How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

The piano is an incredible instrument with musical versatility unmatched by any other. It can inspire emotions ranging from elation to despair. And when played well, piano music can make you laugh, dance, cry, or simply dream.

And to have the ability to evoke emotions in others through this amazing instrument? It’s a feeling unlike any other.

As someone who has spent the better part of my life mastering the piano, I can say with confidence that learning how to play is freedom. It’s joy, struggle, and personal satisfaction unmatched by few other life pursuits.

Learning to play the piano well is less of a sprint and more the marathon of a lifetime.

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.

Why You Need a Piano Teacher

Whether you’re just starting out on your piano journey or have been playing for a while, finding a piano teacher is crucial. It’s the difference between the overwhelming frustration which comes by studying on your own or learning and growing through the struggle with someone by your side.

Although there may be times when you can manage learning independently, to truly succeed, you need guidance from someone further along in their journey than you. You need the expertise which comes from the right piano teacher.

Learning to play the piano well is a skill which takes time and considerable practice. There are an incredible number of subtleties you must learn to truly master the instrument. From learning how to voice and shape a phrase to executing stylistically appropriate dynamics, there’s so much to take in!

Although several aspects such as music theory and history can be mastered independently, there are many which simply can’t. Technique, for example, is a crucial aspect which can make or break your playing. Correct technique is the difference between effortless playing and serious injury. And learning correct technique requires outside perspective from a teacher.

Having a piano teacher also adds a level of accountability which can be difficult to achieve on your own. Your teacher can tailor lessons to your individual learning goals and fill in gaps which can happen when trying to piece things together yourself.

Even beyond technique and accountability is the fact that your progress will be so much faster with someone guiding your learning.

If you’re serious about learning to play the piano, finding the right piano teacher for you is a must.

You may also enjoy reading ‘5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult.’

Questions to Ask Yourself

“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensures that you do things differently from everyone else.”

Sara Blakely

The right piano teacher is out there for you. But finding this person starts by looking within yourself.

The very first question to ask yourself is why you want to learn to play piano. Is it because you want to impress friends and family with your skills? Are you fascinated by jazz and want to improv over a band someday? Or maybe you’d like to be able to accompany the church choir. Maybe you’d simply like to pass the time doing something both creative and engaging.

Whatever your reason for learning, now is the time to get crystal clear on it. Once you start looking, you’ll quickly realize how many different piano teachers are out there. Seeking clarity on your why now will make your search easier later.

After determining your why, think about the amount of time you’re able to devote both to lessons and to practice. Consistent daily practice, even if it’s only for a few minutes, produces the best results. Now is also the time to figure out whether you’re able to dedicate extra time on a weekly basis for commuting to lessons or whether you’d prefer to conserve your time with online lessons.

Next consider your budget. Just as there are many different types of piano teachers out there, so too are there lessons at all price points. In general, you can expect to pay higher prices for teachers with more educational and performance experiences.

You may also enjoy reading ‘Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing.’

Additional Considerations

Not all piano teachers are exactly the same. Some focus solely on adult beginner and intermediate students. Other teachers prefer working with children. Still others prefer focusing on a specific genre such as classical, jazz, or pop.

Even beyond the individual interests of the teacher is consideration of their background. Did they study music in college? Do they have any advanced degrees in music? And what type of performance experience do they have?

Believe it or not but there are actually groups dedicated to the professional development of music teachers. Having membership in such as group is often an indication that the teacher is serious about what they do and is themselves working towards improvement.

How to Find a Piano Teacher

After you’ve completed self-reflection about your reasons for learning, your time availability, and your budget, it’s time to begin the search for a piano teacher.

One of the best places to start is at your local university. Many college professors also teach lessons on the side and are happy to take on new students. If their studios are full, piano professors are also typically able to give references for other teachers who do have availability.

Interestingly, college students studying music are often themselves great teachers. They are also typically eager to take on new students to gain teaching experience prior to graduation.

Another great place to find a piano teacher is through word of mouth. Try reaching out to others in your community to find the best teachers.

And if you’re looking for an online piano teacher, try posting a question in a relevant Facebook group. There are several aimed towards adult piano learners and they are a convenient way to find teacher candidates and to address general questions about playing.

Yet another great resource is the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), an organization dedicated to supporting music teachers. Teachers can actually become certified to teach through the organization by completing a series of projects which is then reviewed to ensure competency. Not all teachers on the MTNA website have completed certification however the fact that they are members suggests a dedication to the profession of teaching music.

There are also state and local chapters of the national organization and reaching out locally is a great way to find someone in your area.

Evaluating Prospective Teachers

After you’ve located a prospective piano teacher, it’s time to see whether you think they will be a good fit for you and your piano goals. Taking time upfront to determine whether there’s a good fit between you both saves time in the long run. The following are several areas to consider and questions to ask when evaluating piano teachers.

