Beginner Piano Lessons: Problems and Solutions 8

Today we have a new question from a PianoBlog reader about beginner piano lessons: “What was your early piano experience like, and what are some common mistakes made students in beginning piano lessons?”

My early experience with beginning piano lessons was nothing too out of the ordinary. I had a neighborhood piano teacher (who was very sweet) but my training in quiet small town Delaware was anything but formal.

(I’m leaving out the story of my VERY first piano lesson here where I was so out-of-control my embarrassed mom had to remove me early!)

When you begin piano lessons without a formal training like I did, you have  to figure out a lot of technique out on your own.

This was hard at the time, but it had a huge silver lining.

As a piano teacher, it gave me me a huge leg-up later in life when I would teach my own beginner piano lessons.

As for common mistakes, I really boil it down to one big one I’ve seen over and over – so you’ll want to make sure to watch the video below to find out what it is!

(You can also click here if the above doesn’t play.)

If you like this video please show your love by subscribing on the sidebar checking out my free beginner piano lessons!

So what do you think? Comment below! If you’re just starting out, are there problems that you anticipate or have had in your first few piano lessons? Or, is there something that might be keeping you from getting started?

Or maybe you have your own story to share about starting piano lessons. Do you feel like you got a good start going down the right technical path or are you ready to get started that way?

Let me know in the comments below!

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8 thoughts on “Beginner Piano Lessons: Problems and Solutions

  • Julia Cooper

    Very informative. It’s like how we teach piano vs how we learn guitar. i.e. piano is a theory first, playing music comes later. Guitar, you learn 3 chords and you can make music right away. I’m pulling my son out of his piano lessons because I need a different approach for him

  • Alexander Siloti

    My situation is unique (I think). My mother and grandfather were concert pianist. When I was 25, I decided to learn to play the piano. I worked on beginning pieces, but found this boring. I then took some real pieces to play like Brahms rhapsody in g minor and managed with a lot of work to be able to play these pieces.
    In later years I began to realize the unique way I learned these pieces. First, I cannot sight read music at all. I could take the simplest child piece with the metronome set very slow and attempt sight reading without any success. After 15 to 30 seconds of doing this, my brain was exhausted. I learned to play by picking out the notes and fingering over and over until muscle memory set in. When I played it was strictly muscle memory. I did not know what the notes actually were. My peak was learning and performing Chopin’s Nocturne in c minor Op 48 #1. I played for my parents, but never told them how I sort of cheated learning pieces. Two downsides to my method, 1. its a lot of work to learn a piece and 2. If I get lost, I am lost and need to start from the beginning.

  • Alexander Siloti

    I decided to learn to play the piano when I was 25 years old. I had some success. I did once give a recital where the last piece I played was Chopin’s Nocturne in c minor op. 48, no 1. It was way over my abilities and I almost lost it in the finally where I was hitting half the notes wrong. I also played the Saint Seans – Siloti “the Swan” which I found relatively easy to play.
    Now the interesting part. I realized early on that I could not sight read music at all. I had tried to sight read the most simple childs beginning piece with the metronome set to a very slow rate and after struggling for 15 to 30 seconds to play it unsuccessfully, my brain just fried in exhaustion. How did I learn these pieces without sight reading? I would pick the notes and play them at whatever slow pace was required to play the notes and after repeating this many times, I was able to play the piece strictly from muscle memory. The problem was if I got lost, I was lost, I had no idea what the notes were. The one good thing I had in my favor as my mother identified when I told her how easy “The Swan” was, she said that was because I had good finger independence.
    Just you might find this interesting.
    Alex Siloti

    • Matt Post author

      Hi Alex – thanks for your comment. As far as sight reading, the main thing I’ve seen time and time again with students who have trouble sight reading is they aren’t focused enough on the process of thinking ahead, even if this means pausing. So for instance, if you are putting the metronome on like you say — even if it’s quite slow — you are more focused on keeping going instead of learning the mental process of sight reading.

      The mental process of sight reading is that you are looking slightly ahead, and hearing the music in your head and feeling it in your fingers so that you have a *very clear* picture of what you’re about to play before playing it. This means quite a lot of self control because you’re not going to want to pause and think ahead. Contrast this with what most people do — play and then stop *after* playing a wrong note…there is no visualizing ahead, only reacting to the error…so you are teaching your mind the wrong mental process (basically, take a stab in the dark, screw up and try again).

      What you can do is say – OK I’m going to sight read this line of very simple music, and I’m absolutely not going to play a note until I’m 100-percent sure like my life depends on it that I know what I’m about to play. This will teach your mind to think and visualize ahead.

      Does that make any sense? I hope you find it helpful!