo piano is right up your alley. Or maybe pop gets you into flow state more easily than any other genre.

Find what works best for you and do you!

Set a Goal

Ideally this should be a small and very actionable goal. When you sit down to work, it should be something that you’re very clear on. Such a goal might be something like “write the introduction of my blog post” instead of “work on content.”

Setting a small, clear goal enables you to focus on the task at hand instead of peripheral tasks which may focus your attention elsewhere.

Look for the goals which truly move the needle forward in whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish.

And remember that focusing on the journey itself rather than the destination is always key to establishing the type of habits which result in huge breakthroughs and ultimately, goal attainment.

Final Thoughts

Whatever it is that lights you up inside, I truly hope you have found insight to not only take it to the next level but to improve your overall happiness.

If the concept of flow is intriguing, make sure you check out Csikszentmihalyi’s book.

Or the writings of Steven Kotler.

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And if you’re interested in a musician’s perspective, don’t miss out on this one.

Until next time, I hope you pursue your passions and truly live a life you love!

Top Piano Practice Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Top Piano Practice Myths You Need to Stop Believing

You’ve thought about learning to play the piano but something is stopping you. Maybe it’s time. Or your age. Maybe you don’t feel “musically talented.”

Or maybe you would love to learn piano but have no idea where to even start.

Perhaps you have enrolled your child in lessons only to discover the challenges inherent to maintaining a practice regimen. And you’re now questioning whether their lack of practice makes lessons even worth it at this point.

I get it.

As someone who has played piano for as long as I can remember, I’ve also heard my fair share of myths surrounding the instrument. And there are a shocking number of piano practice myths out there!

Rest assured that at least part of what may be holding you (or your child) back from learning the instrument is likely a myth.

But you don’t have to let a series of lies hold you back from the joy of playing any longer. Let’s dive deeper into the top piano practice myths you need to stop believing!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Kids and Piano Practice

Parents … this one’s for you! How many times have you signed your kid up for an activity only to be dismayed by the amount of fighting created by said activity?

Maybe it’s having to attend soccer practice instead of a friend’s birthday party. Or maybe your daughter would rather watch “The Babysitter’s Club” than go to her Girl Scouts meeting.

Signing your kids up for activities is all fun and games until the accountability hits. Believe me … with 3 kids, I’ve been there a time or two!

The Downside of Piano Lessons

And signing them up for piano lessons is no different. Many piano teachers out there have strict policies regarding weekly practice. I’ve even heard of teachers kicking students out for not practicing.

Or parents simply removing their kids from lessons over the guilt of not maintaining a practice schedule.

But can we take a step back for a minute and think about why we enrolled our kids in lessons in the first place? Was it so they could be the next great concert pianist? Or was it simply so they could learn about music and have fun?

Kids have way too much on their plates these days. The pressure to perform is everywhere and I hate the thought that kids are removed from what could be a lifetime of joyful music making simply because they didn’t practice per someone else’s guidelines.

If your child is naturally motivated to practice on a regular basis, great! You won the piano parent lottery! But if not, let them discover aspects of the instrument which are fun for them. If they love watching piano YouTube videos, great! Or if they love to improv instead of practice their lesson materials, awesome!

Stop forcing piano practice. Instead, encourage anything even remotely related to the instrument and you will foster a lifelong love for music. And honestly, isn’t that the whole point?

Lastly, make sure you find a piano teacher who supports the main goal as being fun and enjoyment rather than strict practice schedules and the pressure to perform.

If you need help locating a piano teacher, make sure you check out my recent post on how to find the right piano teacher for you!

Learning Piano Means Hours of Daily Practice

And speaking of piano practice myths … let’s dive into the one about daily practice requirements.

When I tell people that I practice piano every single day, the response is often, “Wow! How do you find the time? I’d love to play but have absolutely zero time in my day.”

And the truth is, I make time. I prioritize practice on a daily basis and refuse to let anything interfere with that time.

But I also don’t spend hours upon hours of playing on a daily basis. My practice sessions are often 20 minutes or less. And even those 20 minutes are frequently interrupted by kids screaming, work calls, and just the general chaos of everyday life.

Sometimes those practice sessions don’t even involve putting my fingers to the keys. When life gets too busy, they may consist of watching instructional videos (yes, on YouTube) or performances of pieces I’m currently studying.

Although there are days when I’m able to devote more time to practice, I’ve actually found that my memory retention is better when I practice for shorter time periods.

And so I continue to carve out those small chunks of time in my day to become a better pianist. If you’re curious to hear the end result of all those small practice sessions, check out my performance of one of my favorite pieces of all time … Elegie in E-flat Minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Elegie in E-flat Minor, Sergei Rachmaninoff

Piano Practice Myths About Your Age

I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that they would love to learn piano but never learned when they were young. My response to this one?

It’s NEVER too late!

There are actually so many advantages to learning the instrument as an adult. Not least of which is that you get to decide WHY you want to learn to play and have the flexibility to determine HOW you learn.

No one is forcing you to learn a style or genre you hate. And there’s no guilting you into recitals or exams you’re completely disinterested in taking.

You are in control.

Another major benefit of learning piano as an adult is your attention span. Children have such short attention spans and keeping them focused is a perpetual challenge. As an adult, however, your ability to focus on something for longer periods of time is completely developed and when combined with motivation, you are an unstoppable force!

You also get to choose whether your practice instrument is a keyboard, a spinet, or even a baby grand. Your learning is all in your hands.

How incredible is that?

If you’re curious about even more benefits of learning to play piano as an adult, make sure to check out this post.

