Deciding to learn to play the piano and become a pianist means consciously diving into several centuries of musical history.
Developed around the 18th century, and evolved from the clavichord and the dulcimer, the piano has since been mastered by Bach, Debussy, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Chick Corea.
To try to learn to play the piano, you’ll need to find a good piano teacher. They’ll need to thoroughly understand how to impart the basics of this stringed instrument (how to read music, for example), but it often goes further than that…
Because learning to play the piano is not simple.
You’ll encounter frustration, difficulties, the demands of your experienced piano teacher watching over you, and the challenges of complex melodies.
But these piano lessons, in many ways, will be a collection of lessons that you’ll apply in your everyday life.
Perseverance, patience, self-correction…
So isn’t your piano teacher essentially a life teacher?
Think about it, this life lesson that you’ll undoubtedly learn from your piano teacher can be applied to almost anything you do.
Because when you get started with something, like piano lessons, it’s often recommended that you begin slowly. Don’t rush in like a brute!
Your teacher will go over the introductory aspects of music (whole notes, half, quarter, eighth, silent…) often during your lessons. And there’s a reason.
Think about when you take up a new sport.
Have you ever seen a beginner skier or snowboarder on the trails, for example?
And have you ever seen one wanting to go faster than sound right away, heading straight for the black diamond trails without learning how to brake? There’s a roughly one in three chance that he’d end up crashing into the chalet, a tree, or another skier. A fiasco no matter what.
Don’t feel bad, forget about becoming Johann Sebastian Bach at first…
Similarly, as a future pianist, and if you love your family and don’t want to torture their ears, don’t try to start learning to play the piano with Bach’s third symphony! Playing the piano means starting with the basics: learn how to read music, for example! Aspiring pianists don’t always listen to the advice of their music teachers at first. They’re eager to impress people with a beautiful melody after just a few lessons.
You don’t start learning to play the guitar with Jimi hendrix.
You begin by learning about music theory, and how to read music. It’s the same with the piano. You begin slowly, with the right hand, with simple and well known melodies. Then you add the left hand and other challenges.
Learning to play the piano is something that’s done gradually. At a steady pace! Piano, piano… Little by little, you’ll come to understand the greatest masterpieces by the greatest composers in the world.
You don’t want to frustrate your music teacher, do you? Not if you can help it…
Again: this definitely applies to your piano lessons, but is not unique to them.
Making mistakes is a natural part of life and a natural part of learning to play the piano. Since the dawn of time, there have been hundreds of adages and proverbs that address the virtue of failure:
We could easily find dozens more quotes like this, about the power of mistakes, an essential step on the path to failure. We included them to help you understand that making mistakes when you’re learning to play the piano is normal. The life of a pianist is full of them, with each lesson, lesson after lesson.
Striking the keys incorrectly, missing a transition, playing the wrong note, confusing the rhythm… What wouldn’t be normal, what would be foolish on your part, would be failing to address these errors. This will slow down your piano teacher’s instruction, as well as progress as you learn to become a pianist.
Continually making the same mistakes as you learn to play the piano will be a waste of time for everyone. It’s up to you to find the G key and overcome all of the other challenges!
Your music teacher will challenge you to learn to work on your own, outside of class.
Learning to play the piano isn’t done strictly within the confines of the piano lessons you take with your teacher. You’ll spend, more or less, two or three hours with them every week. Maybe more for a more motivated student.
But if you’re hard pressed to learn to play “Letter for Elise” for your mother and father, unfortunately the lessons alone won’t be enough. Your music teacher will almost demand it: in order to become a good pianist, you must work on it on your own, meaning outside the confines of the piano lessons.
Ideally you’d practice every day in order to learn the basics quickly. 30 minutes. An hour if you’re really drawn to the piano, if you like there’s a pianist in you, dying to get out.
Each lesson that your piano teacher plans will invariably include new things to learn how to do. A complicate pass with the right hand. With the left. A new chord. A sudden change in rhythm… You can’t wait for your instructor to magically help your overcome these challenges for you every time, not during these scant time your piano lessons allow.
Your teacher will be straightforward about it: in order to play the piano, most of the real work is done outside of the lessons. A piano teacher, in effect, gives you the keys to understanding music. It’s up to you to learn how to play!
