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The 7 most common beginner mistakes when learning the piano

Typical beginner mistakes that should be avoided while learning the piano

Learn to play the piano faster with the right concept

The 7 most common beginner mistakes when learning the piano. (Photo: Bonedo)

Every beginning is difficult, as the saying goes. But does it always have to be that way? Or is it not possible to make such an exciting, but also exhausting journey like learning to play the piano a lot easier? I have registered the following beginner mistakes in many piano students who took up their piano lessons with me. Even students who had already learned a lot and only then came to me often showed this behavior. We do a lot of things unconsciously because we haven't really understood how exactly learning works.

You too will likely find yourself in one point or another. So if you are just starting to learn the piano, avoid the following points. This way you learn faster and easier, and it's just a lot more fun. Here we go!

Avoid making excuses

“I didn't have time to practice the piano this week” is one of the most common excuses a beginner comes up with when the important and fun time with the instrument has been neglected. Every piano teacher is probably familiar with this excuse. At first, that sounds better than saying you didn't feel like it. And you probably feel a little relieved after the initial confession.

Actually, the student should say: “It just wasn't important enough to me this week” or “I didn't feel like it”. But it's not easy to admit that to yourself, let alone to the piano teacher. Because we always find time for the really important things in life. Eating, talking on the phone with friends or checking Facebook for five minutes, funnily enough, there is always time for that.

Why am I telling you this? As trite as it may sound, there is no gain without diligence. And that's really one of the most common beginner mistakes. Many believe you can learn something without doing it. But of course that doesn't work. You wouldn't become a member of a football club just to watch the others train without participating yourself. In any team sport, it would be noticed so very quickly that everyone except you would develop further and you would quickly lose interest in the sport and leave the club again.

Especially with an instrument like the piano, however, there is often a lack of contact with other musicians. So you don't quickly notice that you haven't really developed any further for a long time. And you can easily lie to yourself and gloss over the last week, when you didn't sit at the piano for a minute. And the week before, etc. But lessons only make sense if you apply what you have learned in the lesson and deal with it. Unfortunately, it is not enough to go to the teacher once a week.

What can you change

Just ask yourself what you want to achieve. If you want to play the piano really well, it has to be important to you. And you will probably have to invest some time and effort on a regular basis, like those who want to achieve a goal do. Playing an instrument is a complex matter. If you want to master them, you have to practice regularly. You not only have to learn a lot with an instrument, you also have to develop a lot of skills. And that is only possible with regular practice and patience.

Of course, it doesn't work without practice. Initially, however, five to ten minutes a day are sufficient. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Realize that you don't have to be a pianist in a week. Divide everything into small sections and then go one step at a time. Otherwise the whole thing might seem intimidating and you'd better leave it alone.

Schedule regular practice and stick to certain times. For example, set an alarm clock, always at the same time. When he rings, sit down at the piano immediately and practice for ten minutes. Or, whenever you get home, practice the piano first before doing anything else. Working people can simply get up ten minutes early and practice before going to work. Either way, you always get to your workload. And believe me, it will be worth it. Plus, if you do this for some time, you'll almost burst with pride!

Make a plan and just sit down at the piano without thinking about whether you feel like practicing right now. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Don't let the weekend go by unused. Otherwise you waste two days in which you have the whole day and could practice the piano in peace for 20 minutes each time. Especially if you “haven't got around” during the week, you absolutely have to do something on Saturday and Sunday.

If, for whatever reason, you just can't persuade yourself to practice, then at least play an old piece, practice a few cadences, consolidate the playing of scales, or improvise. After a while, you no longer have to persuade yourself to practice. You then do it automatically. And the progress that is made will give you additional motivation. In any case, the piano must be important to you so that you always have a reason to practice. Be diligent!

Make a conscious effort to look at the notes

Many beginners always look at their hands while playing the piano. And of course that is tempting, after all, compared to other instruments, you can see everything with the piano and watch it extensively. However, this is not a good idea for a number of reasons.

Most beginners look at their hands all the time as they practice. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

For one, it only distracts from the important things. Take a soccer player, for example. He doesn't look at his feet on the pitch either. He would then not see his teammates and could not pass the ball to them. He would not see rushing opponents and in the end would not even know exactly where the goal is. Or think of cycling or driving a car. What if you don't look ahead for a long time? Sooner or later you will have an accident. Of course you look to the left for a moment or look over the shoulder. That's okay too, but mostly you have to watch the road. And that's exactly how it is with playing the piano. Focus on the grades. They'll show you the process. Through them you know what's next. Of course, you can also briefly look at the keys while jumping. But if the hand does not move at all, this is completely unnecessary.

On the other hand, you prevent your hands from developing. They have to learn to move independently over the keyboard without anyone looking at them. This, in turn, is comparable to children who have to learn to move freely in life. If the mother is there and supervises everything, the child cannot develop fully. Or think of the boss of a company. From a certain number of employees, one person can no longer monitor all processes alone. That is why people are hired and trusted to do their job conscientiously.

And that's exactly what your hands can do for you if you let them. Make them your employees and be sure to let them help out! But if you keep looking at your hands while playing the piano, you prevent this development. My experience shows that very often students get lost if they don't rely on their hands. But if you trust that they know exactly what to do, the piece will usually work without any errors. Take a closer look at my article 8 Tips for Practicing Like the Pros. In it I will explain in detail what is really important when practicing.