All Music Must be Memorized

In the world of classical piano, memorization is historically mandatory for performances. Watch any great pianist on YouTube and it’s very likely that they are playing an incredibly difficult piece without a shred of music in front of them.

And they’re pulling it off without so much as a wrong note anywhere.

Talk about intimidating!

This is one of the piano practice myths nearest and dearest to my heart because for years, I struggled with memorization. Although I started piano as a child, I never memorized ANYTHING until I began my college studies and suddenly realized memorization was mandatory.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to learn how to memorize at that level of playing! And I can’t say that I mastered the art of memorization until after college when I started memorizing for my own enjoyment.

The key phrase here is “for my own enjoyment.” Music is, at its core, something created for enjoyment. If playing from memory brings you joy, do it. But if the thought of memorizing a piece brings fear and apprehension, what’s the point?

Play for the fun of it and if that means playing from a book, so be it!

You Don’t Need a Teacher to Learn Piano

One of the most rampant piano practice myths out there involves the ability to learn piano all by yourself. There are an incredible number of apps, websites, and YouTube videos devoted to the topic of teaching yourself piano.

And I don’t necessarily disagree.

There are so many aspects of the instrument including music theory, improv, and composition which can be picked up by watching videos and reading blogs.

But there are other aspects, such as technique, which truly require the expertise and insight from a knowledgeable teacher. You simply can’t replace the 1:1 feedback you get from lessons with an experienced teacher.

And thanks to technology, there are an incredible number of teacher who offer online lessons. Teachers with a variety of performance and educational backgrounds.

The online world gives you access to teachers you would never otherwise have the ability to study with. It truly is an incredible time in history study piano!

And if you’re looking for an online teacher, check out my Resource page which lists incredibly talented piano teachers currently accepting new students.

You Must Have a Teacher to Learn Piano

I know what you’re thinking … “Didn’t you just say I needed a teacher to learn piano?”

Kind of.

Depending upon your goals, having a piano teacher is essential. This is especially true if you’re interested in pursuing higher level study of the instrument.

But if your goal is to learn a few pop chords as a party trick, apps and videos may be your best bet.

And if you have already have a solid background in the instrument but are wanting to get back into it again or simply brush up your skills, you may also benefit from an app or website.

My personal favorite online course is run by Dr. Josh Wright, an internationally acclaimed pianist. I absolutely love classical piano and his course is hands down the best for classical players. It delves into all the intricacies of technique and interpretation of some of the most beloved piano repertoire.

I personally have learned so much from the course that I became an affiliate because I felt other pianists needed to hear about it as well! If you’re interested in checking the course out for yourself, click here.

Piano Requires Perfection

“Use the talents you possess. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

Henry van Dyke

Spend any time at all trolling YouTube and you will come across a litany of flawless performances of some of the most difficult piano repertoire out there. Musical perfection at its finest.

Sometimes I think people get the impression that to play piano, you MUST play everything perfectly, all the time. And that if you’re not at least a little on the perfectionism side, piano isn’t the instrument for you.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s so much that learning how to play the instrument gives you in return, even if you can’t play anything perfectly. I personally feel that as long as you inject emotion into your playing, wrong notes don’t matter.

There’s also something to be said about making each performance of a piece (whether in front of other people or your dog!) unique. Making something unique comes from a range of different factors, including wrong notes.

And as long as playing is meaningful to you, who cares what anyone else thinks?

The world could ALWAYS use a little more beauty, in whatever form it comes so play on!

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, make sure to check out this post on how to overcome perfectionism.

It’s Your Turn to Talk About Piano Practice Myths

I truly hope you have found this post both inspirational and informative in dispelling some of the biggest piano practice myths out there. And hopefully dispelling the myths has provided that little kick of motivation you need to go after your piano playing dreams!

If you’re looking for even more resources, check out the following posts:

How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

How to Learn Piano as an Adult

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Are You Ready to Improve Your Piano Playing?

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

And if you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, check it out for yourself here.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! Did I miss one of the piano practice myths currently holding you back? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think!

Now get out there and start making some music!

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Pianists

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Pianists

The holidays are right around the corner and you’re racking your brain for that special piano-loving person in your life. I completely understand that shopping for someone with an interest perhaps not shared by yourself is challenging. No worries … I’ve got your back! Whether it’s your piano teacher, accompanist, spouse, or maybe a little something for yourself, this ultimate holiday gift guide for pianists has something for everyone!

Let’s get started!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Novelty Gift Guide for Pianists

No ultimate holiday gift guide for pianists would be complete without a few novelty gifts! These items make great stocking stuffers and are a thoughtful way to let someone know that you recognize their passion for the art.

A New Phone Case

And what better way to show your passion for something than through your phone? These eye-catching phone cases are guaranteed to bring joy and a little reminder throughout the day that something wonderful is always waiting at the keyboard!

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Kitchen Gadgets

Whether entertaining or enjoying a simple meal at home, these next few items combine the culinary with the musical. Bring your love for music into the kitchen with one of these fun and useful gifts!

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Mugs

And of course no ultimate gift guide for pianists would be complete without a few novelty mugs! Because what pianist wouldn’t want a hot cup of coffee or tea out of one of these witty mugs???

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Jewelry

Maybe you or your pianist would love a new piece of piano-inspired jewelry! Jewelry is one of those classic gifts which is useful, beautiful, and can be treasured for years to come.

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Ties, Keepsakes, and More!

Sometimes you need that little gift which keeps on giving. Whether it’s inspirational artwork or a warm, cozy nap on a cold, snowy day, one of these options is guaranteed to bring a smile to someone’s face. Bring the smile with one of these fun novelty items!