Evaluating Piano Teacher Professionalism

Professionalism is the first area to consider when evaluating a piano teacher. This is a somewhat broad concept which includes how the teacher interacts with students and how they conduct their business. It also includes whether they’ve taken the time to come up with their own teaching philosophy and whether they continue to improve their own playing.

Do they have a studio policy which outlines expectations for their students? Is there a weekly practice requirement? Do they teach from a set curriculum or do they individualize student learning? And do they require students participate in performance opportunities such as recitals or contests?

Do they include policies on billing and what happens if you must miss a lesson? Are there make-up lessons available or do you lose out on the lesson fee if you must cancel?

It’s important to figure out expectations on both sides in the beginning to avoid misunderstanding later on.

Is it possible to watch a lesson with one of their current students? If so, are the interactions between piano teacher and student pleasant? Does there appear to be mutual respect between the two? And how does the teacher handle situations in which the student doesn’t initially understand a concept?

It can be very helpful to interview the student independently as well regarding their experience with the teacher. Do they feel that lessons with the teacher have been valuable? And would they recommend their teacher to others?

A positive review from a student is often a good indicator of solid professionalism on the part of the teacher.

Evaluating Performance Skills

After determining the teacher’s level of professionalism, it’s time to evaluate their performance skills. Learning to play piano is a skill and it will be very difficult to learn from someone who themselves doesn’t play competently. Having the ability to demonstrate during lessons is therefore incredibly important.

Are they actively involved in performing and if so, is it possible to watch a performance? If not, are they willing to demonstrate their pianistic skills? Is their playing inspiring and engaging? Does their playing appear relatively relaxed and expressive? And does their technique seem like the type of technique you would like to have at some point?

It’s worth mentioning that not all fantastic performers are gifted teachers and vice versa. Being able to play and being able to convey the information required to play to someone else are two completely different skillsets. It’s therefore important not to base your decision to study with someone solely on their pianistic skills.

As mentioned above, professionalism also plays a key part in evaluating whether you feel they are a good fit for you and your goals.

Next Steps in Your Piano Journey

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Seneca

Hopefully by taking the time to clarify your piano goals and thoroughly vet potential candidates, you will find a perfectly compatible piano teacher.

Although professionalism and playing ability are important, keep in mind that studying the piano is difficult. Learning any new skill presents a challenge and the piano is no exception.

It’s therefore incredibly important to find a teacher who is also highly encouraging and inspires you to be better. You should leave your lesson feeling motivated and ready to take on new heights in your playing. If you find that you’re constantly feeling defeated and down on yourself after lessons, it may be time to start the search for an alternate teacher.

Never be afraid to look around if it’s simply not working out with a teacher. It’s your piano journey and you want to make sure you have an optimal learning experience. Sometimes personalities clash or expectations are not aligned and that’s ok. You’re always free to move on if you feel it’s just not working out.

Bonus Resource

Although I highly recommend having a piano teacher to guide your learning, it can also be helpful to have supplemental resources. And in my opinion, one of the very best resources out there for pianists interested in learning classical piano is Dr. Josh Wright.

I first learned about Dr. Wright through a podcast for piano teachers and immediately became fascinated with his playing and teaching philosophy. Initially I began following his YouTube channel and found so much value in his free content that I decided to invest in his paid membership course called ProPractice.

This course is hands down one of the very best investments I’ve made in my own improvement as a pianist! It’s an incredibly valuable resource for technical development and the artistic interpretation of many classical piano repertoire pieces ranging from the earliest beginner to advanced. I highly recommend the course to anyone who is serious about advancing their piano skills!

You can check out the course for yourself here. And if you’re interested in hearing Dr. Wright perform, check out this video of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor.

It’s Your Turn

As always, I hope you’ve found value in this post. Learning to play the piano is an incredibly rewarding pursuit and one that I’m so thankful to have started! Let me know where you are on your piano journey below and if you’ve yet to start it, please know that it’s never too late. Today is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself and grow in so many unexpected ways! Cheers to a new year and yet another chance for only getting better!

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Become a Better Pianist with These 5 Simple Tools

Are you trying to become a better pianist but aren’t sure where to start? Maybe you’ve been faithfully playing and practicing for years but feel a bit stuck. Or maybe you’re simply looking for inspiration to keep going.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to become a better pianist, I’ve got something for you! From podcasts to equipment to courses, you are guaranteed to find something unique and helpful on your own piano journey.

Let’s get started!

Click here to read about the benefits of learning piano as an adult.

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.

Track Your Practice

If your goal is to become a better pianist, practice is key! And although this post is full of helpful tools to get you there, nothing can ever replace consistency.

Small actions repeated over and over again add up to big victories.

Victories such as flawlessly playing that piece which once seemed hopelessly out of reach. Successfully sight-reading all types and styles of music. And performing the piece you absolutely adore from memory.

Victory looks a little different for everyone but the common denominator is consistent practice.

Staying consistent has its challenges, especially if you have a busy life. As a mom of 3 who also works full time, I know firsthand how difficult it is to fit everything in. Between homework, housework, and your actual work, life can feel pretty overwhelming. And when you’re a mom, putting your goals and dreams on hold often feels like the path of least resistance.