The best way to start out is to practice by letting all your fingers play without looking at your hands. Just put your hands on the keys somewhere, close your eyes, and then play all ten fingers. Control them only with your thoughts, not with your eyes. Then you always decide by chance and only shortly beforehand which finger should be played. In this way you will learn in a short time to control all fingers directly without having to look at them beforehand.

And when you start a new piece, try to find the notes first by looking only at the notes. You will be amazed how well it works. If you don't hit, you look at the exact distance and then repeat it several times with your hand. This is how your hands learn to estimate distances. After a while you don't have to look down at all. Blind pianists like Stevie Wonder prove that it works that way.

Actually, you should always see this picture while practicing. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

In addition, you don't always have to memorize your pieces completely, that's a lot less work. So there are no constant pauses for thought because you just can't remember the next note or chord. And that leads us to the next point.

Read notes correctly, don't guess!

If a student gets lost in class, I always ask for the name of the tone first. Most of the time I get an answer in less than a second that is almost always wrong. One often notices quickly that she was completely advised to do so. And exactly here lies the problem. If you guess the name of a tone, you are unfortunately not practicing reading notes. Don't go the easy way, because it won't get you any further. Don't answer quickly, always consider it.

If you read every note without guessing, you will automatically improve. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Reading notes is not rocket science. Do you have problems with that too? Then it is best to read my article reading notes clearly explained. There you will find detailed instructions and everything you need to know about this topic. If you stick to the procedure described there, you will quickly belong to the professionals in this area.

Believe in yourself and your success

I often see students get frustrated when they don't succeed. Some respond to a task given to them with: “I don't think it will work now”. And in doing so, they are making a big mistake. Your Mindset* How you talk to yourself while learning, what you think, what you expect from yourself and what you can achieve on the instrument, of course, everything is directly related to it. Again, you should think about exercise. Does the boxer say to himself before his fight: "Today I will definitely get a bad blow on my hat"? Or does the sprinter think before the race that he has no chance and will be last? You can imagine the impact that would have on his performance.

* The term "mindset" is an English term that can be translated in many ways. In general it has the following meaning:Way of thinking - attitude - disposition - attitude - philosophy of life - mentality - orientation - worldview

Sport and music are very similar in matters, especially when it comes to the mindset. (Photo: Tobias Homburger)

Think positively and try to be sober about mistakes. They only show you where you can still improve and where you still need to practice or that you may just need to concentrate better. Maybe you just missed the mistake while practicing, but of course the teacher will notice it in class. Then you should be more attentive, keep checking that you are playing the piece exactly as it is notated. Just have fun, even while practicing! Personally, for example, I've gotten into the habit of simply laughing at mistakes. After that, I just practice the spot in such a way that the error never occurs again. If so, I'll laugh about it again and go back to this point. No matter how tenaciously a piece defends itself, be sure to stay positive!

Enjoy partial success

Don't underestimate the time it takes to learn an instrument. The most diverse requirements together result in an extremely complex activity. Be diligent and patient. And keep making it clear to yourself why you are taking all of this on. Music is fun! You also make music while practicing, so you can just enjoy practicing. You invest time and effort in yourself and your future. The really good things in life are often hard to come by without doing something about them. You have to make a little effort first. But that's exactly why it's so nice when you reach your goal. Enjoy partial successes. Be proud of yourself when you have learned four bars of your piece in three days. And then on to the next four bars! Music is just wonderful, you should never forget that. Enjoy your musical journey to the fullest, even while practicing.

The key to success isn't as remote as you think.

Learn to listen to music

All the sheet music you read and the things you need to think about while playing the piano shouldn't make you forget what making music is all about. It's about the sound, the music itself. Use your ears, listen to all the notes carefully. This is how you discover mistakes in your game that you would otherwise miss just reading and playing the music. And you reduce the risk of thinking everything through and turning your music into a pure reading and arithmetic task. A practiced listener will notice this immediately. Also connect the sound of the music you are playing with experiences, stories or pictures. Then you create a holistic experience that stimulates all of the senses.

Link the music you play with images, experiences or emotions. This has a positive effect on your presentation. (Photo: Stefan Stefancik)

You also learn pieces much faster because you always know what you want to express. And the listener experiences something that goes beyond the tones. You are telling a story. That's what music is about.

You can learn to practice

Finally, I would like to briefly give you a few basic tips for practicing. These three points are particularly important.

  • If you practice too fast, you will not create the important practice effect no matter what or how much you practice. Plus, you make so many mistakes that are memorable. Always under-challenge yourself at the beginning and only then increase your pace. This way you learn much faster and make fewer mistakes.
  • Repetition is the mother of learning. Even things that you've already played right can only be made safer through repetition. If you only practice with one hand at first, you have to repeat that too. If the second hand comes into play, this must be repeated over and over again until the coordination of both hands is correct. Without repetition, you are only able to understand the piece, but you cannot actually play it. That brings us to the last point.
  • Do not confuse 'understanding' with 'ability'. Knowledge just has to be understood. But playing an instrument is a manual skill. This has to be trained. Theory is the basis of practice. But theory is useless without practice. Therefore, while practicing, concentrate on the movements of your hands and arms, these are stored in your brain. At some point they will let you play your piece by heart, safely and freely.

You can read all of this and much more in great detail in this article, 8 Tips for Practicing Like the Pros.

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