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 the benefits of learning the piano as an adult, common roadblocks keeping you stuck, and resources for continuing your piano journey.

If you’re already confident that you’re ready to begin learning piano, check out this post.

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 Cognitition

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.

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

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 be more intentional with your time.

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 devote to driving to the teacher?

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

One such membership website also has a Facebook group for others who are also learning to play.

I am personally part of one of these websites and have found it a great supplement to my existing knowledge.

You may also find this website helpful if you already have a solid foundation in piano basics but are looking to start again.

It’s a great option if geography or time limits your lesson options!

Check out an example of the lessons contained in the membership website here.

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.

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!

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, 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.

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 which 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!