Learning How To Play

How to Learn Piano – Setting Goals, Staying Motivated, and More

Learning How To PlayHave you decided you want to learn how to play the piano? Mastering a new skill can be challenging at first, so your enthusiasm to get started is a great first step! Use this guide to help you conquer the learning curve that everyone wanting to know how to learn piano must overcome.

Setting the Right Goals

No one expects you to become a concert pianist overnight. Set reasonable goals to help you feel accomplished and prevent discouragement.

  • Set practice goals: Strive to practice, say, 30 minutes every weekday. Practicing for an adequate amount of time is the key to improving.

  • Set completion goals: If you start a piece on Monday, get a feel for how difficult it is. Set a goal to have both hands of the first section learned by the end of the week. Each day you can see how far you still have to go so you can cater your practice times accordingly.

  • Set style goals: Perhaps you’re interested in how to learn piano because you want to play one particular piece or style of music. You’ll need to start out with the same basics no matter where your path eventually turns, but keep that goal of playing a specific style or song in the back of your mind at all times. When you get discouraged, remind yourself how much you want to be able to play “Clair de Lune” or Scott Joplin’s most well-known ragtime pieces.

Beginner Techniques for Practicing Between Lessons

When you sit down at the piano with a new piece of music, use these beginner techniques to help you learn it without getting frustrated:

  • Complete some music theory exercises: A huge hurdle you may face as you start piano lessons is reading music. Your piano teacher can help you track your music-reading competence and assign pieces that match your skill level.

  • Study the piece: Familiarize yourself with the piece before you start playing. Look for time and key signature changes, repeats, and recurring passages. This eliminates the element of surprise as you play through the song for the first time.

  • Start with one hand: When your teacher first starts teaching you how to learn piano, you’ll typically begin with one-hand pieces. Most of these will use the right hand only or just a few fingers on each hand. When you move on to more complex pieces using both hands, start by learning the song or one passage with just the right hand. Then switch and count it out with your left hand. When you feel ready, put the two hands together.

  • Slow down the tempo: You’ll be tempted to play the song at full speed right away, especially if it’s a song you’ve heard before, such as a well-known classical or ragtime piece. Just remember – if you can’t play it slow, you can’t play it fast! Start at half- or quarter-speed using the one-hand-at-a-time technique, and slowly increase the tempo as you get more comfortable.

How to Stay Motivated

Learning to play the piano requires focus and motivation over a long period of time. If you’re struggling to maintain your motivation, keep the following points in mind:

  • Don’t practice for hours on end every day: If you start out with this habit, you’ll probably get burned out. Then your practicing could do a complete 180, becoming ineffective and short-lived. It can be hard to get back on track if you get burned out early on.

  • Don’t spend your entire practice time on difficult pieces: The whole purpose of playing the piano is to enjoy the sound of your own music. Start out each practice session with a warm-up that includes your standard scales and arpeggios, plus other assignments from your teacher. Then, before you move on to a new, challenging piece, open up to a song you already feel comfortable with. Reaffirm your playing abilities before you start hammering out a difficult piece.

  • Talk to your teacher about making piano playing more enjoyable: If you feel your interest waning, let your teacher know. Perhaps you can sit down together and reorganize your lesson structure, select new pieces that interest you more, or revisit your goals to bring the fun back into learning to play the piano.

How Private Piano Lessons Can Help You

Every student’s journey should start with taking private piano lessons with a qualified teacher. Sure, there are plenty of beginner books you can find out there to start teaching yourself, but a private teacher offers several unmatched benefits:

  • One-on-one guidance: It’s easy to misinterpret the way a specific piece should be played unless you’ve heard it before and can mimic someone else’s style. The one-on-one guidance provided by a private piano teacher can help unleash the musician inside you in such a way that’s often impossible if you attempt to teach yourself.

  • Answers to your questions: If you have a question about a technique or a mark on the sheet music, simply turn to your teacher and ask. The alternative is to search for guidance online or in a music theory book, but nothing matches the comprehension speed of asking your teacher to show you the proper technique or explain the symbol on your sheet music.

  • Someone to hold you accountable: Being your own teacher makes it easy to slack off and not practice. Meeting weekly with a private teacher, on the other hand, holds you accountable for the goals you set the week before, which can help you progress faster.

  • Songs that go outside your comfort zone: How can you expect to improve if you don’t ever try anything harder? On the flipside, you could have an aspiration to play a particularly difficult piece and attempt it before a firm foundation is in place. A qualified teacher can show you how to learn piano at a pace that’s challenging without being completing discouraging.

What You’ll Learn as You Progress Through Your Lessons

So, what you can you expect to learn with all the effort you put into taking piano lessons? Here are just a few:

  • Sight reading skills: This means the ability to look at a piece of sheet music and understand it quickly. Not every accomplished piano player has good sight-reading skills, but if you make it a goal, you can develop the talent in yourself.

  • Expanded repertoire: The more pieces you learn, the larger your repertoire becomes. And if you master the skill of memorizing music, you can showcase your repertoire wherever there’s a piano, even if you don’t have any sheet music with you!

  • Discipline: Learning to play piano takes plenty of dedication and discipline. What you learn seated on a piano bench can transfer to other areas of your life.

  • It’s okay to make mistakes: Even professionals make mistakes, so it’s important for you to realize you will, too. You may perform in recitals that push your nerves to the limit. It’s actually good for you if you make a mistake in front of an audience, because you’ll realize that your life isn’t over.

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 Photo by A.K. Photography

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