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For the Ultimate DIY Enthusiast

If your piano enthusiast also geeks out over Legos or is a DIY-er, this next gift idea is perfect! Lego has now come out with a grand piano set which is actually playable when fully assembled.

In true Lego form, they have accurately replicated many aspects of a real grand piano including a lid which can be propped up and authentic hammer action along with moving dampers. When fully assembled, this set is as close to a grand piano as Legos can possibly get.

Although skeptical about this set at first, I believe the labor involved in assembling its over 3,000 pieces will actually make it even more endearing. This belief stems from reading an article about Ikea furniture. Apparently people who put together their own furniture end up loving it even more than furniture which was already assembled for them.

I think it boils down to the fact that when you put more effort into something, you cherish it even more. When you think about it, it’s a very similar phenomenon to the pride one takes in learning an instrument in the first place.

All in all, a pretty perfect gift, isn’t it?

Gifts for the Accompanist

Accompanists are busy people! Whether it’s solo & ensemble season, the holidays, or college jury week, there’s never a shortage of events needing accompanists.

And I’ve never met an accompanist who doesn’t have a ton of books to constantly tote back and forth. Help them tote those books in style with one of these musically themed bags!

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I’ve also never met an accompanist who couldn’t use a little jolt of caffeine to get moving in the morning! Or maybe it’s just me?! Either way, send your accompanist off to a magnificent day with one of these beautifully designed travel mugs!

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Accompanists are perpetually adjusting to their environment. They’re basically at the mercy of whatever instrument and stage is available at the time. Whether it’s poor lighting or that book which just won’t stay open, gift one of these useful tools and make their job just a tiny bit easier.

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Come to think of it, maybe a spa day would be the perfect gift for your accompanist? This is a must if you’ve just finished a recital which consists of completely atonal 20th century music. Gift this and hopefully they will pick up their phone the next time you call for a gig!

For the Serious Pianist

This next section is for the piano teacher or serious pianist in your life. Believe me, we can be a tough crowd to shop for! But with this ultimate gift guide for pianists, you’re sure to find that perfectly unique gift!

Click here for the 5 Tools to Take Your Piano Playing to the Next Level!

Give the Gift of Piano Maintenance

Although pianists have a sincere passion for their instruments, sometimes we’re not great about keeping up with maintenance on our instruments. Pianos should be tuned on a regular basis and ideally this should be done by someone certified by the Piano Technicians Guild.

The guild is an organization dedicated to educating and ensuring piano technicians meet rigorous testing standards before working on your piano. This means they have the knowledge and experience to provide expert care and maintenance of the instrument. There’s no one more qualified to assist with a wide range of piano issues and I highly recommend you entrust your instrument to a Registered Piano Technician!

Consider gifting a tuning or even a humidity control system for that special pianist in your life. Click here for a list of piano technicians in your area as well as other useful resources from the Piano Technicians Guild.

Books to Inspire and Motivate

What does every serious pianist love to do when away from the keyboard? Read about pianos and piano-related topics, obviously! Here is a selection of book ideas to get your gift wheels spinning in the right direction!

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Gift Lessons with a Coveted Teacher

Is your pianist friend constantly talking about that hugely famous pianist they’d absolutely love to study with? Consider gifting them a lesson or two with this person. Thanks to the magic of technology today, studying with people who once seemed unattainable is now more realistic than ever!

Many piano teachers have now moved to online lessons and advancing one’s piano skills is now easier than ever! The extra bonus is that your pianist will get to play their own instrument. As any pianist can tell you, adjusting to a teacher’s instrument often presents challenges of its own. Playing one’s own instrument during a lesson is therefore an extra treat that any pianist will adore!

Give the Ability to Record

I’ve gotten so much great advice over the years about how to improve my piano playing. But the best advice I’ve ever gotten was during college from my piano teacher.

She told me that in order to improve, I needed to record myself often. That way, I could pick up on ways to improve my playing independently. I could also track my improvements with any given piece.

In those days, recording involved buying a voice recorder because any other type of equipment was simply too big and bulky to carry around.

But thanks to technology today, doing professional recording yourself is as easy as buying a USB microphone to plug into your laptop. It seriously couldn’t get any easier!

And this microphone is hands down the absolute best there is out there! It’s incredibly easy and the sound quality is phenomenal. Whether you’re looking for yourself or for someone else, this is the microphone to get!

The Gift of Online Resources

Maybe your pianist has been struggling to learn that one piece which is just outside their grasp. Or maybe they’re looking for practice insight, technique help, and a supportive online community. If so, this next one is golden.

Dr. Josh Wright is an internationally acclaimed classical pianist who has put together a treasure trove of online resources. With a variety of videos and courses, his resources are absolutely unparalleled and insanely helpful to anyone with the slightest interest in classical piano.

After joining his ProPractice course, my playing improved so dramatically that I became an affiliate to share my experiences with others. Investing in this course has improved my playing more than anything else I’ve done thus far. I highly recommend it for anyone who is a self-directed learner and is looking for course credibility. Check it out here.

Give From the Heart

Whatever you decide to gift this season, I’m sure that special pianist in your life will love it simply because it comes from you! This has been a year like none other but it has certainly been memorable. Despite the challenges, my wish for you this season is that you treasure the small moments.

Live, laugh, and love more deeply than ever before. Cherish those you love and take in all the magic of the season. You deserve it!

As always, drop a comment below letting me know your thoughts on this post. Did I miss anything? Or do you have additional recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Learn Piano as an Adult

How to Learn Piano as an Adult

Every time you hear a piano, the thought crosses your mind. “I would love to play but learn piano as an adult … is that even possible? And if so, how?”