This is a life lesson that can easily applied to a number of other things. Like school work, for example. A university professor will always be there to teach you the basics of a subject. But without diligent review on your part, it will be very difficult to pass the exams.
Lastly, learning to play the piano with both hands on the keyboard allows you to enhance your coordination and manual dexterity.
There are lots of ways that learning how to play the piano on your own is useful.
Your eyes are getting heavy…
You’ve already begun taking music lessons, covering how to play the piano, basic theory, and so you’re familiar with the object called a “metronome,” right?
It’s not exactly necessary to enroll in an engineering school to understand that it’s used to create a beat with consistent intervals. It gives you a tempo to follow.
Figuratively, are you asking yourself if it could symbolize something else? You, the aspiring pianist, receptive to the advice you get from your music teacher, can you grasp it? Beyond the functional tempo that it beats out for you? Go sit on your piano bench and think about it for a few minutes…
Does this metronome, which is always there for your teacher to use to help you learn to play the piano, have any significance? Wouldn’t you say that your teacher, in his infinite wisdom, is trying to instill a sense of patience in you? Steady, calm, and repeated effort at regular intervals? Don’t mistake it for simplicity. You can’t deny that there’s a kind of poetry to music, something that reaches you subliminally.
Learning to play the piano, music in general, or anything that requires practice, is an exercise in patience. Impulsive people, unfortunately, don’t always make the best students. The steadiness of the metronome should inspire you to work on your skills over and over and thus make steady progress.
You’re beginning to encounter some problems as you learn to play the piano. You’re still learning the basics, but you harbor great ambitions for the mythical instrument.
Let’s take a peak into the future. Imagine yourself in a small theater in your city. Your name is called, you’re asked to come on stage for a performance. In the audience are lots of pianists like you, your parents, and your piano teacher.
It’s the first time that you’re doing this. It’s obviously stressful for you. You need to play a melody on the piano after only six short months spent learning to play the piano.
You sit down in front of the piano, take a deep breath, and start playing. The first notes are shaky and hesitant. Even though you know the song. To you great surprise, and to your music teacher’s, you even make some uncommon mistakes.
Don’t be ashamed, breath and focus on the melody…
You’re rattled and disappointed in yourself. You had just one desire: to do this!
But don’t give up because of this failure. A little failure, because it was just a few notes, misplayed because of the stress. Nothing very serious. Because learning to play the piano also means persevering through mistakes. And above all not giving up.
The piano is a noble stringed instrument and it can be truly complex. You don’t master it just like that! It takes hard work and a few mistakes to reach, little by little, the next level. Tell yourself that apart from your piano teacher, who might be frowning a bit but still remains 100% supportive, that no one in the theater even noticed your mistakes!
It should be enough to continue your song without dwelling on them.
But if you stop right in the middle… Everyone will know. The feeling of shame, in these small moments of difficulty, will not be your best friend. Perseverance, on the other hand, will.
You can be sure of this: one of the first music lessons with your piano teacher will include an understanding of how to look ahead.
When it happens, you’ll certainly wonder if they’re talking about life in general or strictly on the piano. They understand the piano very well, of course. But what exactly are they trying to say here?
Learning to play the piano means learning how to read music. A pianist needs to internalize a new language, one deciphered in those first lessons. But very soon after, thanks to hard work studying music theory, they key of G won’t be so mysterious to you. You’ll be able to apply your teacher’s advice: look ahead!
You’ll need to do a few local performances before getting here!
It simply means that you’re being attentive to the next bar so you don’t lose track of changes in the melody. Slowing down, speeding up, location a note… Keeping your head down is the best way to keep your feet on the ground and your ambitions in check: learn about music, learn about theory, and learn to play the piano.
In any sport, we say that the football or basketball player who keeps their head in the game will succeed. In any job, a visionary is one who keeps focused on a single goal, always concerned with the task at hand.
It’s also thanks to these essential qualities that certain entrepreneurs become known as great geniuses of our time. While other are content to admire from afar. The Mark Zuckerberg and Winklevoss twins are a perfect example.
Your piano teacher will inspire you with similar anecdotes. They help you imagine your future, to envision the next steps, and to learn to play the piano well and more quickly.