But is it really easier to simply ignore who you are beyond wife and mom? Is it easier to give up those things which excite you and make life worth living?

Don’t get me wrong. There are times in your life when your focus needs to be on your family. But it doesn’t mean you have to abandon your own goals entirely. It may simply mean you have to shift how you go after those goals.

And if consistent practice is what you’re after, I’ve got the perfect solution for you!

1. The App Designed for Musicians by a Musician

Practicing consistently has been a struggle for me as long as I can remember. I would go through stretches where my practice was extremely consistent however these tended to be few and far between. And my playing suffered for it.

A couple of years ago, I was listening to a podcast and was introduced to one of the most helpful apps I’ve ever come across. An app designed by a musician to assist fellow musicians in not only achieving consistency but in getting the most from each session.

The app is called Modacity and it has tons of features to help you become a better pianist. From a metronome to a tuner to recording features, this app has it all!

It even has the ability to track the amount of time you spend practicing each day, a huge incentive to achieve consistency. Adding even 5 minutes a day to your practice total is extremely motivating. And for me, adding more time is enough to overcome any internal objections I may have to sitting down in front of the keys on any given day.

In fact, my back-to-back daily practice record was a few days over 365 this summer when an emotional incident derailed my efforts. I’m happy to say that my practice consistency has now gotten back on track and I am again going after any time I can get at the keys.

Other than the practice counter, the feature I love most about Modacity is the recording feature. There are many times when I’m practicing that I want to record and critique a section of my playing. Modacity allows me to quickly and easily record without any interruption in my practice session. It then gives me the option of whether to save or delete the recording. A truly useful feature which has definitely helped me become a better pianist!

2. Up Your Practice Game

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain – The Musician’s Way, pg. 6

Aside from consistent practice, one of the best ways to become a better pianist is to analyze your practice sessions. Are you playing with purpose or simply playing to play? Do you have a goal whenever you sit down to play? And do you know the steps you need to take for improvement?

I will be the first to admit that for most of my piano playing years, I was under the mistaken impression that more practice time = instant improvement. It never occurred to me that the quality of that time makes a huge difference in whether you linger in obscurity or whether you actually become a better pianist.

And it may sound strange but there were so many times I would sit down to practice and had no idea where to start. How should I allot my practice time? What are the best ways to resolve technical difficulties? How do I get rid of tension in my playing? What are the memorization tactics which result in the strongest recall?

I felt completely and utterly stuck.

Despite my frustration, I continued to love playing and desperately wanted to become a better pianist.

My desire to improve led me on a search for answers. Answers for how I could maximize my practice time and actually become a better pianist.

And then one day, I stumbled upon the book that changed everything for me.

The Ultimate Guide to Practice

“We first make our habits and then, our habits make us.”

John Dryden – The Musician’s Way, pg. 20

The Musician’s Way, written by Gerald Klickstein, is a comprehensive guide to practice and performance. This book breaks down nearly every practice-related topic into small, easily understood concepts. From defining practice to creating your ideal practice space to preventing injury, this book covers it all.

  • Wondering how you can solve your own technical issues even if you’re not working directly with a teacher?
  • Curious about the habits of musical excellence?
  • Looking for answers on how you can stay motivated to practice?
  • Struggling with memorization?
  • Are you searching for the key to fearless performances?

It’s all covered in this one resource which I consider essential for all musicians.

To say that this book took my playing from ordinary to extraordinary would be an understatement. It revolutionized the way I approach practice and inspired me on a deeper level.

In short, this book gave me tangible strategies to make my practice not only more effective but more efficient. And who doesn’t love efficiency???

Give yourself the gift of The Musician’s Way by clicking here.

Click here for tips on improving your piano practice.

3. Get Inspired with a Podcast

If you’re a busy person who also wants to learn, podcasts are the best! Not only are they packed full of great information but they are also typically free.

And in the quest to become a better pianist, there are some truly great podcasts out there!

The Bulletproof Musician

Learning to play an instrument generally involves performance at some point. Whether it’s in front of your teacher, a crowded auditorium, various family members, or your dog, there are times when you will have an audience.

And performance opportunities may very well mean performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember but hit its peak for me in college. A couple of years ago, I began searching for answers on how to finally conquer my stage fright and found The Bulletproof Musician podcast.

One of the most compelling aspects of the podcast is that creator Noa Kageyama has personal experience with performance anxiety. Having learned to play violin at a young age, he began to notice inconsistencies in his performances as he got older. While studying at Juilliard, he had the opportunity to take a sport psychology class geared toward musicians. The class changed everything and propelled his career into a new direction.

Noa has spent years helping others overcome performance anxiety and the podcast is full of his very best advice. Although he has the experience to back up his knowledge, he relies strongly on research evidence, an aspect which lends further credibility to his advice.