Adulthood comes with its fair share of perks. But right alongside these perks lies a heap of responsibility.

Between your job, chasing after your kids, and the energy spent keeping your marriage alive, life can feel very overwhelming. It can take a serious toll on your motivation and your energy.

Any non-essential items get pushed to the back burner, forgotten and left for another day.

But as humans, we crave creativity. We need an outlet to express ourselves beyond the mundane tasks inherent to adulthood. Creativity ignites a spark deep inside which makes life worth living. It gives us something to strive for and look forward to.

In short, creativity adds value to our lives.

This post may contain affiliate links and as a member of the Amazon associates program, we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Overcoming Mental Blocks

I think everyone can agree that creating something, whether it’s music, art, or writing, feels marvelous! The satisfaction of having used your talents to complete an entirely new and unique project is like none other!

But have you ever noticed that learning new skills seems infinitely harder as an adult?

Kids are fearless. They see possibility everywhere they look. And they want to try everything!

Somewhere along the line, many people lose that infinite possibility attitude. Sadly, it’s often due to a false story we create in our minds stemming from a tiny incident years ago.

Maybe it was a comment from your teacher about how you’re better off focusing on math rather than art. Or your dad’s remark that your sister has more musical talent than you. Perhaps your well-meaning aunt told you that a career in writing is a path to poverty.

Whatever the incident, you immediately created a story in your mind which to this day has you believing you can’t. Your creative spirit was crushed that day. And although your logical side continues to play the story on repeat, there’s a little piece of you deep down who believes in your own success and is begging to be released!

Stop believing the lies! Listen closely to what that tiny voice is telling you. Chart your own course and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks! They’re all too busy focusing on their own stories to pay attention to yours anyway.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to stop the comparison trap.

The Adult Learner Advantage

Although it may seem as if not learning piano as a child puts you at a disadvantage, nothing could be further from the truth! In many cases, if you decide to learn piano as an adult, you are actually at several distinct advantages.

The first is that you are making the conscious choice to learn piano as an adult. You are the one who decides how you want to learn, which instrument to get, and whether you will involve a teacher and to what extent. If you love jazz, you’re free to focus solely on this genre and forget about classical. You are the one dictating your own learning process.

The second is that having spent years of learning a wide variety of topics, you are now an expert on how you learn best. Maybe you love group settings and learn best surrounded by others. Or perhaps you do better in self-directed, independent study courses. Whatever your learning style, you have the ability to choose a format tailored to meet your needs. No one is forcing you to sit in lessons week after week with a teacher who is completely out of sync with your learning style.

And the third advantage when you learn piano as an adult is that both your body and brain are fully developed. Your fingers can physically reach in a multitude of hand positions. You don’t need books under your feet to facilitate better body posture at the keyboard. And your attention span allows better concentration for longer stretches of time. Learning can therefore occur more efficiently than it could have earlier in your life.

But if I haven’t quite convinced you on the advantages of learning as an adult, check out an earlier post I wrote covering this topic.

Learn Piano as an Adult with this Secret Method

You’ve thoughtfully weighed out the pros and cons of whether to learn piano as an adult and decided to go for it. First of all … good for you! Learning to play piano brings hours of satisfaction and enjoyment unlike any of the other creative arts.

But now what? How do you go about getting started?

Lucky for you, today’s technological advances offer you a multitude of choices. Between online lessons, apps, and courses, you can find the genre and learning opportunity which best fits your needs.

Although there are many great courses out there which offer amazing results, I do have a personal favorite. This particular course is led by a world-renowned pianist who has spent years studying with some of the top pianists in the world. Despite his outstanding talent and advanced degrees in music, he has a way of presenting information in a way which is both encouraging and informative.

His down-to-earth, friendly teaching style makes learning piano approachable whether you are a beginner or are simply looking to expand your repertoire. Although I do fall into the latter category, I have worked through a significant number of his beginner videos and feel it is possible to learn the instrument from the very beginning with this course.

Several months after purchasing the course, I continued to believe so strongly in its value and ability to fit into the adult piano learner life that I actually became an affiliate for the course.

My Why

Whether you are an absolute beginner or began playing as a child but stopped at some point, studying the piano has so much to offer! My own history with the instrument started at the age of 7 when I began lessons with the teacher in my town. I continued to play throughout high school but never took playing as seriously as I should have.

After high school, I decided to pursue music in college and eventually graduated with a fine arts degree. My college years were plagued with debilitating performance anxiety and self-doubt. Needless to say, both interfered with practicing and with my progression as a pianist.

There was a period of time when I even considered pursuing a masters in music. Ultimately, self-doubt won out and I convinced myself it wasn’t the “practical” thing to do. My career path therefore took a completely different turn.

Despite my own struggles with devoting a career to music, I continued to love the piano! And I kept playing sporadically after college but found juggling work and family life with developing my pianistic skills challenging.

My background is in classical piano and although I appreciate all genres, this is the one I love the most! Classical can be a challenging genre as it requires clear progression of technique to continue advancing. And technique was an area I felt lacking in my playing.

In response to my perceived deficits, I found a couple of college professors willing to give me a few lessons. One lived in a town over an hour away so for each lesson, I needed to carve a minimum of 3 hours out of my weekly schedule.

The other lived in my town but was incredibly busy and it was difficult to find time which worked for us both, especially as my career advanced.

I desperately wanted to continue making progress but without regular guidance from someone more advanced than myself, felt stuck.

Learn Piano as an Adult on Your Terms

And then one day I was listening to a podcast. It was an interview with a pianist who not only was traveling the globe performing some of the most difficult piano repertoire ever written but who had also created an online community of learners. A community of people who were, like me, searching for help in their own piano journeys.

