The Real Difficulty of Learning to Play Piano
Everyone says playing piano is difficult. I’m here to tell you that learning piano can be easy, if you approach it the right way.
I will show you why everyone thinks it’s hard, and where they get it wrong.
It Takes Time
Learning to play piano certainly takes time. But it depends on where you want to take it. Not everyone needs to become a professional musician. In fact, most people enjoy piano in the privacy of their own home, and that is great. That’s what music is all about, the joy. Depending on the level you are aiming for, it could take you a few months, or a lifetime, to get there.
Goals and Expectations
The act of playing the piano can be divided into several skills, like technique, reading, ear training, improvisation, knowledge of theory, phrasing, etc. Although it seems daunting, it’s also related to expectations. It helps to have a basic knowledge of all of these skills, but it really depends on where your goals are. If you want to become a concert pianist then you have to master all of these (and many more!), but if you want to play with some friends or relatives in your basement for fun, then some basic technique and a few chords can take you a long way.
This is what scares most people away. The dreaded practice.
Don’t be scared, this is also what most people get wrong. It’s not hard to practice piano, it’s hard to keep the discipline to do something boring, everyday. But it doesn’t have to be boring at all.
Let me break down practice in two types: isolated practice and integrated practice. They are both necessary, and they can both be frustrating.
Isolated practice is the first thing you need to do when you encounter something new. For example, for a new fingering, you practice it one hand at a time a few times, as slow as you need to. You are making mistakes, until you start getting it right. This also relates to your goals. You should only go just as far as you need to reach your goal. If you keep going for too long you will get bored (unless you are really motivated to become the best concert pianist, in which case you should probably be practicing right now!
Integrated practice is where you should put that isolated exercise when you are proficient enough. This just means to integrate it in a musical context, both hands, turning up the tempo a bit. Also taking it slowly, but trying to be aware of the whole playing experience, not just the fingering.
Remember the first time you drove? It seemed impossible to keep track of your hands and feet doing different things, while keeping your eyes on the road and the rearview mirrors. Talk about multitasking! I bet driving feels effortless for you now.
Think of piano the same way. You have to be able to operate each part of your body individually (isolated practice), but ultimately you need to coordinate it all together (integrated practice). Eventually you don’t have to think about individual parts or coordination at all, you just play.
You didn’t practice gear shifting for endless hours in a parking lot, you practiced it just enough, then you took it to the road carefully.
They didn’t put you in the driveway at 100 mph on your first driving lesson either. You started in a controlled environment, with a teacher assisting you, and went on from there, step by step.
Deliberate practice is about going step by step, always practicing right past your capacity so you make mistakes. Science says we learn by making mistakes. If you practice what you can do you are just working out, and that’s not enough. After all, the music you play is in your brain, not your hands.
If you go step by step, practice isolated things and then practice putting them all together in context, forcing yourself to get a little further every time, you will see results very fast.
Get Help From A Teacher
Playing piano is not difficult, it’s all about your expectations and your commitment.
This is where a teacher comes in. A teacher can help you greatly, because he gives you what you need to keep growing, at the stage that you currently are.
Keep all these principles in mind, and do yourself a favor, book a lesson with one of our teachers and start your musical journey today!