He also frequently interviews prominent musicians about their own experiences. Listening to personal stories about performance challenges is incredibly inspiring and normalizes the performance anxiety experience.

If performance anxiety is holding you back, I highly encourage you to check out The Bulletproof Musician!

The Mind Over Finger Podcast

“Practicing is not forced labor; it is a refined art that partakes of intuition, of inspiration, patience, elegance, clarity, balance, and, above all, the search for ever greater joy in movement and expression.”

Yehudi Menuhin – The Musician’s Way, pg. 4

All musicians know that practice is the path to mastery. But practice is only effective if you are actively engaging in the process. Mindless repetition and practice without goals gets you nowhere.

If your goal is to become a better pianist, you MUST understand how to make practice work for you.

The Musician’s Way helped me master the basics of efficient and effective practice. And to advance, you first have to understand the foundational aspects of practice.

The Mind Over Finger Podcast transformed my basic understanding of practice into true mastery. It has been a constant source of new inspiration and motivation for me in my own practice.

Host Dr. Renee-Paule Gauthier hones in on most useful practice elements, dissecting each into bite-sized pieces which can immediately be implemented in your own sessions. She also explores a variety of music-related topics guaranteed to propel your musicianship to the next level.

One of the more compelling aspects of her podcast is the interviews she conducts with a wide range of musicians. From conductors to authors to musicians, her interviews run the gamut and guarantee that you WILL discover something useful!

4. Become a Better Pianist with this Essential Tool

The intriguing thing about making music is that it’s simply one moment in time. One tiny sliver of emotional expression in life similar to a ripple in the ocean. Once you play the note, it’s forever gone, never to return again.

Unless, of course, you capture that moment.

I spent so many wasted years trying to critique my playing in real-time. My vain attempts only resulted in mindless repetitions and frustration because the truth of the matter is that you can’t play and critique simultaneously.

Playing and critiquing require two entirely separate thought processes and trying to do both simultaneously mean you’ll do neither very well.

Luckily, there’s an incredibly simple solution which virtually guarantees you will immediately become a better pianist.

Record yourself!

And if you’re looking for ease and quality, look no further than the Blue Yeti USB microphone.

After I became serious about improving my piano skills a couple years ago, I searched high and low for the absolute best in recording. My goal was to find something which was both easy to operate and of the highest quality. This particular microphone checked off both those boxes.

The Blue Yeti USB microphone requires no complicated set-ups or adjustments. Simply plug the USB cord into your computer and begin recording. It’s that simple.

The one piece of advice I will give is that you want to make sure there are a set of headphones plugged into the microphone itself to cut down on background noise. Do this and you will be amazed at the sound quality you’re able to capture with this incredibly reasonably priced equipment! This microphone has hands-down been one of the best investments I’ve made for my own playing.

Check out the Blue Yeti USB microphone in action

5. Invest in Yourself

If you’ve been trying to become a better pianist but have limited access to one-on-one piano coaching, this next one is for you! I would never try to suggest that an online course can replace the value of working closely with an instructor. But there are times in life when you are simply unable to participate in regular lessons.

Maybe you live in an area where the closest piano instructor lives several hours away. Or maybe between work and kids, you simply don’t have time to both prepare for and attend weekly lessons. Maybe there’s a global pandemic and you are hesitant to attend in-person lessons for fear of getting sick.

Ok … if you had asked me about that last one a year ago, I would’ve told you that you were straight out of crazy town. But somehow, here we are. Who knew???

Regardless of why instructor-led lessons are a barrier for you, I’ve got the perfect solution!

Josh Wright is an internationally acclaimed pianist with a passion for helping others on their own piano journeys. He has an array of helpful courses perfect for anyone who wants to become a better pianist.

I have seen incredible leaps in my own pianism after joining his paid course. So much so that I immediately began spreading the word to others about how valuable his courses are. You can read my story of finding his courses and why I recommend others check it out here.

It’s Your Turn

I truly hope you have found this post inspiring on your own journey to become a better pianist! Give something new a try today … you just might be amazed at how far it will take you!

As always, I would love to hear what you found most helpful and whether you have any helpful tips or advice to share with others. Until next time … happy practicing!

Become a Better Pianist Resources

In case you missed them, here are links to the resources discussed above.

Click here to check out The Musician’s Way book.

Go here to check out the Blue Yeti USB microphone.

Click here to check out Josh Wright’s online courses.

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, 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.

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.

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!

“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?

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

Have you thought about learning piano as an adult but are not sure whether it would be worth your time?

Maybe you attended lessons when you were younger but never took it seriously and have since forgotten everything.

Or maybe you stuck with lessons for several years and still remember a bit but are now confused about where to pick up again.

I have had countless conversations with adults who tell me they would love to be able to play piano but feel that it’s simply too late to learn.

Each and every time I encounter this situation, my advice is the same.

It’s NEVER too late!

In fact, there are several benefits to learning piano as an adult versus as a child. (I believe there are way more than 5 but for purposes of keeping this post at a manageable length, I had to limit myself!)