The interview was incredibly uplifting and helpful so I began following his YouTube channel.

I continued to be impressed with the depth of his knowledge on a wide variety of topics ranging from practice efficiency to performance anxiety to technique and began to see improvements in my own playing.

After a few months, I decided that if I was getting this much value from his free YouTube resources, how much more value would I get from his paid course?

And so, I took the leap. I joined the Lifetime Access to ProPractice course and haven’t looked back since!

The Lifetime Access option enables you to watch every past and future video he puts out in the ProPractice series at your own pace. With this option, you can watch videos ranging in difficulty from beginner through advanced. You can also choose to watch videos on specific pieces within the piano repertoire.

It truly is piano learning on your terms!

#1 Benefit of this Online Course

You’re busy. Chances are, you’re juggling work, family, and a host of other obligations. Sneaking time out of your schedule to take up a new hobby may not be high on your priority list. I get it.

But every time you tell that little creative self “no,” it shrinks just a bit more. And the regret of not trying grows just a bit bigger.

The major benefit of this course for those who want to learn piano as an adult is its flexibility. In the traditional piano lesson model, you meet with an instructor on a regular basis. Many instructors require lesson fees up front and penalize for missing lessons.

It’s a smart feature to have from the perspective of the instructor because they’re making a living doing what they love. For them, a missed lesson is missed income. I completely understand the rationale.

But as a busy adult, it’s unrealistic to think that you will never have to cancel a lesson at the last minute. Kids get sick. Work gets busy. And our priorities need to shift sometimes. There will be seasons when it’s simply not possible to devote as much time and energy into your passions.

And that’s ok! Investing in this course gives you the flexibility to decide when and how much time you are able to devote to your piano learning journey on any given day.

You’re not forced to take a lengthy hiatus from your learning when life gets busy. You can instead decide to scale back on your own learning time. No one but you is impacted. You have the control over your own learning.

A Word About the Traditional Piano Learning Model

In no way am I suggesting that an online course replaces the value inherent to learning under the watchful guidance of an instructor. There are multiple advantages to receiving expert feedback from someone knowledgeable in piano performance.

But I am saying that learning this way is not always feasible for busy adults. If your goal is to learn piano as an adult, then there may be times when your end goal requires adjustment in how you get there.

In an ideal world, guidance from an instructor would supplement what you learn in the ProPractice course. But if you are forced to choose between the two, the course is definitely a feasible option to maintain your busy life.

And if you are at the point where you’re already fitting regular lessons in your life, consider investing in specific videos to supplement your learning. There are a variety of purchasing options based upon both level of difficulty and specific repertoire. Lifetime Access to ProPractice is an investment and it’s smart to try it out on a smaller scale to ensure it will meet your specific learning needs prior to fully investing.

If you decide to go the route of a piano teacher, make sure to check out this list of online teachers accepting new students. Each of the teachers on the list has an incredibly unique background and perspective and at the end of the day, it’s tough to beat 1:1 instruction!

It’s Your Turn

I hope this post has inspired you to continue your piano journey! Whether you are an absolute beginner or have played in the past, now is as good of a time as any to get back into it!

The ProPractice course is an amazing resource for a wide range of people who want to learn piano as an adult. And if you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Josh Wright, here are a few of my favorite videos:

Advice for adult piano learners.

This video is all about how to reduce tension in your playing.

Tips on how to allocate your practice time.

You can access the ProPractice Course and explore other video options here. Until next time, play your heart out and forget about what anyone else thinks of your playing. The only opinion that matters in terms of your own creativity is yours!

And if you’re looking for extra practice help, make sure you check out this post with my secret practice weapon and an exclusive offer!

“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

Henry van Dyke

Are You Ready to Improve Your Piano Playing?

Are You Ready to Improve Your Piano Playing?

When was the last time you played something really well? So well that you not only nailed the fingerings and dynamics but were also able to bring a level of artistic emotional expression unlike any previous performances? Maybe the more important question is what are you doing to improve your piano playing?

My favorite feeling in the world is learning the technical elements of a piece to the point where I’m free to artistically express myself through the music. As with many things in life, learning to play the piano well is a little bit of art and a little bit of science.

And a whole lot of practice!

I’m constantly looking for tips and tricks on becoming a better pianist. Whether it’s technique, tools in the practice room, or even total body wellness advice, every little bit helps. After all, we didn’t start playing the piano to stay stuck where we’re at. No one wants to keep playing the same piece over and over and over.

We started playing so we could improve our skills and play tougher and tougher pieces. Regardless of the level you’re at, these tips will improve your piano playing!

Disclosure: Please keep in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. I link to these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours. Please read my disclosures for more information.

1. Improve Your Piano Playing by Practicing Consistently

This one almost speaks for itself but there is no improvement if there is no practice. It’s easy to say but sometimes tough to put into practice.

After high school, I pursued a fine arts degree studying piano in college. Although I had played piano since the age of 7, I had never developed solid practice habits.

Once I entered college, I was expected to learn a certain number of pieces each semester. And I struggled because of my terrible practice habits as the only consistency was the inconsistency.

There were weeks when I would practice on a daily basis. On other weeks, I would go several days without practicing at all. And then became extremely disappointed when I had a lesson full of wrong notes and expressionless playing. I slowly became convinced that I was simply not talented enough.

But the truth is that effort trumps talent every time.

The key is figuring out how to incorporate the required effort into your daily routine. Not an easy feat when you’re a busy adult with a multitude of reponsibilities and obligations!

Despite being married, working full-time, and having 3 kids, my practice is now more consistent than ever. It’s somewhat ironic that my practice consistency improves at a point in my life when I have the least time to play piano.

