What makes for long term success at the piano?
I sat down a couple days ago and worked out that I’ve taught many thousands of piano lessons. Thats a lot of teaching, and a lot of students!! After a while, you can’t help but see patterns and trends; who is successful and who gets frustrated and gives up.
My students range in age and ability quite a bit, from 4-year-old beginners to very advanced high schoolers and advanced musicians. If I were to pick *one* factor that predicts success at the piano, regardless of age and level, it would be this:
A Regular practice time that is adhered to every day; e.g. “30 minutes at 3:30 every day”.
If you’re a parent, you can add a second crucial element:
Active parental involvement in every practice session.
Yes, there are a lot of other factors that play into piano lesson success, but assuming you’ve got a decent piano teacher and some level of ability, these two things are the best predictors of long-term success at the piano.
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What about having fun with the piano? I remember when I was a kid I was told I had to practice scales and songs that I didn’t like. When I was able to find songs that I liked and learn them it was much more fun and I wanted to play more.
I agree that regular practice at a set time each day helps to get into a routine. Forming ‘habits’ is the easiest way to get things done as pretty soon – it becomes automatic any doesn’t seem like an effort. If you can also make it fun and have a goal eg to play a piano piece to family and friends etc… in 4 weeks time
– this can help focus the mind, put an urgency on practice and also get a sense of achievement.
I also believe that a good practice instrument is crucial to a student’s success. Teachers often forget to mention this… but how is your student going to learn to be expressive when his piano is barely capable of one dynamic? I’m always stunned to see what kids are trying to learn on… portable keyboards, spinet pianos, old clunkers from the internet.
I think it’s critical that we direct students to good instruments, promote a healthy practice schedule and work with their parents to motivate and inspire them to succeed.
Thanks for your thoughts!
It’s a lot to do with practice, practice, practice. It really never fails – unless you’re practicing the wrong things 🙂
I would add that it is very important, at least for me, to visualise where all this practice will ultimately take me. In other words, I keep my goal of being a performer always in mind. But a very good article nonetheless.
Find yourself regular hours to practice the piano and get into a routine. If you will not be committed to practice schedule you might be challenged by distracting events. Your practice time should be when you are most relaxed and energetic. While practicing, try to put aside the bothering thoughts, they will just distract you from practicing properly.
I’ve always found it difficult to force myself to dedicate time each day to practice, but I agree it’s the key to getting better. Thanks for the tips!
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Not to argue with the 30-minutes of practice time – just to add some insight… I’ve found for myself that even 5 minutes spent on a specific exercise, song, or concept over several days’ time works like a miracle. The nice thing about learning as an adult is that you can really appreciate the effects of practice.
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Encouragement plays an important role. Of course, you also have to make sure that you do not overlook any mistakes that your child does while playing the piano. Bad habits are hard to break. So better start them early with the correct hand positions, posture, etc. But make sure that the way you discipline them won’t scare the children away. Otherwise, they might be too scared to play the piano again.
Learning to play the piano is more of a hobby. However, the better you get the more you may want to play the piano in front of more and more people.