In this post, I will be sharing benefits of learning the piano as an adult and address common roadblocks keeping you stuck. Make sure you stick around until the end for the awesome bonus resources designed to jumpstart your piano journey!

And for those of you who are ready to start your piano journey, check out this post.

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.

Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

Music has the ability to transport us to a completely different place and time. It has the power to evoke a long forgotten memory or bring out emotions we have tried our hardest to avoid.

Try to imagine watching a movie without music. Pretty tough, isn’t it? Music is the unseen character adding life, passion, and humanity to each and every scene.

Music inspires and motivates on a deeper level than can be achieved in other ways.

And the ability to make music? To breathe life into the melody running through your mind? That is something else entirely!

1. Anxiety and Stress Reduction

I will be the first to raise my hand and admit I have anxiety.

Give me some type of vaguely hypothetical situation and I will concoct a compelling reason why you should be afraid. Very afraid.

Unfortunately for me, anxiety + creativity = excessive worry about completely ridiculous situations.

My tendency to allow anxiety to slowly creep in and eventually take over is one of the reasons I love playing piano the most.

When my brain is busy transferring notes from the page to my fingers, it doesn’t have space left to perseverate.

The integration required between the instrument, my brain, and my body is too complex to allow for any extraneous thoughts to creep in and take over.

And when I’m not fixated on anxiety-provoking thoughts, relief from the sometimes all-consuming anxiety follows.

Interestingly, research has shown that the act of making music is enough to interrupt the normal stress response which is triggered by anxiety.

Even beyond the physiological effects of the stress response is the fact that making music is simply fun!

You may also enjoy reading Elegie in Eb Minor.

2. Playing Piano Boosts Cognition

Playing the piano is a complex task which requires integration of the motor system and multiple senses.

The pianist’s main goal in balancing all of this is to convey emotion through their artistry.

I don’t say this to intimidate you in any way but rather to encourage thought about the complexity involved in translating writing on a page to an emotional idea.

And where there is complexity, growth follows.

Multiple studies have shown differences in brain structure between people who study music and those who don’t.

This has most dramatically been noted in studies of cognition in the aging population.

In short, cognitive function is better in adults who study piano in comparison to adults who do not. If you’re curious and want to learn more, check out the study results yourself here.

Memory also improves among adults who play the piano.

Although adults typically aren’t taking math and reading tests on a regular basis, studying piano has also been shown to boost scores in these areas.

It may just be the compelling reason you need to inspire your kids to start learning piano as well???

3. Playing Piano Instills Discipline

Getting better at any type of activity requires doing more of that activity. The more we do something, the better we get at it.

Learning to play the piano is no different.

It requires a certain amount of dedication.

Consistent, high-quality practice results in progression of your skills.

The good news is that learning piano as an adult often requires a degree of discipline that you already have.

Chances are good that you have learned how to excel in various areas of your life. In order to excel, you have already figured out how to put in the work to see the pay-off.

And if discipline is an area you struggle with, there’s good news for you too!

Setting a practice schedule (and sticking with it) can set the stage for discipline in other areas of your life.

Once you have figured out consistency in this area, it’s easier to apply to other areas.

If you are looking for more tips on piano practice, check out this post.

4. Improved Ability to Handle Feedback

Getting feedback from someone else can be hard!

If you struggle with emotional vulnerability, the natural response to feedback often comes across as defensiveness.

And nothing shuts down open communication quicker than being defensive!

But sometimes we need the perspectives of others to make positive changes.

We need input from employers, spouses, and friends to become better versions of ourselves.

Unfortunately, daily life often doesn’t provide a safe space to practice receiving feedback.

Unless you’re learning a new skill under the direction of someone who is more advanced.

A new skill like learning to play the piano.

Learning a new skill takes the pressure off getting feedback.

As a beginner, you’re not expected to know anything. At the same time, feedback is exactly what you need to improve.

Piano lessons are a great way to practice getting feedback in a low-pressure situation. You can then apply this skill to other areas of your life and watch your ability to communicate with others improve as well!

5. Playing Piano Increases Confidence

Although it may seem contradictory, learning a new skill can actually increase your overall confidence.

Learning something new encourages a sense of curiousity. When we are curious, we are far less likely to be overly self-critical.

Our energy is instead focused on learning and growing. As we begin to see improvements, we become more and more confident.

The confidence from one specific area of our lives can spill into all other areas.

Especially if this new skill involves an element of performance.

And whether you are by yourself practicing, playing through a piece for your teacher, or giving a recital, music is performance.

Confidence is an essential aspect of musical performance and is incredibly useful in daily life.

Roadblocks Keeping You Stuck

Now that we’ve covered the top benefits of learning piano as an adult, let’s talk barriers.

Despite the benefits, I know there are a few things still holding you back from getting started. Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

Piano Lessons are for Kids

Although it is true that many people begin lessons as kids, learning as an adult actually has several advantages.