Do you want to know my secret?

A few years ago, I discovered an app. This app was designed by musicians for musicians to maximize practice sessions. It tracks your practice sessions and has a built in metronome and timer. The feature which has been most useful in improving my consistency however is the daily tracker. It keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve practiced and seeing another day added after each daily session is incredibly motivating!

My current practice streak is 270 days without missing a session. And let me just say that on those days when I don’t feel like practicing, the thought of starting the streak all over again is worse than putting in even a few minutes at the keyboard.

This app also has another useful feature relevant to the next tip to improve your piano playing.

You may also enjoy reading this post about maximizing your piano practice.

2. Improve Your Piano Playing with Goals

Back in the day, I had no idea what I should be doing when I practiced. I was under the false assumption that if I repeated something enough times, it would spontaneously improve.

Wrong!

Mindless repetition is the fastest way to wrong notes, technical errors, and shaky (at best!) memorization.

Mindful, goal-oriented practice is essential if your goal is to improve your piano playing!

This is an area I continue to work on because I spent so many years mindlessly repeating without analyzing what I was playing. I still find myself falling back into the old trap of sitting down to practice without any type of plan for what I’m going to work on.

And in many cases, those are the practice sessions when I feel the least inspired. Those are the sessions I look back on as wasted time because how can you make progress if you have no idea what you’re working toward?

You need a plan for each and every practice session!

And this is where the app comes back in.

This magical app allows you to enter goals and then rate your progress toward achieving them. It then keeps track of all your goals and tallies them as you go along. On those days when you’re lacking motivation, you can look back at all you’ve accomplished and move forward with renewed energy!

The app even has suggestions for areas to work on in case you’re at a loss for where to even start with setting goals.

This app is phenomenal and I can’t recommend it more highly when you are trying to improve your piano playing!

Check it out here.

3. Improve your Piano Playing with Online Resources

Back in the dark ages of my college years, there were very few online resources to supplement my learning. Or at least none that I found to be both reputable and beneficial.

And so I turned to books for inspiration and guidance on becoming a more well-rounded pianist. I did find several great writings which improved various aspects of my playing.

But books have their limitations. Especially when you are learning a physical skill and are not simply seeking knowledge on a topic. The transfer of information from your brain to your fingers can be tricky, especially when you have no way to observe someone doing what you are attempting.

Although I continued to read various books and do recommend it as one method to improve your piano playing, it has its barriers.

And then one day about a year ago, I was listening to a podcast. It was an interview with Dr. Josh Wright, a renowned pianist who has also obtained a Doctor of Musical Arts degree and is passionate about teaching students of various levels. I learned that he had a YouTube channel dedicated to piano teaching videos so I decided to check it out.

And what I found was exceptionally helpful! His videos address technical challenges, practice strategies, and even performance issues for a wide range of learners.

I began following his channel and immediately recognized transformation in my own playing. Subtle tips and tricks here and there pushed me to greater heights in my own abilities. He even addresses performance anxiety, an area where I have always struggled, in such a unique and interesting way that it’s nearly impossible to not see improvement after watching it. I began to embrace performance as an opportunity to enjoy sharing my passion with others instead of mentally framing it as something to fear.

His videos also encouraged me to take a hard look at my practice habits and routines. He inspired me to continue learning and improving!

You may also enjoy reading this post about the benefits of learning piano as an adult.

4. Improve your Piano Playing with Expert Guidance

Prior to stumbling upon Dr. Wright’s work, I had been somewhat at a loss as to how to further my piano skills as an adult. Classical piano has always been my passion however many of these pieces are technically demanding and require some degree of guidance.

I now look back at my weekly piano lessons in college with my instructor who had obtained a DMA with regret as I definitely did not make the most of them. Looking back, there is so much more I would love to have conquered in those days. Back in the days when I had all the time in the world. Today I’m lucky if I can squeeze a quick 20 minutes of practice in, much less find the time to attend lessons!

Over the past few years, I have taken lessons occasionally from faculty at local colleges. One faculty member teaches an hour away and to study with him requires an approximate 3 hour time commitment including drive time. And if I want time to warm-up prior to the lesson, it requires even more of a time commitment. It’s simply not always feasible to carve out that kind of time from my weekly schedule.

Yes, studying with a teacher is absolutely ideal for so many reasons. It’s tough to beat one-on-one feedback when you are trying to improve your piano playing.

A teacher can also inspire and motivate you to make more progress than you would independently. Not to mention the fact that many of us make more improvements when we have accountability from someone else.

But trying to locate someone with an advanced degree in the field can be challenging. Trying to locate someone with openings is doubly challenging.

And so I began searching for ways to gain knowledge from a piano expert without having to sacrifice gigantic chunks of time to do so. It took a bit of time to figure it out but I finally discovered a way to learn all the tips, tricks, and secrets of the expert pianists at my convenience.

I discovered Dr. Wright’s ProPractice course.

5. Improve your Piano Playing with this Secret Weapon

The ProPractice course solved both my need to gain expert advice and to conserve my time. It gave me a way to pick and choose what I wanted to work on when I wanted to work on it.

The course is designed to take you from beginner through expert via a series of videos. And obviously a lot of practice as you can only get out of it what you put into it!

The videos are divided out by stage (beginner, intermediate, advanced) so you can choose where you’d like to focus your time based upon your current level. I have even found value in watching the beginner videos as there is great emphasis on the fundamentals of playing, aspects which are crucial when playing at the more advanced levels.

Dr. Wright tackles common roadblocks to making progress in your playing at each of the levels and does so with such encouragement that he truly inspires you to keep going.

