Updated: Mar 3
1. Make Time to Practice - LIfe is going to continue to happen
When I decided to take piano lessons, I knew I had to commit to some type of practicing schedule. And I knew this was going to be hard to do, because I keep myself fairly busy, and clearly learning the piano was going to be a challenge. Somehow I got it in my mind that I needed to be sitting at the piano for a solid thirty minutes every single day to “check the practicing box” off on my day’s ‘to-do-list’ and I set out on my way. What I found, is first of all, sitting on a piano bench for that long without any back support was not comfortable, and secondly I was way too focused on how long I was sitting there practicing, and not as focused as I needed to be on WHAT I was doing with the thirty minutes of time sitting there. Obviously with this attitude, I quickly started to sort of resent practicing instead of looking forward to it. Well, I am a ‘stick to your guns’ kind of person, so I went on this way, forcing this thirty minute practice schedule upon myself. It was sort of frustrating because even with the investment of my time, I wasn’t feeling like I was making much progress anyway, and I found myself in a bad attitude cycle. What I learned after forcing this self-inflicted grueling schedule upon myself for a week or two, is that I could easily get myself to commit to a smaller chunk of time, when I had a better focus on WHAT I was doing when I got to the piano bench. And with a better attitude and much less ‘dread’. So what I did was, I started setting myself really small goals, and then sort of hyper-focused on those instead of how long I was sitting there for my ‘practice session’. I started, aiming for five or even ten minutes here and there. I started setting really tiny goals for myself too, but having an idea of WHAT I was going to do when I got there, made a huge difference in my own attitude. Trust me, sometimes WHAT I was going to do was such a seemingly small goal it almost felt child-like, but when I really focused on the WHAT, I found that I stopped dreading or fighting the process, and little incremental progress was sure better than NO progress. This has made practicing an entirely new experience for me.
2. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not going as quickly as you thought you might and that’s okay
I quickly learned humility when I started taking piano lessons. During the lessons my brain is saying ‘oh ya, entirely new concept, no problem, I got that’ pretty much most of the time, but then even the next morning after the lesson, I often find that all I can do is stare blankly at the piano and say “WHAT did we talk about?” Now I really had thought that I was a smart person, surely I was not going to have the trouble that I quickly realized I was having. I got super frustrated and I knew I could ‘re-watch’ all the lessons, to learn everything again, but obviously this really made me mad at myself. I did not want to now have to invest yet another HOUR to learning the concepts again, that last night my brain was completely okay with. The thing is, it’s OKAY if I have to watch the entire lesson again, and its’ OKAY if I have to watch the entire lesson a couple more times. I have to give myself the grace to learn something new, and I’m finding that there is so MUCH to learn. It is very exciting to learn new things, and I have to accept that it’s going to take some time to learn it. I am choosing to be proud of myself for deciding to learn something new, and I’m choosing to be okay with however long it takes and with the idea that I will probably die with more to learn, and that’s going to be OKAY too.
3. Pick seemingly ‘easier’ pieces and absorb the information - it’s okay it’s still progress
Those little simple songs that seem like they are for kids are honestly my friends. When I look at some of the pieces we are learning I first thought this was so simple and rushed through them without actually taking the time to learn what I was doing. Somehow I thought, ‘well I can play them and that was the goal right?’ and as it turns out, I was missing ALL of the important information. There’s lots to learn on the simple pieces, like the time signature and whatever the heck that means for instance. And then there’s the rhythm of the whole thing. This is one I particularly struggle with. And let’s not forget the actual notes! Some of the songs we probably all learned as kids and so the tune is in my mind somewhat and that is actually ridiculously helpful to learning how to play the song. The notes all have different counts and it’s another one of those simple concepts that takes time to map into my adult brain, so knowing the simple childlike tune, can make a huge difference when learning the counts of the notes. I guess going back to being humble, nothing that looks that ‘easy’ is actually ‘easy’ if you dissect it down to all lof the pieces. I’m learning to enjoy this process and relax a little, it’s going to be okay. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
4. ACTUALLY count out loud - this is super helpful
My husband can hear me practicing and I’m really not shy to begin with for the most part, but counting out loud really did seem ‘beneath’ me a little bit and I fought doing this simple little things for a really long time. I mean I could count in my head and sort of stay on task with the counting while practicing and I thought this was going to work out just as well. I did not understand how much I was short changing myself with my time spent practicing. Here I go again, not following the suggestions of the teachers. (Insert me rolling my eyes at myself!) I was missing actually learning moments, essentially cheating myself out of a perfectly good and paid for piano lesson!! SO, I started counting out loud just like we were being taught to do, finally, and I started also practicing the right hand, and then the left hand while counting out loud for all to hear, and then I put the hands together, and continued counting out loud. Let me tell you how that worked! First, it was like my hands were taking actual instructions from my voice almost with a mind of their own. I had not got this effect with my silent counting in my mind at all! Silly I know, but I’m here to tell you, counting OUT LOUD really does work.
I’ll be back soon with more lessons learned, tips, and other thoughts.