The first is that as an adult, you are choosing to learn piano. No one is setting a practice timer for you. You’re not getting grounded for skipping your lesson.

You call the shots.

It’s up to you to find a teacher you mesh well with. You also get to decide the instrument if you don’t already have one. It’s also entirely up to you whether you take in-person or online lessons.

Your success with the instrument rests entirely in your hands.

And speaking of hands … the second advantage to learning as an adult is that your hand-eye coordination and muscles are fully developed.

Learning certain pieces and specific techniques is now possible. Although kids may progress rapidly in their study of the instrument, they can be held back on further progress due to development.

The third advantage involves attention span and critical thinking skills. Both are much more advantageous to effective learning in an adult versus in kids.

Many kids can only sit and concentrate for ten minutes at a time. Their practice is therefore somewhat limited.

Adults on the other hand can focus for much longer stretches of time.

They also have a greater capacity to integrate music theory and analysis to more effectively learn music. This is one aspect of playing where I continue to feel somewhat disadvantaged.

Although I did have elements of music theory in my lessons from a very young age, I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was older. By that time, I feel that I had already developed my own specific way for learning pieces without the theory component.

I continue to accommodate for this deficit today and am making progress but feel that learning piano as an adult is a major asset in this area!

Time (Or Lack Thereof)

I get it. Your day is busy. Maybe even crazy. I’m sure there are days which pass so quickly you are left wondering where the time went when your head hits the pillow at night.

I have those days too.

But do you really want to spend your days wondering where the time went?

Or would you rather use the time you have been given to pursue your biggest goals and dreams?

Learning piano as an adult may seem like it will take an enormous amount of time and energy.

Depending upon your goals, it will.

Guess what though?

You don’t have to expend all that energy in one day. Practice is actually more beneficial if broken into small, very intentional, chunks of time.

There are days when I only have 10 minutes to devote to practice.

But I make the most of it and look forward to the days when I’m able to practice more.

Every minute adds up to better and better playing.

The time will pass anyway. You might as well make the most out of it!

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to find more time in your day.

Finding a Teacher

Thanks to technology, the days of traveling to your piano teacher’s house for lessons are gone.

Maybe.

There are still plenty of teachers who continue to offer lessons this way.

And learning this way continues to be the preferred method for many people.

But what are your options if you don’t have a teacher nearby? Or if you don’t have time to drive to lessons?

You could choose to attend lessons online or subscribe to a membership website dedicated to helping people learn to play piano.

The Membership Website Dilemma

I’m not sure whether you’ve looked into membership websites or not but there are a million out there. Whether you’ve been playing 3 months, 30 years or whether you have any actual knowledge of how to teach someone else to play, you can create your own course. The bottom line is that whether someone has any credibility or not, they can create a website and pass themselves off as an “expert.”

I, for one, do not want to pay for some random course created by someone without any actual authority in the piano world.

This is one of the many reasons why I carefully vetted multiple courses prior to finally making the decision to join this one. I was looking for credibility and authority. And I found both and so much more in the ProPractice course created by Dr. Josh Wright.

Dr. Wright is a critically acclaimed pianist and gifted instructor. Check out his performance of the 3rd Rachmaninoff Concerto here. And if you’re looking for another incredible performance, here is the Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G minor. Each performance is absolutely inspiring!

Created and taught by Dr. Josh Wright himself, this course is perfect whether you are a complete beginner or have played for years. It also comes with access to an incredibly supportive Facebook group of fellow pianists.

As a result of joining the course, my technique and artistry has dramatically improved. I’ve learned so much about interpretation and even how to manage the sometimes quite limited practice time I have. I have seen such positive changes in my playing that I became passionate about sharing this course with others looking to improve their own playing.

This course has absolutely made me a better pianist and is well worth the investment!

Click here to check out all this course has to offer!

Finding an Instrument

Not having an instrument is an obvious barrier to learning piano as an adult.

In order to make progress, you will need consistent practice. Practice will require an instrument.

Luckily, you also have several options in this area.

Many people prefer an acoustic piano. Acoustic pianos come in several different sizes and in quite variable price ranges.

You can find a spinet (a smaller acoustic piano) for free on Craigslist. There are also many perfectly acceptable instruments out there for less than $1,000. Keep in mind that in many instances, you get what you pay for.

In the beginning of your studies, you can make progress with a lower quality instrument.

Investing less up front can also take the pressure off later if you decide that piano isn’t for you.

I definitely recommend working with a piano tuner to find an instrument within your budget. They will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the instrument you are considering. Piano tuners can also tell you whether any major work on the instrument is required.

An electronic keyboard is another option if space is limited. A great advantage of these is the option to plug in headphones. You can then practice any time of the day or night.

Keyboards also offer many different setting and recording options. They also come in a wide range of features and prices.

Bonus Resource Section

Hopefully by now you’ve been inspired to either start or continue your own piano journey. Here are a few of my favorite resources to further your journey!