His clear explanations and down-to-earth conversive style throughout the videos makes his talents as not only an outstanding performer but also gifted educator abundantly clear. Not every “expert” is a competent educator but he is a delightfully unique combination of both.

In my opinion, the ProPractice course is a powerful secret weapon which will greatly improve your piano playing! It is an especially relevant option during a time when social distancing is encouraged.

It’s Your Turn

Whether you are a beginner, have been playing awhile, or have performed the 2nd Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto, I hope you have found something useful in your quest to improve your piano playing. Sometimes all it takes to move forward is a reminder of the basics and where you started in the first place.

And a little encouragement never hurt anyone either!

If it’s practice you’re struggling with, check out the app here. It will revolutionize how you approach your next practice session!

And if you’re ready to dive into some great free online resources, don’t forget to subscribe to Dr. Wright’s YouTube channel.

If you’re curious about the ProPractice course, check out this video he put out during the COVID-19 pandemic where he discusses how to get access to a sample of the course. This course is such an incredible resource to improve your piano playing regardless of your current level so it is definitely worth your time to take a look!

As always, please drop a comment below on what you have found most valuable about this post. Where are you currently struggling to improve your piano playing? What are your current piano goals?

Music Memorization For Pianists

Music Memorization For Pianists

Can we talk shocking revelations for a minute? Despite studying piano from the age of 7, I had never memorized a single piece of music until college. Not “Hot Cross Buns” or “Jolly Old St. Nick.” Not even Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique which I played at state solo and ensemble when I was in high school. No music memorization whatsoever for this gal.

In no way do I blame my beginning piano teacher for missing anything in my early musical education. I have always been very headstrong and I’m sure that I met attempts at encouraging music memorization with resistance. And I honestly did not take lessons seriously when I was younger. I loved to play and learn new music on the instrument! I never gave much thought to truly developing my skills or the incredible benefits that memorization brings to overall pianism. In fact, I had never considered a career in music until I entered college.

Check out this post to learn more about my musical journey.

This post may contain affiliate links, and as a member of the Amazon affiliates program, this means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Sight Reading and Music Memorization

I am also a strong sight reader which often translates to less reliance on memorization. I could simply play the notes written on the page so there was no need to memorize. At the time, I saw no reason to go further in-depth into music memorization than that.

Flash forward to college and suddenly I was expected to memorize my pieces for periodic performances and evaluations every semester. When first confronted with this information, I had absolutely no idea where to even begin this seemingly monumental task. At one point, I vividly remember my professor handing me a sheet of paper with tips for memorization. Although some of the tips made sense, I still found the information disjointed and unclear.

Even after reviewing any information I could find on music memorization, I still had a ton of questions. “But how do I go about transferring the written notes on the page to technically accurate and emotionally compelling performances?” It all seemed so vague. I honestly felt that I would never excel at memorization because in all my 18 years, I had never before done it. Surely it was too late to learn now.

Challenges with Music Memorization

Somehow I pulled myself through my degree, painfully memorizing as required. Despite fulfilling the requirements of the degree, I never fully grasped the bigger picture of memorization. Memorization enables learning a piece to the point where it truly becomes a part of you. In those days, I relied heavily on muscle memory. As discussed below, this is a technique which often fails when in the midst of a high pressure performance situation. At the time, I had no understanding of the different types of memorization. I also had no understanding of how different types of memorization work together to truly solidify memory and strengthen performance. Even though I eventually succeeded at memorization, it remained a task which I despised and I never felt as if I truly mastered it.

After my college graduation, I continued to freelance as a church organist. I also accompanied for everything from high school choirs to singers and instrumentalists competing in solo & ensemble. Accompanying doesn’t require music memorization and as my life became busier, I put it on the back burner.

Benefits of Music Memorization

About a year ago, I decided to once again expand my solo pianistic skills. I absolutely love pieces from the Romantic period, especially composers such as Frederic Chopin and Sergei Rachmaninoff! I therefore focused on these pieces. After all, what’s the point of learning a piece if you’re not absolutely in love with it? Check out this post for a piece that steals my heart every time! As beautiful as I find these pieces, they are incredibly difficult. In most cases, memorization is required to deliver a performance worthy of their distinction.

Once again faced with the prospect of music memorization, I began searching for any information I could find on memorization. My ultimate goal was to facilitate more solid music memorization and therefore better performance.

First things first … let’s talk about different types of memory.

If you are also looking to get back into playing after a break, check out this post for advice on how to do it!

Muscle Memory

Repetition leads to muscle memory. Creating muscle memory requires a great deal of time and many repetitions. Our brains are constantly looking for ways to automate activities in order to use as little energy as possible. Muscle memory is a great example of automation in action and was the type I solely relied upon in college. Unfortunately, this also resulted in my very tenuous grasp on performance.

Automation does allow for increased attention to the other aspects of creating music however there are also drawbacks. This is especially true if this is your sole form of memorization. The biggest is that if anything impedes your muscle memory during a performance, you’re stuck. If you have no other forms of memory, picking up again with only muscle memory is incredibly difficult. It can be nearly impossible to resume where the slip occurred and continue on as if nothing happened. Unfortunately this is also the least secure type of memorization. It is the first type of memorization to vanish under pressure.

Visual Memory

Looking at information creates visual memories. It is this type which allows you to hear a word and form a picture in your mind.

Visual memory is similar to muscle memory in that it is subject to high rates of recall error. This type of memory is also especially prone to errors in the face of contradiction. Imagine you’re playing through a section of a memorized piece. Suddenly, you question whether the melody travels up to the C or C#. Doubt begins to creep in. You then make a note error two entire measures prior to the note in question. Unless you have a photographic memory, it is nearly impossible to use strictly this type of memorization. Despite the drawbacks, visual memory can be a useful type of music memorization in combination with the other types.

