Updated: Mar 3
Humility is a strong word to use, but overall, be humble and kind! To whom, you may ask? Well, probably to everyone would be the ideal idea, but concerning learning the piano, let’s start with yourself. And I will try to do the same! It’s such an easy thing to say and yet a terribly hard thing to actually put into practice! . Even as I am sharing my thoughts with you, I am humbled yet one more time at all of the vast information I recognize that I do not know about the music in general and surely about the piano. The piano lessons are teaching me so many things and probably some super important life skills too! I sat down on the piano bench yesterday to review my current lesson, and the ‘Oooohhhh Noooo - here we go again’ set in! AAGGHH!! I found that I was grasping at my severely scrambled thoughts for the mere trying to remember what I was going to practice and what in the world did I learn in my last lesson?
My forced positive self-talk said, ‘no problem, I got this’ and so I quickly reviewed the list of ‘For Next Week’ tasks at the end of our recorded lesson slideshow, and honestly I felt a little overwhelmed by the daunting, long list of tasks that lay ahead. My self-talk quickly chimed right in saying, ‘I don’t remember ANYTHING AT ALL on THIS LIST - was I EVEN IN the lesson?” but naturally, I knew I had been in the lesson, and to complete some of these tasks I was going to have to give my brain a nudge or two or thirty four, and possibly put in some WORK, which sounded exhausting. But I had made a commitment to practice and I WANTED to practice so I had to mentallly review my own thoughts and goals to get my courage back in order to just begin my practice session. I had previously made a little list of an outline of “how to begin practicing”, and I keep it right there at the top of my piano next to my music as a reminder for times exactly like this one, (thank you and a huge shout out to one of Ashlee Young Music Studio’s videos, excellent guideline to practicing!) and the first thing I have double underlined on my outline is START SLOW!
So that is exactly what I set out to do. I have another all caps statement right next to the double underlined “SLOW” which says ‘THE ONLY WAY TO FAST IS SLOW!’ I’m not sure I’ll ever end up fast, but I decided to go ahead and follow my own notes first and to start, and SLOWLY. The next all caps instruction is “SET SMALL GOALS” which made me calm down just a bit, and what I did is I gave myself small, if not miniscule goals for this practice session. I recognized with a deep breath that there was likely no way I was going to be able to check off every item on the ‘For Next Week’ list this time, and that was going to be okay. All progress that I make, no matter how small, still counts as progress and most importantly, I’m not going backwards! LOL! For yesterday’s practice session I was going to get in as much time at my piano as I was able to get in, focus on a very small portion of the list of ‘For Next Week’ tasks, and I was going to be happy with that amount of progress! I quickly recognized or reminded myself anyway, that I need so much more work, if not constant and continual work at merely memorizing the notes themselves and how they look on the music. This always frustrates me, because I understand the ‘every good boy does fine’ and all of that intellectually in my brain, but on an actual piece of music, this is a continual learning process with every new piece of music, because for me, the notes don’t jump out with their associated note names immediately!
And even though I know the counts of the notes when I look at the slides in the lessons, it’s actually a challenge to get the note count while trying to READ the music. So, I set out to label my piece of music and give myself all the help I can and name all of the notes, in a red pen right there on the music! Everytime I look at the music, I can see the associated note name. BUT, I also get out my note cheat-sheet that I printed and keep by my piano, to double check my own work to make sure that I label each note correctly because my biggest fear is that if I write the wrong note name in, I’m going to learn the entire piece wrong, so I have to double check every single note to be sure I have it right. (I KNOW!) And now, I’ve added another step even still, and I also try to make a small vertical line, when there are tons of notes in a measure, on where I think the ‘count’ of the measure is. I do this lightly for now, because I’m not entirely confident I’m doing it right. But I’m working on it.
Talking about humility reminds me of another important tool in learning the piano called the Metronome. I honestly did not think I was going to need a metronome, and I surely had no idea how to use one or what benefit it would even offer someone like myself, the new piano student. I’ve heard it said “In order to be wise, one must be able to learn from other people’s mistakes’, and I sort of thought I had learned this ‘pro tip’ in my life up to this point, but if anyone here has raised a teenager, you know this is a hard concept to teach another human being! And *sigh* it’s equally hard, I found out, to teach this ongoing concept to myself! However, if successful, this concept surely makes an enormous difference and likely saves us tons of time! And sadly, sometimes it’s just a hard thing to remember, even though overall, I mostly feel wiser today than ever before, LOL. But in the case of the metronome, I didn’t listen when it was recommended as a helpful tool to learning the piano, obviously demonstrating my own lapse of wisdom (for a short time). HA! But then one day I finally convinced myself that I was probably going to have better results if I went ahead and just bought the metronome. So I went for it, and ordered one online (get mine here).
They are not very expensive, first of all, and well worth the small investment. The package arrived and I opened it and there were NO INSTRUCTIONS in the package, which was kind of funny and a smidge frustrating for me, the new metronome user. But I suppose if we are at the point in our lives where we need a metronome, we are definitely at the stage where we are motivated to figure out how to use it! The one I bought winds up like an old fashioned clock and then, the vertical ‘meter arm’ (that’s what I’ll call it, because I do not know the proper term) swings back and forth clicking out loud, keeping a steady pace. The goal is to use this pace, to count out loud with while practicing your music. Each piece of music will probably be set to a different pace, and I think as I go along, I’ll learn more on this, but for now…that’s the simple explanation. Also, on mine there are words, which are pacing terms for helping you understand how fast or slow you would want to be playing for the particular piece of music. For instance Grave, Largo, Adagio, Andante, even Presto, etc. and many in between. But, whatever you do, please do not let those terms intimidate you, because trust me you are going to quickly figure out that “SLOWER THAN YOU EVER IMAGINED” is what you are after, and that term is not on there at all! There’s a little piece on the ‘meter arm’ that you can slide up and down, and the higher up it is on the ‘meter arm’ the slower the metronome will ‘tick’, or ‘count’.
Naturally the lower you put the little piece on the ‘meter arm’ the faster the clicking and counting would go. When you first try the metronome out, go ahead and just move that puppy all the way up to the very TOP of that arm, and start right there! Now THAT’S WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT! Nice even clicking noises to keep a steady pace. This is a hugely different tool for learning counting than counting out loud! I notice that when I count out loud on my own, I am way too forgiving of myself with all of the mistakes I make! I sort of slow down my counting on the hard parts you know, so I can stay on count. Well, I’m here to tell you that this metronome is keeping me much more honest, and actually, really SLOWing down my practicing, which in order to follow my own instructions per above, THE only way to fast! Trust me, I’m not even close to ‘fast’! Turtles and snails are whizzing past me! You get the idea! But you know what? It’s okay! If I can remind you (and me) of two things today, be HUMBLE AND KIND TO YOURSELF, and if you do not already have one, go get yourself a METRONOME or dust off the one you have in your piano bench! You are going to be happier, and you deserve that! I just know it!
As part of my goal to educate and motivate as many people as possible, I’m now accepting donations via patreon. This will give me more time to focus on making videos and producing more high quality content. Buy me a coffee here.
***Links are affiliate links, but I will only recommend items I LOVE and have recommend for years! The links have no extra cost to you, and it helps to support the channel! Thank you for your continued support!