Do you ever feel like your piano progress has plateaued? Does it seem like you should be playing harder, more complex music? Or, do you feel like your music is clunky and lacks continuity?
A lot of piano learners experience these feelings.
Learning the piano can be difficult. It is not something that you can master overnight. It takes consistent time, dedication and a lot of hard work to become successful at the piano.
In fact, most pianists find that they have never finished learning. There are always more challenging pieces to learn, other styles to explore and more ways to hone your technical skills.
Learning the piano does not happen in a straight line. There will always be ups and downs and you won’t always notice your progress at the same rate. In some practice sessions, it might feel like you’re moving backwards. Other times, you might feel you’ve made tons of progress with little work.
If you feel like you’re not making the progress you were hoping for at the piano, let’s try to troubleshoot what could be happening.
1. Too Little Practice Time
It’s hard to say what just the right amount of practice time is. Your level, ability, repertoire, attention span, and many other factors should be considered when you’re carving out practice time.
But one thing that pretty much every pianist can agree on is that small, consistent blocks of time will always out-perform longer, more sporadic blocks of time.
For example, say you have a really busy schedule and you can really only manage to squeeze in one hour of practice each week. Practicing for 10 minutes six times a week will be much more productive than practicing for 1 hour once a week.
When you commit to smaller blocks of time on a daily basis, you give yourself time to develop your skills. You can build on what you practiced in the previous session. You approach your music with a fresh perspective each day.
However, trying to cram all of your practice into one longer session means that you’re probably having to spend time re-learning what you practiced a week ago. You might start feeling burnt out or tired partway through your practice session.
If you’re not making it to the piano on most days, try to make it a bigger priority to spend at least a few minutes at the piano each day. Often times, just getting to the piano is the biggest battle. Once you’re there, you’ll find that you can easily get swept away by the music and 10 minutes will turn in to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes or more.
2. Too Many Distractions At The Piano
When you’re at the piano, make a point to clear your mind of other things going on in your life. Don’t worry about your to-do list. Push away thoughts that don’t pertain to your practice session. Focus on your music and save those other things for later.
Do you practice with your phone nearby? If so, try leaving it another room or turn the ringer off and face the screen away from you so that it’s not a distraction.
Even if you rely on your phone for practice apps and resources, challenge yourself to go without those things occasionally so that you can free your mind from the extra clutter that comes along with your device.
3. Playing Music That Is Too Difficult
It’s good to challenge yourself with difficult music, but you’ll want to make sure that you’ve developed a strong technical foundation before you try to tackle a piece of music that is beyond your current level.
Many pieces that people have on their piano bucket list are technically advanced. Learning these pieces too soon can lead to a lot of frustration and burnout.
If you’re struggling to play pieces at your own level with continuity and good technique, it doesn’t make sense to challenge yourself with something too difficult. You’re better off spending your time mastering your skills so that difficult music won’t feel so daunting down the road, and you’ll be primed to play it well.
4. Avoiding Smart Practice
Poor use of practice time is one of the biggest mistakes that piano teachers see over and over again.
Repetition is usually a solid approach to practicing the piano. However, it’s easy to slip into the habit of mindlessly repeating music over and over. When this happens, it’s pretty common to let a lot of mistakes slide or to avoid difficult sections of music.
Instead, approach each practice session with a plan. Be aware of the most challenging spots in your music. Before you tackle them, set a goal for yourself for how you plan to improve on them.
Be methodical and thorough about how your practice. Don’t expect your practice time to sound like a performance where you play straight through your music. Instead, break your music apart into small pieces and master each part.
5. Learning The Wrong Repertoire
It can be difficult to find *just* the right piece of music to learn. If you’re just not that in to the music you’re learning, it’s okay to move on to something else.
Sometimes music that seems unappealing at first becomes really satisfying to learn and play. Similarly, sometimes our favorite songs don’t translate well to piano practice and aren’t as enjoyable to play as we might have imagined.
Also, it’s good to challenge yourself with somewhat difficult music, but if you end up staying frustrated by the level of difficulty of your music, maybe you’d do better learning shorter pieces that aren’t quite as hard.
On the other hand, if you get bored easily, maybe you need to push yourself and find something a bit more difficult.
Don’t give up if you’re not excited about the music you are learning. There is so much piano music out there to learn, you’re bound to find the perfect piece for you.