Practice Secrets

Let’s face it. Practicing is the only way to improve but sometimes it can feel a bit monotonous. Ignite your passion for practice with this book!

Full of both practical and useful advice, this book is guaranteed to freshen up any stale practice regimen. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book so I highly encourage you to check it out for yourself!

Recording Success

Even during my college years, my piano teacher encouraged me to record regularly. In those days, I wish I would have had something as easy and effective as this microphone!

A quality microphone is one of the best ways to learn to listen and make improvements when working independently, either between lessons or with a membership website. And you won’t find a better quality microphone or one that’s easier to use in this price point. This microphone has been one of the biggest keys to my own piano success.

The Best Piano Membership Site

If you’re looking for a high value course led by an expert in the field, Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course is the one to check into. He also offers courses based on individual pieces if there’s a specific one you’re interested in learning. Check out what he has to offer because it’s comparable to nothing else out there!

Let’s Get Started!

And there you have it! Five benefits to learning the piano as an adult and the common roadblocks holding you back. For even more information on getting started, check out this post on how to learn piano as an adult.

I truly hope this post inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and go for it! You never know where this one decision will take you. So get out there and get started!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and whether it inspired you to take the first step!

Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing

Piano Practice Tips to Improve Your Playing

As I write this, we are about to turn the calendar over to a brand new year. This time of year always inspires me to think back on the great times and the lessons learned. It’s also time to look ahead to the new year and identify simple, specific goals to make even greater strides. One area which is always prominent in my goal setting is that of improving my pianistic skills. It is in this spirit that I give you my best piano practice tips to improve your own playing!

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.

Break Up Your Piano Practice

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s timeless wisdom captures the very common block which often prevents us from moving forward in our pursuits. I am definitely guilty of building tasks up to an impossibly complex level in my head. After awhile, the task begins to seem completely unattainable and not even worth the effort.

But if you break the task up into smaller pieces, it suddenly becomes much more attainable.

This is true whether you are attempting to learn a new piece, improve your technique, or memorize a Beethoven Sonata. Unless you break these goals up, you will remain stuck.

Luckily, music is quite amenable to being broken into smaller, more manageable sections. This first piano practice tip may seem somewhat simplistic but it has propelled my playing further than any other. Taking one measure (or even one note) at a time allows you to block out everything else. It enables you to forget about the fast run in measure 43. Or the trills in 106. You can instead simply focus on tackling measure one.

Taking a piece mindfully measure by measure cements fingerings, dynamics, and rhythms into your brain. It does so much more permanently than 500 mindless repetitions ever will. Give yourself permission to really learn the music by honing in one measure at a time.

Play What You Love

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent.”

Victor Hugo

I love listening to the film score channel on Pandora when I write. There’s nothing that inspires me to add a touch of dramatic flare to my writing more than the Indiana Jones theme song or the ever heroic Pirates of the Carribbean soundtrack.

A couple of years ago while writing and listening, I became mesmorized by a hauntingly beautiful piece for solo piano that I had never heard before. I was immediately surprised to learn it was a solo arrangement of a piece from the movie “Anastasia.” Although I have always preferred to learn pieces within the standard piano repertoire, this particular piece spoke to me. Despite its exclusion from the criteria I typically place on the pieces I work so hard to learn, I absolutely had to get this piece under my fingers!

Which brings me to my next piano practice tip. What’s the point of exerting hours of effort into learning a piece if you don’t absolutely love it?

Look for pieces which are fun, speak to you on a deeper level, or inspire you to practice. Selecting pieces based solely on technical difficulty or because you think it’s “what you should be playing” is a road to burnout. Instead, find those pieces you can’t wait to get back and work on. At its very core, music is the expression of emotion. If you keep this idea central, you will undoubtedly succeed.

Improve Through Listening

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

Robert Schumann

Have you ever had one of those moments when something you say to another person is completely misunderstood? Perhaps you meant to express a different thought. Or maybe you conveyed exactly what you meant however the other person took it the wrong way. Either way, there was a disconnect.

Similar to a conversational disconnect is that which can occur when you play without truly listening to the music you’re creating. And yet, simultaneous playing and objective listening is nearly impossible. Artful expression of emotion through the piano demands your complete attention and not the type of mental chatter which occurs with objective analysis. And yet, there can be no improvement if you are unable to objectively assess your playing.

My next piano practice tip to advance your playing is to record yourself.

Incorporate Recording Into Your Piano Practice

Consistently recording yourself has so many benefits beyond simply obtaining the ability to objectively listen to yourself. One of the biggest is that you can track your progress over time. I find it incredibly inspiring to be able to listen to something recorded a year ago and hear improvement in my playing.

Recording yourself also gives solid evidence of your playing. I have often found that I tend to get in my own head about my playing and am too critical. When I play back the recording, I can immediately find positive and redeeming qualities in the music. For example, the note I missed in measure 17 is insignificant in comparison to the emotion expressed in the passage. Recording is useful if for no other reason than to provide objective feedback. It combats the criticisms our minds are sometimes too quick to throw back at us!

