If you're thinking of taking piano lessons, there are five things you need to know. Many times parents sign up their child for lessons without understanding how much work and dedication it takes. Playing piano is a life long skill that takes years to develop and regular practice. Here are five suggestions for success for any piano student of any age.
1. Practice Regularly
Everyday practice is best, but we all have lives. If you skip a day it's not the end of the world. Give yourself permission to take weekends, and lesson days off. If you spend the time each day, practice will be more effective. Our brains and muscles need time to absorb and process new skills, so short sessions more frequently are the most efficient way to practice.
2. Play for Others
There is something magical about sharing our music with an audience. Yes, it can be frightening. It will make you nervous. But that is where the power lies! Playing your music for an audience, be it 4 or 400 people, will show you where your weaknesses are. You may think you have a piece perfected and then you play it for an audience and suddenly you're making mistakes you never made before. The stress of playing creates a fight or flight response in our bodies and we react differently than when we're in the practice room. This is why playing for others is so important. There is no other way to duplicate the experience. The more we play for others the better we become at working through the "butterflies". Playing for others will make you better at playing and stronger as a person.
3. Get a Good Instrument
Keyboards are not pianos. The touch, the hand position, the pedal, and number of keys are all very different on a piano than they are on a keyboard. An inexpensive keyboard is an electronic imitation of an acoustic piano. (If you want more details about the differences between pianos and keyboards, read my blog "Digital vs Acoustic Pianos".) Practicing your piano lessons on a keyboard will limit your technique and musicality, but practicing on a quality instrument will set you up for success. There are ways to acquire an instrument without spending huge amounts of money. Look at your local listings, or ask your piano teacher. Many times, you can get an instrument for a few hundred dollars because a family is moving, or their children have grown up. If you really want to become skilled at playing piano, get a good instrument.
4. Listen to Your Teacher
We've all done it. Asked for advice and then didn't take it. Maybe we resist our teacher's advice because it's harder to do things their way. Maybe we don't like the way the music sounds, or we learned a passage the wrong way and it's too hard to relearn it. Maybe we disagree with the composer, or we simply don't like being told what to do. I've done it with my piano teacher and then regretted it because I learned, the hard way, that she was right. Your teacher has the training and experience to guide you on your musical journey. If you listen to your teacher and apply what you learn, you will continue to grow and progress. Being teachable is your job. You don't have to always agree, but be open to their advice and trust their experience.
5. Be Patient and Persevere
Don't expect to learn how to play the piano in a few lessons. Music is a language and it takes years to develop. It will be challenging and sometimes frustrating. If you stay dedicated, you will continue to grow and it is well worth the effort. I've never met anyone who quit taking piano lessons that was glad about it. They regret giving up. Remember, if you aren't challenged, you're not developing your skills. One thing that I love about music is that there's always more to learn and new skills to master.
When I was ten years old two of my friends quit taking piano lessons and I wanted to follow their lead. My piano teacher, who also happened to be my Mom, gently encouraged me to stick with it. At the time, I had no idea that I would later fall in love with the piano. Now, I make my living by playing and teaching the lovely instrument. It has been woven through every season of my life: my childhood, college days, career, parenthood, and whatever else is to come. Thanks to my piano teacher, for knowing these five principles and teaching them to me. My life would not be the same without the piano.