Auditory Memory

Auditory memory is similar to the other three types in that it relates to one of our senses. In this case, it is the sense of hearing rather than those of touch or vision.

This type of memory allows you to recall the piece even when you are not actually playing it. Auditory memory also enables you to anticipate your sound prior to even playing a note. Developing this type of memory is an incredibly useful skill beyond its function in memorization. It does, however, require time and a great deal of practice. Having a solid auditory memory of a piece in conjunction with the kinesthetic and visual aspects solidifies your memory. It is also extremely helpful when engaging the next type of memory, analysis.

Analysis

Although music theory is not always the most engaging subject, it provides an excellent foundation for creating memory through analysis. Knowledge of key signatures, harmonic structures, and cadences can all be helpful beyond passing a music theory test. It can help with memory of a piece through enabling you to improvise a section if your memory does falter.

The ability to find your way through a memory slip contributes in a huge way to confidence on stage. Take just a minute to think about the different types of memory we have discussed. Consider approaching a performance guided only by your finger memory of thousands of repetitions. But suddenly, a baby in the audience starts crying. How would you know where to start up again once distraction strikes? The same can be said of memorizing music strictly through vision. With analysis to back you up, you have the confidence of knowing you could improvise through any potential slip-ups!

Let’s Get Started!

Combining various aspects of each of the four types of memorization creates solid memories of the piece. It also facilitates better performances. Below, I outline the process I use to create solid memorization of a piece. If you’re new to music memorization, start with an easy piece below your current playing level. Memorization can be challenging! Take this opportunity to become proficient in memorization by downgrading the difficulty of the piece.

Your first task is to analyze the piece starting with form. Chunk the piece into sections and determine whether any of the sections are repeats. Do key signatures or time signatures vary through the sections? What about tempo? Does the piece remain in the same tempo throughout or does it have contrasting tempos? How should dynamics you shape dynamics? Spend some time analyzing the harmonic structure as this will make memorization easier.

Engage your auditory memory by listening to the piece several times and write down the emotions it evokes. Dig into the history of the piece to determine the deeper meaning behind its composition. Was it composed for someone in particular? Or perhaps to commemorate an occasion? Are there political undercurrents? What was happening in the composer’s life at the time? Consider the historical context in which the piece was composed. All these details can work together to enhance your understanding of the piece. This information later transforms your performance from mediocre to memorable.

Click here for tips on how to improve your piano playing.

Break it Down to Small Sections

Once you’ve analyzed the various aspects of the piece, it’s time to choose where to focus your memorization efforts first. I typically pick out the most challenging part of the piece to focus on first. You may decide to start at the beginning or even the end. The key to memorization is only attempting memorization of small pieces of information at a time. When first starting out and depending upon the difficulty of the piece, this may only be a note or two. Break the entire piece into smaller chunks of between 2-8 measures and work to memorize each individually. Memorization solidifies over a period of time. Attempting to shove too much in your brain in a short time period only results in a jumbled mess.

I simply cannot over-emphasize the importance of attempting to memorize only small sections per day. The other alternative is to work in short time increments repeatedly throughout the day. The most important concept is to allow your brain to rest in between sessions. If you don’t, your hard work will be for nothing. Your brain will simply jam the information into a jumbled mess instead of creating usable memory.

The Temptation to Read vs. Memorize

If you are the pianist who sight reads well, this is where the challenge really begins. I struggle so much with memorization because my tendency is always to read the notes written on the page. Producing the notes on the piano without written notes in front of you requires different thinking. You therefore have to employ different tactics to bring forth a completely new type of thought process.

When I first began memorizing again, I had to put the music I was memorizing away from the piano. It’s otherwise too tempting for me not to look at! This tactic forced me to visually remember the note pattern to play it. It otherwise forces me to get up and look at it. And let’s face it … we all have a slightly lazy side which prefers to continue sitting whenever possible! While looking at the notes you are memorizing, try to hear in your mind how this will sound. When you go back to the instrument, focus in on how the part sounds. Continue to visualize the notes while you play so you can further solidify your memorization.

Life Hacks Useful for Music Memorization

Track your memorization progress by putting check marks behind each measure as your memorize. When you have tough practice sessions, look back at all the progress you have made. This will motivate you to continue making progress!

Never under-estimate the importance of sleep on your brain’s ability to assimilate this information into your working memory. Memorization is an incredibly active process which requires your full attention. It will therefore be infinitely more difficult if you are not well rested.

In line with this is choosing a time of day when you are most alert. As a working mom of three, I can’t always practice during my ideal times. If you also find yourself in this boat, be patient. Lower your expectations about how long this process will take you. You’re juggling so much right now! Does it really matter whether it takes one month or five to memorize that piece you love so much? The only thing that really matters is that you keep making progess in your goals.

And speaking of making progress … I’m always looking for other great resources on the topic of musicianship to propel me forward. I stumbled across this book a few years ago and have taken an incredible amount of knowledge away from it! From practice tips to performance anxiety to musician wellness, there’s a wealth of information to be gained in it!

Memorization is a skill much like learning to play an instrument. The more you do it, the better you become at it. When you do it correctly, the reward is elevation to a level of musicianship not otherwise attainable. It also comes with a sense of pride in that you are accomplishing something which is meaningful and fulfilling.

Now get out there and start memorizing something! Drop a comment below on what you’re working on and whether you have also struggled with memorization. I’d also love to hear whether you have your own tips and tricks on memorizing!