I have experimented with a few different recording modalities but this one is by far my favorite! This microphone plugs right into your computer and requires no complicated set-up. Simply plug it in and start playing! The sound quality is absolutely amazing and the price is very reasonable. Maximize recording quality by plugging headphones into the microphone itself. After figuring out this tip I couldn’t be happier with the quality!

You can listen to one of my recordings using this microphone here.

Piano Practice Resources

“You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Maya Angelou

For a long time, I felt stuck in my playing. I was not practicing on a regular basis. I also did not feel I was making progress on the pieces I was practicing. My attitude toward piano took a negative turn. I began to believe I wasn’t making progress because I simply wasn’t talented enough. And to top it off, anxiety overwhelmed me each and every time I played in public. All in all, the joy that I had previously found in playing piano was gone.

And then one day I realized that staying stuck was my choice. I could choose to remain in this headspace of negativity. Or I could find resources to help me move past where I felt stuck.

I chose the latter.

And do you know what? There are some amazing resources out there! Resources to help with anything from motivation in the advancement of your playing to improvement of piano technique. There are resources to help you practice more effectively and resources to help with creating your own music-based business. The number of resources waiting for you is absolutely astounding!

From podcasts to blogs to membership sites, there are so many resources out there! Here are the two which I have found most helpful:

The Inner Game of Music gives a different approach to tackling performance anxiety. Adapted from a book originally written for athletes, its timeless wisdom is simple yet highly effective. This book has given me an entirely different perspective on how to approach any performance situation. If you’re struggling with anxiety in your piano playing, I highly recommend this incredibly helpful resource!

Break Through Anxiety

And speaking of anxiety … this next piano practice resource is not music-related per se but nonetheless highly relevant. Headspace is an app which guides you through the practice of meditation. After realizing that anxiety was somewhat prevalent in my life and unfortunately not strictly limited to my piano playing, I began searching for solutions. Meditation was a modality which kept popping up throughout my research.

Although meditation has been practiced around the world for centuries to improve the mind-body connection, it is only recently that research has started to support its efficacy. Multiple studies have supported its ability to ease anxiety, depression, and even symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Meditation is also generally considered safe for most people and unlike medications, doesn’t come with pages and pages of side effects.

I have been using the Headspace app for a couple of months now and saw an immediate decrease in anxiety levels. For the first time in ages, I felt like I was able to push anxious thoughts aside and find a place of calm in my mind. It has helped me have a more positive outlook and enabled me to think beyond the anxiety of the moment. I wholeheartedly recommend this app whether you are looking to tame stage fright nerves or the stubbornly anxious thoughts of everyday life.

As much as I love and have seen a difference from this app, please do not hesitate to see your primary care provider if you are struggling with anxiety and depression. There is help out there!

Motivation and Piano Practice

“Your talent determines what you can do. It is your motivation that determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.

Lou Holtz

For the longest time, I felt that a lack of motivation was holding me back in the practice room. I never felt like practicing and therefore equated this with a lack of motivation.

I once believed that motivation was required to start or make progress toward a particular goal. In my mind, motivation was a strong feeling which translated into action. Similar to the key which starts a car engine, I believed that motivation was required to pursue a goal.

In actuality, motivation is more an action than a feeling. Motivation comes from doing and if you wait until you feel like doing something, it will almost never happen. It’s very much a snowball effect in that the more you do, the more you feel like doing. But you need to take a step forward first.

My Secret for Improved Consistency

The modacity app has been pivotal in motivating me to take steps toward consistent piano practice. Designed by a musician, the app has incredible features which promote excellent practice habits. The app allows you to create practice playlists and input all the pieces you’re currently working on. When it’s time to practice, simply select the piece. A timer then automatically starts for you, adding up your total practice time. You can also put the amount of time you want to work on a particular piece in and it will alert you when your time is up. This is a great feature if you tend to lose track of time while practicing.

Modacity also has a built-in tuner and metronome. The metronome has the capability to capture subdivisions of the beat as well, a great feature when working on tricky rhythms. My all-time favorite feature however is that it keeps track of how many days in a row you’ve practiced. It also tells you how many hours of practice you’ve put in. I absolutely love seeing the hours and days add up! I also find huge motivation in being able to check off another piano practice session!

It’s Your Turn

The higher pursuit of any art requires incredible attention to detail and piano is no exception. Mastering the piano requires creativity and problem-solving. The daily challenge of figuring out something entirely new in the journey toward becoming a better pianist is what truly appeals to me.

Although there is always something to improve upon, it’s also important to stop and celebrate your successes along the way! Sometimes we get so focused on improving that we forget to look for the small wins. Wins such as mastering a tricky passage or learning to play with a greater sense of relaxation. Logging another day of practice is a win in and of itself as it means you’re saying “yes” to your goals.

Now get out there and try out a few of these piano practice tips for yourself! Don’t forget to leave a comment below about what you’re working on and which tip has been most helpful!